I take my niece, nephews on international trips since I can’t have children

I take my niece, nephews on international trips since I can’t have children

Jennifer Billock (not pictured) enjoys traveling with her niece and nephews.
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  • I take my nieces and nephews on international vacations when they turn 12.
  • I took my niece to London and Paris last year and will soon be taking my great grandson to Germany.
  • I enjoy spending time with them and consider it a lesson in culture and travel.

The first time I spoke French in front of my 12-year-old niece, she was shocked. She had never heard me speak a foreign language before, but here I was ordering a couple of croissants and some bread from a shop window in Paris.

“Who are you? What have you done with my aunt?” she wanted to know. We laughed at that and then walked with our croissants in hand to buy her a new dress from a boutique on a side street and a beret from a stand along the Seine.

This was my niece’s first trip abroad. We left London the day before – after seeing all the sights, of course, like Big Ben, the London Eye and two local cat cafes – and took the train to France and were having a fantastic time.

Jennifer Billock traveled to London and Paris with her granddaughter last year.
Courtesy of the author

I love to travel my nieces and nephews

It is a benefit to the children in my family; when they turn 12, Aunt Jen takes them on a week-long international vacation. Originally, we were planning a trip when we each turned 10, to celebrate double digits – but my niece turned 10 at the start of the pandemic, so the timeline changed.

In August 2023, my niece and I went to London and Paris. Next July, my nephew and I will go to Germany. I’m not sure yet where the other nephew and I will go, but he’s only three so we have some time to plan. (And to save, of course.) Each child decides where we end up in the end, and we spend a few days seeing what’s there and what they want to see. They basically lead the sightseeing part of every trip.

Jennifer Billock’s niece and nephews will each help plan an international trip with her when they turn 12.
Courtesy of the author

These two trips were partially funded by the sale of my old house. I was able to put away $5,000 for each of their trips. I pay for flights, hotels, transportation and food, and they are responsible for saving money to buy any souvenirs they want.

I consider it a life lesson for them. Because they have to pay for their own souvenirs, they are getting more insight into how to budget for extras. Plus, they’re learning about international travel, customs and etiquette. They also teach a bit about international travel, why it is the way it is now, and — because I travel a lot — how to prepare for safety so you can speed right away and not cause a backup.

These trips are different from the vacations they take with their parents

I take the role of fun aunt very seriously. Although I am responsible for taking care of the children on these trips, I try to make them less routine. Want to watch YouTube three hours before bed? Safe stuff! A dessert with lunch? No problem. Feel like going to the coffee shop three times in one day? Get the bag, let’s go. My niece actually turned on me because she asked if she could have a chocolate croissant for breakfast, and I said yes. “But, it’s chocolate… Wait, why am I arguing about something I love?” she said.

We shop, laze around, take walks in the park and grab junk food. I am curious to see how it will be different with my oldest nephew – he and his sister are alike in many ways, but they are still very different children. I imagine we’ll find places for VR gaming and eat a lot of schnitzel. However, one thing is certain: he will talk a lot about us. I speak little German and he has been using Duolingo for years to prepare. We are going to Munich and while many people speak English there, I am glad that he has studied and will be able to help me with any language barriers.

I can’t have my own children, so I want to spoil my nieces and nephews

I am frustratingly infertile and after many years of trying, I have come to accept that I will probably never have children of my own without adopting. So in that way, taking the kids on a trip makes my heart a little lighter. I get to spoil them like I’d spoil my own kids and I get to play parent for a week – while still being the awesome aunt, of course.

Plus, it’s a magical week of bonding with each of them, something I wouldn’t trade for anything. I want them to know they can come to me for anything and everything, including questions about the world in general. It is an incentive for trust and care on both sides. And who knows, maybe when they grow up they will take me somewhere!

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