Travel Myth Busters: Kids Should Be a Certain Age to Travel

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We are kicking off summer this year as a family in Costa Rica. Just as we have done in previous years, the day after school ends for the summer, we hit the air ready for a quick transition from early wake-ups, packing lunch kits, and rushing to after-school activities to taking our time exploring, spending time together, playing, and relaxing. It can feel a little chaotic prepping for a trip while checking off the last week of school activities, but I love the feeling of going wheels up as soon as the kids are ‘ours’ again for the summer.

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Josh and I actually came to Costa Rica without the girls last year, but we loved it so much that we returned with them this year. It is exceedingly rare that we repeat a destination that quickly, so that speaks to how much we truly love it here. I have so much to share with you about experiencing the same place in a whole new way with the kids once we get back home, but for now, I wanted to talk about something slightly different.

There’s an endless array of family travel myths, but one of them that jumps out at me right now as being patently false is that you should wait until your kids are older to travel so that they can benefit from it. ‘They’ say that until the kids are a certain age – be it school aged, or ten years old, or junior high, or whatever arbitrary number is pulled out of a hat, that bringing them on trips is just a selfish act of sorts as travel doesn’t benefit them.

 

My youngest daughter is two years old. She’s still in diapers, drinks from a sippy, and 100% needs an afternoon nap. You could argue she is still a toddler. Yet, she’s traveled enough that not only is the process of traveling with her usually a breeze, but I was lucky enough to capture a video this morning that in eleven seconds or less shows how much she benefits from travel at only two years of age.

As you can see if you have a few seconds to spare, she is exciting, literally beaming, and over the course of only two days in Costa Rica has picked up several Spanish phrases that she is actively using. We aren’t pushing her to learn any of this, she is just around enough people here that are saying basic phrases such as “hola” or “buenas dias” that she wants to understand and respond in kind.

No doubt we could teach her this sort of thing at home, but it would not have the same meaning and relevance to her as it does here. This process certainly isn’t unique to her as all kids are literal sponges. They will soak up whatever is around them, and in this case, that means soaking in some very basic context and skills in another language.

Even if she didn’t learn a thing on our trip, there is no question that she is having a ball, as is her older sister. I can’t think of a better way to kick of summer than with a little bit of learning, some smoothies, animal spottings, and a whole bunch of family swim sessions, all for just 15,000 World of Hyatt points per night. If you want to follow along as we explore, follow us @mommypoints on Instagram.

I’d love to hear what family travel myths are totally false in your family!

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Do you really think your 2 year old will remember anything about Costa Rica 5 or 10 years from now. IMHO, basing it on my own childhood, extremely doubtful. But considering her surroundings, why shouldn’t she be happy.

    • You might be surprised what your kiddos remember. Based on my childhood I can remember events back to age 2, house layouts and neighborhood layouts, car details, toy details, a family trip to Marineland, birthday cake details, what was on various home walls, family animals and much more from age 3-5. The memories were quite accurate based on later trips and seeing family photo albums.

      That said, I delayed taking my kiddo to Central America when he was very young due to risk for mosquito borne diseases. He spent most of his early years aboard cruise ships and on islands off the mainland. In Costa Rica the kiddos need to know to keep away from snakes and all those pretty frogs. If there is one thing I learned from years as a scout leader it is that the behavior of kiddos can often be unpredictable.

      • Surely, safety comes first. Mosquitos are scary for sure, but for the most part, a resort version of Costa Rica gives the best of many worlds. We did a nature activity today…from the ‘safety’ of a golf cart.

    • No clue. I have memories from around her age, but obviously not a ton. Remembering it decades from now isn’t the point though. Laying the foundation and enjoying the moment is what matters to me. Maybe we can keep an interest in Spanish rolling. That alone would be such a gift.

  2. Every family will have their own threshold for what constitutes a good vacation for toddlers. I agree with you about a beach/pool/resort vacation. Toddlers and young children love it and can have good memories even at age 2-3. The resort you are at now is also a great introduction to Costa Rica and you will be more comfortable exploring more of the country (arenal, monteverde, Manuel Antonio, etc…) in a few years (when the kids a better age, ha).

    Traveling through Europe at this age? I think that would be less suitable for a toddler but others may disagree.

    • Ha ha – absolutely. We had a blast in Scotland and London when she was one, but you do have to adjust activities for ages, and a Grandma along for the ride is a tremendous idea for Europe. I agree 100% that you need to take into consideration developmental states when selecting the best activities, but certainly don’t have to stay home. Can’t wait to see more of Costa Rica in the coming years!

  3. Ha! The resort is beautiful but I don’t think this counts as going to Costa Rica – everything is in English, prices are in US Dollars and things cost around 5-10 times what they should in CR!

    • Resorts and popular tourist destinations are never the same as truly integrating into the local community, but the birds, the smells, the sunsets, the warmth, they are all the same. The food is from here, the people working here are from here, and it is much more Costa Rica than East Texas. You can have some of the experience now, and save some deeper experiences for later. We’ll be back.

      • As it seems the norm, you’re at a tourist resort destination for vacation and not having a true traveler’s adventure. Again, it’s luxury over culture and unique foreign experiences. But as always, to each his/her own —-

        • My gazillions of bug bites on our several hour horse ride through very non-tourist areas would argue that point, but where we lay our head at night certainly is a resort. Staying at a resort does not limit you to only resort activities, but also nothing wrong with those who do stay within the resort grounds. They probably have fewer bite!

  4. We’re Costa Ricans and we go to the Andaz Papagayo at least once a year–it’s a great use of the Hyatt free night! Sure, the staff speaks English, but they also speak Spanish, of course, and it’s easy to explore other parts of Guanacaste and the country if you have a rental car. And it’s a really nice hotel. I don’t know how much our kids will remember, but they always have a great time when we’re there.
    Enjoy your visit!

  5. This is one of the main reasons that I read your website everyday. There are so many “Negative Nancy’s” commenting…basically questioning your parenting skills, to be honest, and you always respond very patiently and with much more eloquence than I ever could to some of these comments. What these people are failing to consider is that you are spending quality time together as a family, making an effort (and I know it takes a lot of effort) to show your children the “real world”…they are not sitting in front of a television screen with a bag of Cheetos…they are experiencing life…aka CHILDHOOD…please for heaven sakes people stop all the negativity & questioning others parenting skills.

    • Lisa, thank you. The internet is always simultaneously the best and worst. Thankfully, mostly the best, at least in this corner. Thanks for reading.

  6. We took our then 12 week old 1st born from Los Angeles to London for my birthday. Does he remember it? Of course not, but he’s seen the pictures and is excited about “going back” when we return later on this year.

    I’ve taken my children to loads of places they don’t remember. I tell people, travel isn’t for the children it’s for the parents. I mean , this is my life too right? Why shouldn’t I enjoy it just because my kids won’t remember some of it?

    Eventually they get old enough to remember. By then a life of exploration will have left its mark of curiosity on them. It’s never too soon to start traveling (near or far) with your kids.

  7. Totally agree! I never understand the logic in “they won’t remember.” Kids won’t remember a lot of things, like every time you tell them I love you, or every snuggle, but that’s obviously not why you do it. You’re helping to shape the people they will grow to be and how they will interact with the world. My kids don’t remember the specifics of trips we’ve taken (they’re 3 and 1) but I find that it builds their confidence, they are curious about the world, and I even see a difference in mundane things like their willingness to try new foods. Keep on keeping on, Summer! Yours is one of my fave blogs/instas for this reason.

  8. We had our baby around Halloween last year, and we’ve been traveling with him since Jan/Feb. He’s been on about 6 flights now, from parents in the Midwest to cousins on the west coast. He’s a seasoned traveler, and we’ll continue the trend going forward…even when he isn’t “free”. 🙂

    • Well done! I’ll offer a tiny ‘warning’ that it may get a little harder in the near term as you enter the 9 – 18 month phase. I say that just so you don’t get phased or discouraged if it is harder for a minute – it is still worth it. Once you are out of that phase then travel gets easier and better. Keep it up!

  9. My wife and I went to Costa Rica and traveled extensively, mostly on buses, as students. Our plan now that we have a toddler and more money is to combine luxury with adventure – it’s just fine to do both. We’ll fly to LIR, bus up to Nicaragua to Granada and go out to the islands in Lake Nica, or something like that (still researching), then go back south to the Andaz Papagayo for 3 or 4 nights at the end of the trip on points.

    @Jon, we did / are doing the same thing. Did Mexico City over Memorial Day for example.

  10. Well done and have a blast with your fam there! We are planning a trip to Andaz Papagayo there next year too with our 2 yr old for a week. Any fun activities both on site or off site?

  11. I’d love to hear more about your family adventures in Costa Rica! We are thinking about using our companion passes to take our kiddos on a vacation over fall break (in October), but the country seems so vast I don’t really know where to go! And as a mom who takes her kids on every vacation, I think the memories you are creating (not just for the kids, but for YOU) are priceless!

  12. Agree with all of this!!! Love this post.

    Are you finding there is enough to keep the kids busy at the Andaz? Planning a similar trip with similarly aged kids to yours and that’s my only concern.

    • Yes and no. So yes, but I think four nights is probably sufficient. There was one rainy evening we were all a bit stir crazy, but mostly it was a blast.

  13. I guess the answer is really “it depends”. Of course kids will enjoy traveling and mine travel with us since they were same age as your daughter but for them to enjoy and have a great time the trip needs to be appropriate for their age. Definitely a two year old would have a blast in a place like a resort in Costa Rica, Hawaii, etc. Or a trip to Disney. Would I take a two year old to explore the Vatican museum or Colosseum? Spend time visiting the temple of Angor Wat in Cambodia? No. Again, as long as the destination fits their age there is nothing better than giving them the opportunity to explore.

    • Oh for sure. There’s a trip for every age, but there are some trips that aren’t the best match at every age. This summer is things like Costa Rica, Denver, Disney, Grandma’s House, etc. Next summer will be Hawaii for sure. Vatican and Colosseum and temples are on the list, but not with both kids right now.

      • You would be surprised. My kids were 11 and 8 and because they go to a Catholic school they were very interested in visiting the Vatican. Also, since they love history they had read about the Colosseum, Pompeii, etc… Thus, they asked if we could go there and see what they had seen on books. It was an amazing trip. I got private guides that were expert in tours for kids and they talk about that trip all the time. I highly recommend them to learn about the places before they go. The guides were amazed with the questions my kids were asking during the visit.

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