Should we wait to travel until our kid is old enough to remember it?

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eiffel @ noon My family LOVES traveling, and from what I’ve gathered, so do a whole bunch of you guys — we have the backlog to prove it! Between the two of us, my husband Sean is definitely more well-traveled, as he lived in England for quite a few years and had much easier access to most of Western and Eastern Europe than we do now (not to mention parts of Northern Africa).

All of our globe-trotting definitely instilled in us the desire to raise a seasoned traveler. Also, I don’t know about you, but I’m always jealous of people who went all over the world before age 18.

We’ve flown to a few places with Jasper, but none of these trips have been international. We’re dying to take him somewhere cool, but we’re a little torn: is it worth going somewhere if he won’t remember it? I mean, how bummed would you be if your parents were like, “Hey, we took an AWESOME trip to Morocco when you were 18 months old! It was rad! You loved it!” and you have absolutely no recollection whatsoever? Outside of trips to visit family far away, is it better to wait to travel internationally until your kid(s) can remember the trip, or should you start from a young age to nurture a wandering spirit?

Comments on Should we wait to travel until our kid is old enough to remember it?

  1. This is a hard one… on the one hand, I’m thinking save the money and let the little one have a memory. But then, when I really think about it, this feels like it could turn into one of those slippery slopes: starting with “when they remember” to “well, they can do more at ten than at five” to “well, we’ll all have more fun if they’re eighteen!” Although there is merit in all of those things, I think it’s a great family experience to travel young and travel often. Besides, I think it would be kind of cool to have pictures from, say Prague, when you’re two and then go back as an adult and re-create all the pictures! But I’m a nerd like that 🙂

  2. I was taken on trips before i could remember. I’m glad my parents did those things with me. We have great dinner conversations recalling the memories and stories. Thats not to say I haven’t been places I CAN remember. You have to do both.

    And now with my children, I intend to take them traveling even as babies. Those are memories I will cherish, even if they don’t.

  3. I would say that if YOU have a hankering to travel and go somewhere, then do it and bring the kiddo along. Even if he doesn’t remember it, there’s no doubt that even very young children are able to be impressed by these experiences. Also, there’s something about traveling with young children that enables you to discover cool things you might not have sought out if you were sans child, probably because you make more of an effort to find things that are family-friendly.
    There are some trips, though, that are better when the kids are older. My husband is dying to go to Disney World but I’m pushing to wait because the kids are too young for any good rides, and we wouldn’t be able do any rides together, since one of us would have to hang back with the kids.

  4. I wonder this same thing sometimes. I really want to take my 15-month-old over to Spain she she can learn to be bilingual easier, but I also want her to remember our travels. I guess we could always do both…:/

  5. I am a big believer in travelling with small kids. But that’s because I have a small kid & it’s MY life & I want to travel now! I’m not going to wait around for 10 years in case she remembers it.

    We’ve taken DD to South Africa, Swaziland, Paris, the Orkney Isles, India & Nepal (different trips!). She’s 2 y 9 m. I don’t think she will remember any of it. But a) we are lucky to have the time now to do it – we won’t in 10 years time b) I am a firm believer that even if she doesn’t remember it it will have an impact on her. Particularly SA/Swaziland/India/Nepal where adults were so friendly & welcoming to her & really gave her a sense of trust with strangers that you don’t get in day-to-day interactions in London (where we live).

    Also, how much remembering do they have to do to make it worthwhile? DD was 2 y 6 m when we came back from India, but she still talks about the tuk-tuks, the train journeys, the chai-wallah & remembers the “namaste” greeting. Will she remember it as an adult? Probably not. But it’s an important memory now.

  6. I think if YOU want to go somewhere, then go. You can always go back.

    We travel a lot, my little one has been to 6 countries before the age of 2, but I’m looking forward to doing a volunteer vacation somewhere like Latin America when she is old enough to benefit from the learning experience. So we are waiting on that.

    Otherwise, hey, we could all get swallowed up by the earth tomorrow – so we do the things that we want to do now. 🙂

  7. I have almost the exact same photo in front of the eiffel tower from when I took my 11 month old last weekend. He won’t remember it, and the trip was hard and stressful as he got sick the day we arrived. I’m still not sure it was was worth the effort and money to go to paris with a baby. But we got some seriously cute pictures!

  8. No! Obviously I’m a little bias considering a wrote a piece for OBM about travelling with baby, but I am of the opinion that family travel is about just that – the family – and on no one person should the decision depend. And really, will your son remember anything he does before about 4 years old? All that playing and eating and sleeping could be done at home or abroad, he won’t “remember” Amy of it. He will however, as he gets older, appreciate that his parents were awesome enough to go against the grain and take him on trips that inspire! He, from a very early age, will develop a love of travel and all the amazing lessons that come with it. Go!

  9. I can’t say I’ve traveled internationally with my child, but we did take our 1.5 year old son and my 13 year old niece on a 3 week camping car adventure in which we drove over 6000 miles and stayed in numerous national parks. He climbed through a cave at Craters of the Moon, he dipped his feet in a river in Yellowstone, and he got to see tons of animals in their natural habitat. And that’s just a smidge of what he did. He loved it all, we adjusted to taking a small child on a long road trip and we compiled a photo book to document the experience so that when he’s older he can see the amazing things he did when he was younger. And the best part is it costs less to do that then it would to travel as a family abroad…so we can do it again and again and again, ensuring he’ll be used to traveling and see everything at various ages. One day we’ll take him abroad, but not until he’s much much older.

  10. Why does travel have to be dependent on remembering? Why don’t we focus on enjoying the experience *when it’s happening*? So a little kid might not remember much of a trip somewhere later on when they are older. So what? If they had fun at the time, that should be enough.

  11. i would say wait to travel. i am all for schedules and routines and structure and you can’t really have that traveling. i would wait until 3 when they don’t take naps anymore and you can have more time to explore and have fun during the day. i would bring a sitter so you can put your child down at 7:30 and still go out yourself so you aren’t trapped in your hotel room. i tried to go to south dakota with my (then) 22 month old, and i regretted it. he was not able to take naps nor was he able to go to bed at a decent time. he was MISERABLE! all he did was cry because he was so tired the whole time. i waited to travel till he was four and the trip was lovely and went so much better. he understood what was going on, i could prepare him for the trip, he could actively participate, he was okay with staying up sometimes past bedtime, i could talk to him about his surrounds and we could converse about them… all and all, it was a memory both of us cherish. he still talks about seven years later. i would save your money and wait to go until three or four… that is the perfect age to start traveling and every year after that gets better and better!

    • I totally disagree. While all kids are different, I believe that if you wish, you can totally have schedule and routine while traveling. After the initial adjustment to the 6 hour time change, my 6 month old fell seamlessly into the same rhythm we were following at home – wake at 6, nap at 10 and 3, bed at 7:30. With few exceptions, she napped in the ERGO carrier while we continued our days and at night while she slept we would turn on the monitor and have adult time in another room.

  12. I guess I see it from a cost-benefit perspective, since while we love to travel, we can only afford to do big international trips occasionally. So, we’ve talked about doing our domestic dream-trips with young kids, because we’ll be more familiar with how things go and we and kids will get used to traveling together. Then, when everyone is out of diapers, we’ll go on the bigger trips.

    Now, when is old enough to remember? Well, I remember stuff from international trips at age 5, and studies mostly back up the serious memory formation begins when language is acquired. So I’d say once a kid is >2.5 or so, I’d start thinking about planning a “big trip.”

  13. To me, it depends on what you’re expecting out of your trip. Is it for you, for all of you, for the kids?

    I have to say, we are looking to go to Brasil in 2014 and I already plan to not bring the kids. I bring them when we visit family, so they travel at least twice a year across the country. We’ve gotten pretty good at it, but it is still hard. When we go to another continent as an exploration, event, and vacation affair, I am pretty sure I want it to be my husband and me until my kids are old enough to 1) Remember it and 2) Be entertained for a chunk of the travel time, or just be easier to travel with. I know all kinds of people are able to do it, but 4-hour flights across the country have been pretty hard for us, even after doing it 8 or more times now. Plus, every once in a while I think adults need adult trips, too.

    • Rodrigues, those are some good points, but it is not always possible for there to be ‘adult trips’. For example – for the last 12 months I have been solo-parenting, with my husband on another continent. All of my family lives on the other side of the world. If I want to go anywhere, my son comes with me. There are plenty of people in my situation. Does that mean that they put off travelling until their children are a certain age? Perhaps you think so, perhaps not. I think what this underlines is that every situation is individual, so I don’t think there can be a blanket YES!/NO! answer to this one (though I stand by my earlier comment 🙂 )

      • No, hopefully it would be noted that my answer implies the availability of a choice.

      • the problem is taking little kids on trips is a pain for the parent. it is really tough for most people to take little kids. i am a single parent of four. i definitely put it off. when you take kids, it is about the kids… there is no way around that one. you have to plan everything around them completely. it doesn’t ever become about you, not even for a second! so i can see rodriques’s point. if you can go alone, it is even better. if you have to take the kids, it is better that they remember and enjoy it. it makes it more pleasant for the parent and the child/children.

    • I agree with Rodriguez above in that it depends on the purpose or what you want out of the trip. Travelling with children is (for most people) a very different experience than travelling without.

      Personally I would wait until they are slightly older so they can participate more and remember and because I think it’s easier on the parent and child. But it’s all up to the individual preference.

      • I’m commenting from the perspective of someone who actively decided to travel internationally with an infant and actually live abroad in another country. While I agree that it does depend on your reasons for wanting to travel, I think Rodriguez and Jesscar are focusing on the fact that it is hard and inconvenient. I disagree. Its actually easier to travel with infants. And you see the world from a totally different perspective when you have a child in tow. Sure we’re not at night clubs and partying till dawn — instead we’re up earlier (when its WAAAY better take photos anway :-)) and exploring all the parks and roaming free in the countryside. And I’m talking about Asia too!
        Babies adjust to jet lag a LOT easier than adults! And as for the memories, I think its about the here and now AND the memories (my earliest memory was at 2 years old). And the worldview. Travel creates an amazing worldview in babies/toddlers too.

  14. I think this topic correlates with another much-argued topic; Should one do anything costly for a child (birthday parties, Christmas presents, etc) before they can cherish those memories?

    In my opinion, when it comes to travel, it’s up to you. I personally don’t care if I never leave the US or even visit popular parts of the US. When I have kids, the travelling will be for them, so I’d rather wait until they can enjoy it and have it in their memories.

    • I don’t think travelling has anything to do with with expensive birthday parties or costly gifts. Travelling with its experiences and opportunity to create a much larger worldview is one of the best gifts you can give a child.

  15. If you have an opportunity/time/finances/inclination to travel abroad, do it! I was born in Japan and my family traveled all throughout Asia until we moved back to the US when I was 2 and a half. All I really remember are the Japanese cartoons I watched. BUT the fact that I have a really cute baby passport with stamps from China and Tawain and loads of photo albums and family memories and stories of our life abroad makes me treasure that time in my family’s life. Even though I don’t remember all of the adventures myself, I grew up hearing the stories about it and that in itself is a memory to treasure. So no, I don’t think travel is wasted on the young.

  16. well, i’d say do it!!!

    My dad traveled all of the time with us and some of my earliest memories are of when we traveled. I think, even though Jasper may not remember it consciously, that there are definitely things he will pick up subconsciously that are vital for his growth.

    Another reason is: You never know what’s going to happen, so you might as well enjoy life now.

    Also, even if Jasper doesn’t remember it (Which he probably will remember parts) You will have even more beautiful photos as well as memories built with your husband and child that yu wouldn’t have if you waited.

  17. Yes. I think you should travel with your kid. If you wait until they are older to travel, they won’t know how to travel. We haven’t been able to do any international trips yet, but we have done as many trips in the US that we can. Our kid flies better than I do, and she still talks about her trip to the dinosaur museums. I don’t know if she will remember that when she is 12, but that’s just a good excuse to go back to DC.

  18. We took our son to Germany when he was 9 months old and it was MARVELOUS. It was a decision we made before he was born, and there were many times in the months before the trip when I regretted the decision and was terrified, but it was great. I was working for part of the trip, and that added some stress, but it was overall just marvelous. He really thrived — we had never realized before how extroverted he was! He also loved all the awesome public transportation he got to ride. He was still on two naps a day at that point, which presented some real challenges (and we pretty rigidly kept to his schedule except on travel days — we were in four different cities). Fortunately we were traveling places where we had been before and in fact lived before, so we felt less sightseeing stress.

    We are going back again in 6 weeks, and he will be 21 months old. This time will also involve some work for each of us, and some toddler-time and relaxation and sightseeing too.

    We are extremely excited. It will be harder in that he is running now — not just in the barely crawling stage! But it will be easier in that he is just taking one nap a day now, not two. Also, I won’t be dragging along a breast pump, which definitely added stress to the first trip.

    He will not remember these trips, but he will experience them, and they will become part of him. He will also grow to view travel as “normal,” and I think that’s a nice lesson. WE will also remember these trips, and we will experience them, too, and that matters as well.

    And I agree that they don’t remember much of anything from these early years, and yet we do it anyway so that they can grow and learn and we can have fun too. It is still a part of them, even if they do not remember.

    What I am wondering lately is about Disney World! On the one hand, shouldn’t our son be older so he can remember? On the other hand, NOW is when he would find some of it the most cool, and part of me really wants to see the look of delight on his face when he seems Mickey!

    I do wonder how much “memory” matters anyway. One goal I have for myself is mindfulness, living in the present, not the past and future. One of the best parts about spending time with a child is that it helps one live in the moment. So maybe “in the moment” is all that matters, regardless of memory!

    One final thought: I do think taking a break for a nap every day could be a drag if one is in a brand new place that one really wants to see. So, perhaps waiting until Jasper is past the nap phase, or figuring out onsite childcare of some sort to give you a break some days, could help.

    • My dad has a “rule” that 5 is the “perfect” age for Disneyland (world, etc.). You’re big enough to go on all the rides, but little enough to appreciate all the hokey bullshit. We went when I turned five, and again when my sister was (left her with the grandparents for the first trip). I don’t remember very much from my first trip, but when I’ve been as an adult I turn right back into that five year old. Baby will surely be taking a trip five years from now.

  19. Just do it now. You will continue to travel if it is truly in you. Children take in so much and it will shape their future if you offer the opportunity anytime it arises.

  20. well, really, we can’t afford international travel. we’re still paying off our three weeks in croatia from 18months ago and that was just the two of us. however, we do want to travel as much as we can. we’re hoping to do as much north american travel as we can while our kids are growing up, regardless of their ages. my dream right now is to be able save up to take each kid on a solo trip to their country pf choice w. one parent when they hit 15 or 16… if we can’t afford to spend our vacations travelling internatoonally then ot’s important to me that when we can they are old enough to remember it…
    i don’t remember much of the yeat we spent in mexico when i was 5 but my five years older brother has great memories…

    • I think the cost of international travel is a bit of an elephant in this room! 😉 It is definitely a privilege to be able to jet-set around, babies or no!

      • I do agree with you, to an extent, but in our case, we do go without a bunch of things so that we can travel. The stuff we “go without” as I put it aren’t big things, they aren’t things we NEED–so we make a choice between buying something big or saving money for an awesome trip once a year, that kind of thing. International travel is definitely a costly beast, though. We’re not realistically planning on taking a trip as a family internationally for a few more years.

        • international travel is totally attainable with planning and creativity. two things that go quite well with parenting.

          • Yes, with advance planning and flexibility, it can work. I have to admit that we are lucky in that our abroad trips always involve work, so a fair bit of our expenses are covered. So, for us, a lot of the “go abroad or not” is more about the logistics of having a baby/toddler with us and not AS much the money (though there are extra expenses).

        • I guess it depends on how little money we’re talking about as well as what country you live in. (You’re going to be spending a heck of a lot more money getting out of Australia than most other countries, I’m guessing!)

          I mean, obviously for a family who can barely afford to keep the electricity on, international travel is not likely to be a priority!

          • Okay actually I need to put my foot in my mouth, because I just checked and DAMN does Jetstar have some cheap fares to NZ! ;P Outside of that, though, it can still be quite expensive. Not to mention the time factor – since it takes so long to get to most places from here, you’re having to take more time off of work…

          • Yeh, being in Perth pretty much everyone can afford to get to Bali or Phuket (generally cheaper than an instate holiday) but other than that, getting out of the country is usually crazy expensive. We’re just too far away from everywhere.

          • My parents and two sisters are flying to visit us in China next month with Air Asia — return plus all their baggage for less than $2000!

  21. My son is 7 months and has been to: Germany, Italy (where we live), Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia, oh and the U.S. He won’t remember it, but he has a freaking AWESOME baby book. And he can say one day that he has been there. We plan on bringing him back to Germany/Nederlands when he graduates from College. It’ll be awesome for him to look back at his pictures of him all over Europe. I don’t think that children really savor the traveling experience until they are adults (teens, maybe?). Like when I was a kid I could have cared less about Roman ruins or Gothic Architecture. I was begging for Disney World or Land, Waterparks, Zoo… etc. I don’t think there is a “too early”.

  22. I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to travel with my parents a lot from age ten on. I remember some of all of those trips (probably the one I remember the least was the first, at age ten) and it made a HUGE impact on my life, my self-sufficiency, my interests, and my love of learning right at that critical time in my life when I was really becoming my own person and those experiences contributed a lot to that young adult development. I think I got more out of it because I was not just a little kid.

    Factor in too that my parents and grandparents went on a cruise when I was a baby and love to tell stories about it…but I don’t remember a thing about it. I’m honestly kind of annoyed by that because I never did anything like that with my grandparents again– not even any really great outings in their home town when we visited. It was the ONE and only really cool experience I had with them and it feels for me like it doesn’t count– although I’m sure it does for them because they remember it. I got a lot more out of a train trip my other grandmother took me on when I was ten. I really bonded with her on that trip and I wish I’d gotten the chance for activities to bring me closer to the grandmother I went on the cruise with.

  23. this topic makes me wish we had the $ to travel at all 🙁 my bucket list just gets longer and longer and longer…

    • Amb, the thing I often try to do is view my area as a tourits/foreigner would. People pay a lot of money to visit where other people live! Take a day out to try and see your area as a visitor would – whether it is the natural surroundings, local history or something quirky. Visit your local tourist information centre and see what information they can give you. Imagine you had a friend from another country coming to stay with you – where would you take them? Often travel is as much about seeing with different eyes as it is being in a different place 🙂

      • you’re right, a lot of it is about mindset. although its also a lot easier to ignore the blackberry when its out of network 😀

  24. I used to have this argument with my husband when my son was about a year old. I’d say “Let’s take him to Dorney Park, he’ll love it!” and he’d say “he won’t remember it.” I took him many places that he doesn’t really remember, but at the time he had fun. To me, it’s about the experience in the moment. Memories are wonderful, but they are nothing like the real experience. I took my son on a cruise last summer, he was only five. Maybe in 20 years he’ll barely remember it, but he had a great time and, for now, it’s still a fond memory to him.

    • I see where you’re coming from, I also plan to do many things and take my babies/toddlers many places purely because they will love it and knowing full well that they wont remember any of it.

      But I wouldnt really put taking them on a road trip to a fun place in the same category as an extremely expensive overseas holiday. Unless you have a lot of money I think parents have to do a cost/benefit analysis for something like this.

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