When it was getting close to my own fifteenth birthday--many, many years ago--I remember considering the traditional Quinceañera concept  (puffy gown and all like my girlfriends). It was a passing thought though since what I most wanted was something just as special, but more than just a one day kind of thing. I wanted something memorable and everlasting!

My Quinces experience was extremely significant and I talked to my own daughter so much about how I celebrated it with a trip to Europe, that she ended up fantasizing about something similar--a mother and daughter trip that would open her eyes to new intellectual and cultural experiences.

Even though this might not fall within the Latin tradition as a traditional rite of passage, the trip my daughter and I took to Barcelona last summer was MUCH better than any Quinceañera party we could have planned.


Quite frankly, I dreamed of doing something similar with my daughter (my second chance at celebrating mis Quinces?). Even though the tough economy wasn't working in our favor, it was important for us to celebrate this milestone in her life, as a reminder of her Latin family's pride as well as her entry into adulthood.

This was a trip we had to plan quite deliberately, so that while it provided her with the rich cultural experience she so desired, it wouldn't exceed what my pocket could afford. Plane tickets were paid for with airline miles I had accumulated over time; the hotel was well situated and comfortable but still affordable. We set a per diem for food, passes for tourist attractions and the occasional souvenir, and off we went!

How did we manage to make her Quince años something that exceeded her expectations (and mine!)?

1. Dreamy destination. Barcelona is a city unlike any--rich in history, with gorgeous architecture, beautiful art, great food and lots to do! It's also perfect for her as she looks to grow her Spanish vocabulary. But no matter the destination (and let me remind you there's no need to get on a plane to Europe to find some fantastic place to escape to), invite your daughter to find a place that she feels emotionally connected to. Plan ahead and save so that you can manage the expense, but keep it to something that fits your lifestyle and budget.
2. A young activities planner in training. Because of her resourceful nature, I knew I could count on her to figure out where to go and what to do during our week-long trip. Planning the itinerary ended up being as much fun for my daughter as the trip itself. She registered us for a cooking class (that included not only a taste of the regional cuisine but also a trip by foot to La Boquería, a fantastic local market where we bought the freshest ingredients possible for our meal). We also went to a concert, visited La Sagrada Familia and dined at some cool spots nearby.

3. Girlie time. Just her and I doing what we like most and discovering shared interests gave us the gift of a stronger mother-daughter bond. We laughed together, took hundreds of pictures, shopped, tried new foods and even consoled each other when our feet were too achy from walking so much.

4. New tradition. While we knew this wasn't the Latin tradition most would have expected from us, it is a great family tradition. And we loved every minute of it!! Who knows?! Maybe some day when she's a mom, she too will say hola to this new way to celebrate her daughter's quince años.

How do you celebrate milestone birthdays with your kids?