Traveling with young kids is not a waste

traveling with kids

We’re going away next month to travel for three weeks. We’ll visit two countries, be in six flights (2 in a sea plane!), some train and road trip by car/bus. Pristine is 10 and Benjamin is only 2 years and 8 months old. We will be spending time at the beach, hiking on a nature trail, they will see animals they have not seen before and probably, if we are lucky, there might be RAIN. This is a very exciting idea to me but, the inevitable has happened. I’ve been smacked in the face with the comment,

WHY BOTHER? THE KIDS WON’T REMEMBER!

The people in my real world would add, “Why do you travel with your kids when they’re too young? They don’t understand what they’re seeing. It’s just a waste of time, effort and money!”

I tried to take that comment seriously, keep struggling through the years but I always come back to wanting to ask them back:

Why bother showering children and babies with love, cuddle them, kiss them or read them bed time stories? They won’t remember!

Ridiculous, right?

Just because young children don’t remember those moments and experiences don’t mean they are less meaningful. Or less important.

Travel is the same. It’s a bonding experience for the whole family. It’s about creating memories. I love the example comparing memory with experience through reading to your children. Why bother reading books to your young children if they won’t remember it exactly?

Pristine holding chicken

~ Pristine very eager to hold a live chicken in the Philippines ~

The thing is, it’s not about remembering specifically every sentence and picture in the book, it’s about the experience it brings. The sound of the words, the visual of the pictures. It’s stimulating their little minds and making them feel you are in this wonderful experience with them.

Pristine was 16 months when we travelled outside the country for the first time (just me and her). She didn’t remember any of it but when she looks at the photos, she gets very excited and says, “Was I a good baby on the plane, mom?” And I tell her that yes, she was while the other babies were screaming their lungs off during a bumpy ride to Manila from Japan. 

Pristine mosquito net

~ Pristine very overwhelmed with the concept of sleeping with a mosquito net in the Philippines ~

Pristine loves to hear these stories. She lights up when I show her photos of herself and share stories about what we all experience together. It makes her feel loved, important, special AND included.

We gathered our courage to travel all the way to Europe when she was 2 years and 4 months in 2006. It was our first long haul flight as a family. She was still good on the plane and she tells all her friends with pride every chance she gets: “I was a little traveller and did not cry on the plane.”

Pristine at 2.5 years old

And the stories are endless. “So I went to Holland when I was shorter than the tulips?” I actually laughed, yes! And this is what travel is about – creating and sharing stories they will cherish throughout their lives.

Keukenhoff

Travelling as a family also strengthens bonds between parents. Like, we learn to take turns who carries a heavily jet lagged toddler on a city walk!

London 2006 1

Travel teaches us lessons otherwise we wouldn’t have known if we didn’t get out of our comfort zones. Like, a stroller is a must and your back can only bear so much, for long hours!

London 2006 2

Just a note – she wasn’t always sleeping…only on those odd hours after we landed. See, after a while she’s just being herself.

Pristine in Antwerp

We learned our lesson when we took Benjamin to Japan for the first time last year. Stroller!

Benjamin in Japan

That said, I’d like to think that we are lucky to have Pristine who is very open to anything travel-related. (As for the other, well, he is two. He will go wherever I go!) Pristine loves packing, too and has learned to pack for herself since she was 5 or 6!

P and B in Tokyo

Parks, beaches, hiking trails, she is all game. She loves to eat local food and readily poses for photos with a smile, always. Benjamin on the other hand is the ever curious and I feel he loves our travels too.

IMG_7834

I believe in living in the here and now so I won’t wait till my children *get* it before going out to see the world with them.

Now that Pristine is older (and Ben is catching up – being very observant and communicative), the memories they will be forming from the experiences we’re going to have in our travels will be incredibly rich. No book, lesson, movie, or YouTube could come close to leaving the same impression.

Overlooking Suwa Lake

~ A short pit stop on our way to Tokyo at Suwa Interchange, overlooking Suwa Lake in Nagano, Japan ~

But before the sights and scenes and new places and food and adventure, travelling allows us to give 100% undivided attention to our children. There are no deadlines to meet, work timings to catch. We are there with them, all day, every day. As working parents, this is a precious time for us to reset and focus on them wholly, without distractions.

Ben in Sagami koen

Travelling with young children is part of their developmental process. We do this because we want them to always understand that there are many different cultures, food, languages and that differences are normal.

Butsudan

~ paying respect to her dad’s grandma in her dad’s family’s home in Niigata, Japan ~

I see no reason why they can’t experience and retain this global perspective from a young age.

Perspective for parents: you will have 18 summers until your children moves out to college. Take out 1-3 summers when you feel they’re really small and young and can’t handle travel yet (I fully understand the hesitation!) and you get 15. Only fifteen summers (or less) before they get busy with their own lives to travel with you.

Why waste time and wait ’till they are older?

18 thoughts on “Traveling with young kids is not a waste

  1. This is such a beautiful post, and the photos clearly illustrate your point! So many memories there, I can see πŸ™‚ We received comments like we were ‘being too ambitious’ when we travelled to London with our two year old. It wasn’t easy, but we do have good memories.

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  2. I don’t have kids but I couldn’t agree with you more! It’s the priceless experience you are giving them that will mold and shape the way they will be. It’s not about them remembering. If ‘remembering’ was the point of all child rearing, then all parents shouldn’t celebrate kids’ birthdays from what, 1 to 5? People will always say something whether you travel or not but you don’t live for them or should even cater to what they think. this post touched me a lot as my parents also gave me that same gift and privilege you are giving your children – to experience the world. No greater love! Believe me, your kids will remember THAT (the love, freedom, and experience you give them). Have fun and bon voyage πŸ™‚

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    • Kudos on your parents for giving you the gift of travel at a young age. See what it did to you – you are a free spirit, soaring with your own wings, seeing the world!

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  3. I totally agree! It may be costly and physically difficult at times, but the experience is really worth it.
    We wanted to take our girls with us on our recent trip to Germany, but because of several reasons, we didn’t.
    Next time, though, we will. And we’ll make sure to plan our OOTC (out of the country) trip during the school holidays πŸ™‚

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    • Yes, traveling can be costly but we try to travel as cheap as we can. It doesn’t even have to be far, it can be checking out the local zoo or a drive all the way to the next Emirate.

      All the best in your OOTC summer plan!

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  4. Absolutely agree Grace… I am often asked similar questions. But you know what? This is the best education you can give your child. Also, the experiences stay in the child’s mind as imprints. Now that I can’t stop travelling, I realise that the initial travel bug was laid in my genes by my parents – we would travel everywhere, no matter how comfortable the journey was.

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    • Thanks for leaving a comment. I know you’ve been traveling with your girls all over and it’s wonderful. They are lucky girls! You’re so correct that this is the best education we can give to our children so they will have better understanding of the world, the differences, etc.

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  5. A very well-written post, Grace! And I agree with you 100%. I’ve been traveling since I was 2 months old, and I have so many travel pictures that I am so proud of, like just Pristine πŸ™‚

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  6. Interesting take on a wonderful question. I personally wouldn’t travel with small children but its great when those that do have awesome experiences. Great share:)

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  7. Wonderful post, Grace! I agree whole heartedly. My family traveled when I was growing up. I didn’t realize until I was older how much I’d learned on the road. I traveled with my children, even after I became a single parent. My husband and I have been traveling with our grandson since he was two years old. He’s now 11 and we have permanent custody of him, so he travels everywhere we do. No, he doesn’t remember all the trips he took with us when he was little, but he has been bitten by the travel bug just like I was when I was a child. Last fall we took him out of school for 3 weeks to travel to China. The teachers and principal thought it was wonderful and sent just enough school work for him to keep up with the class. When we returned he did a multimedia presentation about his trip to share with his classmates. He learned more than he ever would have sitting in a classroom during that time. Right now we are in Hawaii and he is learning history, culture, and new skills like surfing πŸ™‚ Travel truly is an education!

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    • Thanks for leaving such a wonderful comment!

      Your grandson is such a lucky boy! Right, children learn more on first hand experiences than just what they read in the books! I am sure he is bitten by the travel bug right now and will continue to do this legacy on when he becomes an adult and a parent himself. πŸ™‚

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  8. Agree! My husband thinks otherwise though, I have to convince him pa.
    I traveled a lot with my cousins growing up and we ate out a lot. To be able to experience the culture and interact with different people is a great learning experience.

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  9. We just came from a short stint from Singapore with my two little ones. We were so stressed, my husband swore we will hold all future travels until they get older. Then I read this post and I absolutely agree with you. Thanks for posting!

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  10. Wooowwwwww.. how inspiring!! Hope I will have the chance to travel the globe with my family as well.. puhon puhon.. you are so blessed and loved! Enjoy the trips and more pictures too please πŸ™‚

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  11. Love your post! We just got back from our trip to London from Jakarta with our 21-month old son. Everyone told us that it would be a waste, he won’t remember it, and he would not stand the long flight, not ot mentioned the jetlag. He, being a toddler, of course had his moments of crankiness when he is over-tired during the trip. But the three of us (husband, son and I) enjoyed our trip, nonetheless. And our son picked up new vocabulary each day during our trip, had fun chasing pigeons (things he can’t do in Jakarta), had a chance to ride double-decker bus, tube, etc.

    Now that we are back home, we hv totally forgotten abt our sore feet, sore back, long flight and is planning for our next trip.

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  12. Awesome post, agree with you 110%. I’ve been a traveling baby, toddler, kid, teen, adult and now parent with two toddlers πŸ˜‰ could not recommend it enough!

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