I bet you've heard this one before: “We’re headed to Timbuktu and dropping the kids with my parents on the way.” I know I'm certainly guilty of it. But hear me out when I say: Don’t put it off. Don’t assume you’ll show your kids the world next year. Take them now. Traveling with your kids can be one of the most impactful (and I mean that in a good way) things you do as a family, and you’ll be surprised at how fast that window passes.
Now, I have nothing against a kid-free getaway with your partner. I think they’re a big key to a healthy relationship. But make them just that: a quick getaway to spend time focused on each other, rather than on your bucket list. If it’s on your bucket list, don’t you think someday it might be on your child’s?
There are plenty of well-documented benefits to traveling with kids. They force you to move slower and experience the experience. It expands their horizons and teaches them that what’s different isn’t necessarily bad. You get a chance to model adaptability and problem solving. It strengthens the family bond and creates timeless memories. You’ll meet more locals. Maybe most importantly, your kids get to spend unconstrained time with YOU. They’ll feel loved and safe in strange territory, which gives them confidence and helps make them fearless.
People often say they don’t want to travel with their children until they’ll be able to remember it. Yet we don’t wait until our kids can talk to start reading them stories. We do these things early on so it helps train them and becomes part of their normal.
Don’t get me wrong. Traveling with kids takes work, planning, and trade-offs. It’s more expensive. You won’t get to do and see all the things you could without them. But the rewards are also different, and I believe, pretty worth it, when you think of the looks on their faces, the stories you’ll tell for decades, the adventures you will share and the sense of accomplishment you’ll have looking back. Take this example.
My son turned five in last spring. His preschool had been learning about volcanoes, so to celebrate we climbed a volcano. He walked on his own two feet the entire way. That boy will never forget the experience of roasting a birthday marshmallow over a lava vent, nor his pride when he made it back to the car “with no help!” It was a magical adventure none of us will soon forget.
If you’re still unconvinced, take the long-term view and do the math. You’ve got your kids for 18 years. Your photos will be priceless and the kids will learn the ropes, but they won’t remember much before they’re 5. By age 11, their activities will start to have a big impact on the family calendar. Soccer, summer camp, piano, after school jobs, volleyball pre-season…your ability to jet off at a moment’s notice or spend four weeks away each summer will suffer. Not that age 11 is an ultimatum, but things will change. That window of unrestrained, memory making, my-kids-still-want-to-hang-out-with-me travel doesn’t last that long. Your trips don’t need to be month-long treks across oceans to be meaningful. But think about what is doable with your resources and other commitments, and multiply that by the 6 years you’ll have to chase those adventures you really want your kids to remember.
So don’t put it off any longer. Take the kids, and start planning your own next journeys together today. Drop me a note in the comments and let me know what you think. Do you believe in taking your littles? Why or why not?