I’ve always been an advocate of taking the kids, whether your travels send you across the state or across the world. All parents know, however, that traveling with kids can be both rewarding and challenging. Deciding whether to bring them along or go solo is never simple. Determining when to travel with kids and when to wait depends on what type of vacation you’re seeking, the ages of your kids, and what you’re hoping to get out of your trip as a family. Ask yourself the following questions while planning your trip:
Traveling with Kids ~How to Decide
1. Who are you going for?
Who are you hoping to enrich by taking this journey: yourself and/or your spouse, or your kids? The answer is likely both, in which case it’s important to ensure your child or children have reached an age at which they can appreciate what they’ll see and do. A trip to Paris enriched with art and culture, for instance, can likely be absorbed by any aged child, whereas a vacation planned around Civil War battlefields or Washington, DC landmarks will be lost on children too young to have a frame of reference for their importance. Find travel ideas for kids by age to figure out when to take them where.
2. Are you willing to adjust your itinerary to accommodate your kids?
If your heart is set on touring the Vatican when you visit Rome, but you have a two-year-old who will only want to splash in courtyard fountains, you may want to save your time and money for when he or she is older. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind spending the majority of your time in Tuscany relaxing in a villa and riding bicycles, you may well have a near-perfect experience, toddler and all.
3. Will time changes be a factor?
If so, you will want to make sure your trip is long enough to give children plenty of time to adjust. Quick trips outside your time zone can be miserable for parents and children. Make sure you’re not resentful of time spent adjusting by planning several rest days on each end of the trip.
4. Is this a once-in-a-lifetime vacation?
If so, wait until everyone is old enough to not only enjoy the experience, but cart their own luggage, cut their own food, and entertain themselves en route. Once-in-a-lifetime trips carry big expectations: do all you can to ensure the kids and the adults will have a great time. We want to travel to Australia or Planning a Trip to London, for instance, but I know our family will get more out of the experience when the kids are all teens as opposed to now, when the youngest still has to struggle to keep up.
Myths About Travel with Kids
1. They’re too young to remember it.
Babies and toddlers may indeed be too young to remember a trip, but you’re not! Watching a child’s joy in the moment while touching snow for the first time, glimpsing a swallow in the eaves of a monastery, or tasting gelato at a street-side cafe will be a life-long memory — for you. When our oldest child was 13 months old, we took him to Mexico. He remembers nothing of it, but his father and I cherish memories of him dancing for the first time to mariachi music.
2. Babies are terrible travelers.
Not so! Babies will go anywhere without complaint, and a trip with an infant really isn’t about them, is it? The benefits of traveling extensively with a baby are that you’ll groom them to be good travelers, and you’ll be able to follow an itinerary that’s all about you. That said, parenting demands can double on the go: if your infant doesn’t sleep well at home, he or she isn’t likely to abroad, either. Plan trips with babies with plenty of downtime and lodging that provides conveniences of home.
3. Traveling with kids is a waste of money. Kids often stay, eat, and enter attractions for free or reduced cost. Apart from the cost of airfare, they may be the cheapest people in your travel party. Of course, there are souvenirs to buy!