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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Nancy Gilmer

Tales of a travelin’ mom

Traveling with kids in the hudson valley and abroad

Nancy Gilmer of New Windsor first brought her son, Brennan, overseas when he was just a year old. For many new parents, the idea of taking such a long trip with such a young child would induce panic attacks.

Not for Gilmer.

“Actually, that was the easiest trip we ever took!” she recalls. “We just plopped him in the stroller and zipped him around Germany. He didn’t have much to say.”

Then again, travel comes easy for Gilmer and her family. She founded World Wide Travel in Cornwall with her mother back in 1989. Since then, she’s seen the travel industry undergo massive shifts as online booking sites let consumers serve as their own travel agents. But some are starting to rediscover travel agents.

“People are shifting back to us, because they’ve had bad experiences online,” she says. “…the pictures online always look great, don’t they? Then you get there and find that it’s not what you thought it would be.”    

Gilmer’s expertise doesn’t just come from 27 years of booking other people’s vacations, but from the extensive amount of traveling she’s done with her own family. She estimates that Brennan, who is now 13, has probably been to Europe 10 times.

Younger is better

Gilmer hears from parents all the time who prefer to wait until their own children are older before traveling, so that they can fully appreciate the journey. She’s found that the opposite is true. Brennan still vividly remembers a trip to Italy the family took when he turned 4, and she’s found that kids who travel early learn how to be better travelers when they’re older.

“Once they start to become teenagers, it becomes more difficult,” she says. “They start having their own opinions. They lose interest. I remember going to Paris with my own parents when I was 13 and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty!”

Gilmer also recommends involving your kids in the process of planning vacations. It helped make her family’s own recent trip to France much easier than the one she took when she was Brennan’s age.

“It was actually his idea to go to France because he’s very interested in World War II and he wanted to see Normandy,” she says. “It’s such a solemn destination, you get teary-eyed being there. He might have been a little bit too young to fully understand the depth of what it meant to be there. But he thought the experience was very cool. It’s something he’ll never forget.”

There’s another reason why Gilmer thinks her son enjoys travel so much: Brennan has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. As a result, he normally struggles with routines and following directions. But when the family is traveling, there is no routine.

“He’s very easy to travel with because I don’t need to constantly make sure that there’s something for him to do,” she says. “There usually isn’t much effort that’s required, and things that require effort usually exhaust him mentally. But when we’re traveling he’s carefree, creative, and in his own little world.”

Becoming independent

Besides the fact that hers a line of work in which you can classify a cruise around the Caribbean as research, Gilmer said that the main advantage of being a travel agent is its flexible schedule.

Her husband, also named Brennan, is a carpenter. Both of them setting their own hours has allowed them to be present for their son when he needs them the most, as when he’s coping with the various challenges that come from growing up with ADD.

“There are challenges in terms of keeping him focused, and making sure he’s not so down on himself because he constantly thinks he’s forgetting things,” she says.

It’s also allowed them to see him become his own person and witness his transition from a child into a mature young man.

“Kids are a reflection of how you raise them,” Gilmer says. “Yesterday I asked him to go down the road and clean up some garbage that some teenagers had tossed out of their car, and he did! He didn’t give me a hard time about it because he knew it was the right thing to do.”

With their neighborhood newly clean again, the Gilmers are looking forward to enjoying their summer and, of course, planning their next trip.

“Well, we’d all really like to see Australia,” she says. “But I don’t know. That’s a long flight!”


Brian PJ Cronin is a freelance writer. His work appears throughout the Hudson Valley.

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