I’m pretty easy going with a lot of things in life (or at least I try to be), but like with most people, there are some topics that I’m pretty passionate about. Given what I spend my time writing about, it shouldn’t be a shocker than family travel is pretty high on that list. I’m passionate about the role that travel can play in the development and connectedness of all of us, but especially for kids. Of course, I know that not everyone shares that mentality, or applies it in the same way as my family does, but I hope that this blogs helps spread the message that not only can family travel be done in an affordable and comfortable way (thanks miles and points), but that the importance of travel with your family goes well beyond a cute profile photo on Facebook.
Recently I shared the first in what will be a series of posts on our recent family trip to Paris. That post was mostly just an overview of how we planned the trip, selected flights/hotels, and a preview of what we did while we were there. As is common in the world of blogs, and the internet in general, there were some dissenting opinions in the comments section that stated that spending money taking four year olds to places like Paris is akin to flushing money away, that they won’t remember it anyway, and kids would be happier staying with grandma than traveling the world. Ahem.
I won’t ever be able to change the minds of folks who are coming to family travel websites to say that spending resources on family travel is a waste, and that’s okay. However, for anyone else who might be on the fence about whether to take their kids with them on a trip, or that is wondering what travel might be like once they do have kids, here is why I travel with my kid.
It bonds us together.
When we are at home our days are often very busy and frenetic making lunches, getting to school, gymnastics classes, getting work done, taking care of the house, making dinner, and other similar household tasks that we all have. Frankly, we aren’t even all in the same space for much of the day due to work, travel commitments, school etc. When we are we are under the same roof we are often working on our own specific tasks, not because we don’t want to all be together, but because there is just a lot to get done. You know, family life in 2014.
We are working to do a better job of slowing down the pace of life at home, but when we travel, we are usually together with dedicated one on one time away from the demands of normal life. We have to work together and figure things out as a team. We also get to have a great time exploring and experiencing new things together. It isn’t always all sunshine and roses on trips, but it is usually a very enjoyable and memorable experience that we get to have as a family.
The world is bigger than our neighborhood.
I absolutely love our neighborhood, but I don’t want my daughter to not be able to see beyond it. The houses, the trees, the birds, the cars, and the people mostly all look the same. I want her to know the world beyond just looking at a globe, but to know what it looks like, smells like, feels like, tastes like, and sounds like at places both near and far from her own home. My hope is that the more types of places and people you see, the more you respect differences in geography, language, culture, or skin color rather than fear or resent them. I want her to learn how small the world really is by walking through the streets of places far away.
Okay flagging down the e-cart in the airport after a TransAtlantic flight because my daughter was an exhausted sack of potatoes and couldn’t walk further wasn’t fun, but travel with kids is generally really fun. We spent a couple of our afternoons in Paris playing in the parks with children from all over, and it couldn’t have been more beautiful or enjoyable. I highly doubt I would have spent that much time in the parks or headed to Disneyland Paris were it not for my daughter, but I think I enjoyed that time more than whatever I would have probably been doing if she wasn’t there. The fun isn’t just one-sided either as she very much enjoyed experiencing new places and using the few French words she knows while playing.
Naturally she enjoyed the heck out of Disneyland Paris, but one of the coolest moments that day was her and another girl her age bonding on the train ride back into the city over an Elsa doll (from the movie Frozen) that the other girl had gotten at Disney. They didn’t speak the same language, but it didn’t matter. They still found ways to communicate and share for the entire ride home. It was fun for her to experience, and fun for me to watch. A couple of weeks later she is still talking about how much fun it was to play with the girl who spoke French on the train.
They do remember, but that isn’t even the point.
I obviously don’t think an infant will remember the trips you take them on, but it doesn’t take too many years for kids to start remembering things that are different from the norm. I may be wrong, but at 4.5 years old I think my daughter has hit the point in life where she will remember parts of the trips we go on. She certainly still remembers lots of the trips we have been on thus far.
However, that isn’t even the point. It’s okay if she doesn’t remember one of these trips when she is 40 because they are laying the ground work for who she is now, and who she will hopefully become. For me this is no different than reading to an infant or reminding a toddler to say “thank you”. They aren’t going to remember that one interaction, but those cumulative events help shape who they are. You don’t have to travel the world as a child to know it is out there and appreciate it, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
There isn’t always a better option.
I don’t take my daughter on every single trip because I am lucky enough to have family members who will help watch her at times when the trips just don’t make sense for her. We are lucky to have the best of both worlds as we can have family trips and a few adult trips. However, for some trips, and for some families, there just isn’t a better option than to bring the kids. Sometimes, either they go, or no one goes. Necessity can be the mother of invention though and sometimes when you have no choice but to bring the kiddos along, you can start the process of building a trip that is even better than the one you would have created just for yourself. Bringing the kids isn’t something to be feared, it is just something to be planned for.
Any money, miles, or time spent on family is not a waste.
If you are spending your resources whether they are time, miles, or cold hard cash on spending time with your family, it’s not a waste. It’s an amazing investment you are making that can only pay out in the long run. If you are spending your resources on traveling the world, your country, your state, or even your own city with your family it is not a waste. You are opening your kids eyes to a world that is bigger and more beautiful than they otherwise could know. In the process you are learning more about each other, sharing some great moments, and becoming a stronger family.
Sure it would be easier and cheaper to leave our daughter with family every time we take to the skies, but that would be a tremendous loss for everyone involved. We didn’t have a child to not include her in such a big part of our lives, and she has reached an age where she actively wants to go with us and learn about where we are heading. One small and recent example of that is her dedication to wanting to continue practicing French with us even though our trip is done. She gets that learning a language means she can communicate with other people who speak a different language than her, and I think that is priceless.
Thanks to miles, points, and deals family travel doesn’t have to break the bank, it doesn’t have to all be done via roadside motels courtesy of a station wagon cruising down the highway, and the only limits on it are the ones you set. I didn’t want to take an infant or toddler to Paris, so I didn’t. That was our choice, and the right one for our family. However, I absolutely wanted to take my four and a half year old amazing daughter, so I did.
It was absolutely the right choice, and I’m glad our family puts its money and miles where our mouth is when it comes to “giving our daughter the world”. I view it as my job to teach her and show her as much about the world as I can. It’s her job to decide what to do next. For the record, it’s the greatest job on earth.