Last year Offbeat Families ran a post that asked if one should wait until their kids are old enough to remember travel before taking them on a trip.
As you may know, I am the copyeditor for the entire Empire, so I read that post the week before it ran. As soon as I saw the title, I said, “Hell yes!”
I have been travelling since I was nine months old. My parents took me to England and South Africa to visit my relatives five times between the time I was born until I was about 11, and I only really remember the trip at age 11. Some memories I have from the previous trip are the kind where I’m not sure if I actually remember it or if it’s me remembering photos.
As I got older, it was harder for my mom to take me on these vacations, but since it was her family she was visiting, she still went. This meant that we didn’t really take family vacations anymore at all, other than some trips to our cottage. While my friends would go to Florida or Cuba for March break, I would stay home. When I complained about this, my mom would say that I’m much more well-travelled than them and I shouldn’t be jealous of a trip to a domestic locale. All I thought was, what the hell do I care? I don’t remember all the great sights, or the trips at all. I’d much rather go to Florida for a week when I’m 14 than look at photos of my toddler-self on safari from ten years ago.
I especially resented my parents’ lack of understanding whenever they would tell stories about funny or adorable things I did on these trips, or amazing things we all saw. I don’t remember running around with warthogs, where I’d chase one for a bit in one direction, then he’d turn around chase me. I don’t remember seeing a pack of baboons chasing a leopard. I vaguely remember lying in a car for a long period of time. I decided when I was a teen that if I ever had kids, I would wait until they were old enough to appreciate where they were, so they could remember all of their experiences, and properly enjoy them.
When I first saw the blog post, I started thinking about what I was going to write in my blog as a response. I thought about all the stories my parents tell (over and over) about all the cute/hilarious/adventurous things that I have no recollection of. Then I realized something.
Sure, I don’t remember these great things, and I’m not entirely sure that the trips instilled in me any sense of adventure more than I would have had anyway. But one thing is for sure: my parents loved taking me.
When you’re traveling with your child, it must be a completely different experience than traveling alone. Even though I don’t remember it, I can imagine that seeing me with those warthogs must have been awesome for my parents. They have stories and fond memories that will last a lifetime for them.
Therefore my answer to the question has changed: don’t wait until your kid is old enough to remember it. Your kids might be a little bummed when they’re old enough to realize they don’t remember anything. But I’m sure my parents would agree that it’s worth it for you: for the memories you’ll make, which you can later share with them. Not to mention that your parents can now be your trip advisors if you choose to re-visit a place you were too young to appreciate.