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I take my niece and nephews on international vacations. I can't have my own kids, and I love spoiling them.

Woman and boy sitting on a dock wearing backpacks.
Jennifer Billock (not pictured) enjoys traveling with her niece and nephews.
  • I take my nieces and nephews on international vacations when they turn 12.
  • I took my niece to London and Paris last year, and I'm taking my older nephew to Germany soon.
  • I love 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'd never heard me speak in a foreign language before, but there I was, ordering a couple of croissants and some bread from a curbside storefront in Paris.

"Who are you?? What have you done with my aunt??" she wanted to know. We laughed about it and then walked on 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 overseas. We'd left London a 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 we were having a fantastic time.

The author with a pigeon in Paris.
Jennifer Billock traveled to London and Paris with her niece last year.

I love taking my nieces and nephews traveling

It's a perk for the kids in my family; when they turn 12, Aunt Jen takes them on a weeklong international vacation. Initially, we were planning a trip when they each turned 10, to celebrate double digits — but my niece turned 10 right at the start of the pandemic, so the timeline changed.

In August 2023, my niece and I went to London and Paris. This coming July, my nephew and I will go to Germany. I'm not sure yet where my other nephew and I will go, but he's only three years old, so we have some time to plan. (And to save, of course.) Each kid decides where we ultimately end up going, and we spend a couple of days going over what's there and what they want to see. They're basically leading the sightseeing portion of each trip.

The author's niece in Paris.
Jennifer Billock's niece and nephews will each help plan an international trip with her when they turn 12.

These two trips were partially funded by the sale of my old home. I was able to put $5,000 aside for each of their trips. I pay for the flights, hotels, transportation, and meals, and they're responsible for saving up money to buy any souvenirs they want.

I consider it a life lesson for them. Because they have to pay for their souvenirs, they're getting more knowledge on how to budget for extras. Plus, they're learning about international travel, customs, and etiquette. They also learn a bit about international travel, why it is the way it is now, and — because I travel a lot — how to prepare for security so you can speed right through and not cause a backup.

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

I take the role of the fun aunt very seriously. Even though I'm responsible for taking care of the kids on these trips, I try to make it less routine. Want to watch three hours of YouTube before bed? Sure thing! A dessert with lunch? No problem. Feel like going to the café three times in one day? Get your bag, let's go. My niece actually pushed back 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 myself out of something I want?" she said.

We shop, we laze around, we take walks to the park, and we get junk food. I'm curious to see how it'll be different with my oldest nephew — he and his sister are alike in a lot of ways, but they're still very different kids. I imagine we'll be finding VR gaming spots and eating a lot of schnitzel. One thing's for sure, though: he'll be doing a lot of the talking for us. I can't speak a bit of German, and he's been using Duolingo for years to prepare. We're going to Munich, and while many people speak English there, I'm glad he's been studying and will be able to help me through any language barriers.

I can't have my own kids, so I want to spoil my nieces and nephews

I am frustratingly infertile, and after many years of attempts, I've come to accept that I'll likely never have children of my own without adoption. So in that way, taking the kids on a trip makes my heart feel a little lighter. I get to spoil them like I would spoil my own kids, and I have a week to play parent — while still being the awesome aunt, of course.

Plus, it's a magical week of bonding time 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 at large. It's a boost to trust and care on both ends. And who knows, maybe when they're older they'll take me somewhere!

Read the original article on Business Insider
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