These are the responses by Family Travel Association members to an article asserting that “lavishing… luxurious travel experiences on children is supremely indulgent.” For the introductory post associated with the page, go HERE.
Julia Slatcher, Owner & Principal, Inspire World Travel
It’s funny, like the author of the Telegraph article, I too was eight years old when my parents took me on my first overseas trip – coincidentally, crossing the Atlantic the other way. My father had a month-long work stint in London, so we rented a flat and then spent an additional two weeks in Ireland. I remember this trip surprisingly well. I remember some of my favorite sights and activities (Queen Mary’s dollhouse! The Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens! Harrods! Fancy tea with adorable sandwiches!), but, more important, I remember the exhilaration of being in a foreign land. I felt like I was in a storybook… and that was addictive to me.
We took our own children overseas (and on long road trips within the U.S., for that matter) at such young ages that many of their memories are indeed pretty fuzzy, although I have revolving photos on our family’s computer screensaver to solidify what they do remember (a great trick, by the way). However, like reading to a baby who doesn’t have language skills yet, traveling at young ages starts building skills, resilience, curiosity and adventurousness – and gives them a different perspective on their lives at home. Whether or not they are conscious of such effects on personality and outlook, children gain an immense amount from travel that enriches their everyday lives. I’d be willing to bet it influences the adults they become and the life choices they make as a result. I wouldn’t trade my own childhood travel for anything, and I am a passionate advocate of not waiting “until it’s worth it” when they are teens or older. It’s worth it at any age.
Keryn Means, Founder, Walking On Travels
So what if you travel with your child to indulge your own desire to see the world? What’s wrong with sharing your interests with your kids? As a mother who works from home, spends more than her fair share of time at soccer practice, in the school pickup line, and running errands, I relish the moments that we are away from our everyday norm.
Is it expensive? Yes! But this is uninterrupted time with my kids.
Do they remember anything? Oh course they do. Kids are smart. They pick up on new vocabulary, ideas and are taught about the differences that make our world great.
My 7-year-old son is thrilled every time he can tell his friends he got his stuffed kitten toy in China and had his first ice cream in Italy. Does he remember it all? No, but that’s what photos and sharing stories after our trip are for. My boys love to get on airplanes, thrill at trying the sweets in new places and having stories to tell their friends when they get back to school.
Will we ever do it longterm? Probably not. I have a husband who loves his very demanding job and kids who need to be with their friends. This doesn’t mean we don’t like to get out and explore the world.
What’s the difference between exploring our city and going to a different country? Not much, except the price, and I feel that it is worth every penny. After all, this travel isn’t just about the kids. It’s about me getting away from the everyday stress so I can share what I love about our planet with my kids.
If getting on a plane is what is required, and we get to eat Magnum bars at the top of the Eiffel Tower, which my 4-year-old son remembers and still talks about, then I’m going to do it whether you think it is worth my money or not. It’s my money, so don’t stress about it. I still pay my taxes every year.
Also read: Screw the Kids. It’s All About Me.
Eileen Gunn, Founder, FamiliesGo!
Aside from all the well-known reasons for traveling with kids – bringing what they learn to life, exposing them to diverse people and cultures, teaching them to be adaptable and how to behave in various situations – there is also the fact that families include one or two grownups, and vacations are for them too. I like cruises, beaches and Disney parks, but I’m not willing to limit my vacation options to only those few things for 18 years.
I enjoy traveling. I want too see as much of the seven continents as I can while I can because I’m only getting older. I see Europe, Asia, Africa and US cities differently with a child than I would without, but often that is a good thing.
We went to Savannah and Charleston when my daughter was not yet two. She has no memory of it and some would say “what a waste.” But I remember it. My husband does too. We all had a really good time. Why not create those memories for ourselves and have those experiences? Adults shouldn’t bring kids on totally inappropriate trips because they want to do them, but why shouldn’t we take trips we want to take and figure out how to do them well with a child along? It seems like balanced parenting to me.
Eric Stoen, Founder, Travel Babbo
I took my eight-year-old daughter to Antarctica a couple of years ago. We went because she wanted to go. She wanted to see penguins. She wanted to see whales. She wanted to see what life was like on the bottom of the planet.
It was an incredibly kid-friendly trip, all about adventure and having fun, but it was educational too. We went belly-sliding, made snow angels, played with a beach ball on a frozen fjord and had snowball fights, and we hiked a lot, kayaked around glaciers and learned about Antarctic geography and wildlife, seeing thousands of penguins, whales, seals and birds in an environment barely touched by humans.
Most of the people on our ship were older. I can’t speak to how much they enjoyed the trip or their motivations for being there, other than overhearing the term “bucket list” frequently, but I’ll guarantee you that my daughter got as much out of the trip as anyone else on board. For her it wasn’t about checking something off a list – she doesn’t even have a list – nor was it a once-in-a-lifetime journey. To quote from the article, it “broadened her horizons,” literally and figuratively, and gave her a better knowledge of the world. Plus she had fun. How was that trip wasted on her?
Henry Kartagener, President, Kartagener Associates, Inc.
It appears the spoon Grant was given as a child at age 8 to stir that hot chocolate in San Francisco is lodged somewhere between his ears, which accounts for the lobotomy that was performed on him shortly after drinking that hot chocolate!
I began taking my children on long-haul trips to Africa when they reached age eight, as I traveled there often for work. I am happy to report the many trips all four of them experienced gave them a good foundation for understanding other people and cultures. Those experiences helped give them a better understanding of the world and their good fortune. To this day they often recall those early experiences favorably and look forward to sharing similar experiences with their children when they reach age eight!
I have copied my children as I suspect their outrage to this story may possibly exceed mine!
Grant’s next story is probably about the money wasted on senior citizens once they reach age 70! It is so difficult to soar with the eagles when surrounded by turkeys such as Grant!!
The following are the additional replies from Henry Kartagener’s adult children:
The first time I travelled to Africa, I was no older than nine years old. Since that first family vacation, I have been back several times, as I am a videographer and a lot of my early professional work was to create promotional videos for game lodges throughout southern Africa. I have had some amazing experiences, being sent to the middle of nowhere, capturing video of wild animals and documenting the beautiful atmosphere that I was so blessed to have the opportunity to continuously visit.
Of all my experiences in the bush, my strongest memories of Africa are from my childhood. Sharing a room with my brother, eating the worst cheeseburger I have ever had, numerous close encounters with elephants, learning about rugby and netball, running down huge sand dunes, the smell of a thousand sea lions. I’ll spare you by stopping there, but the point that I am trying to make is that when I think of myself in Africa, I am just a boy, there with my family.
I remember my earliest adventures (specifically to Africa) very fondly. The sights, sounds, but most especially the personal interactions hold a special place in my heart and I remember them vividly. The interactions that we had with local people and children are invaluable in the growth and development of a kid (especially an American child, since we are so “isolated” and often sheltered from the rest of the world). Whether it be playing with children from South Africa or learning about animal tracks, behavior, and dung from our guide, all of the interactions no matter how big or small were important and exciting.
Awwww, poor Grant had to endure a visit to the concrete jungle that is NY as an eight-year-old – what a shame….
As a person who was fortunate to have traveled internationally many times as a child, I would have to say that it is one of the best things that parents can give to their children. It opens children’s eyes to what exists beyond the little worlds in which they live – home, school, grandparents’ house, the store.
I have vivid memories of being in Portugal as quite a young child. We also went to Germany to visit family and had amazing family vacations there quite a few times. I didn’t speak German, but it was such an interesting experience as a kid to be immersed in a culture, playing among other children, most of whom didn’t speak a word of English. Yet we figured out how to play games outside together, all of us talking, no one understanding the words being spoken, yet somehow understanding how to play the game, get along, have fun, and include everyone.
Beyond that, we spent many family vacations on safari in Africa, which is one of the most bonding trips I think a family can take. You are in a vehicle, together, on game drives for much of the day, enjoying the outdoors, seeing animals in their natural habitats, and just having great conversation about random things, all day.
The bottom line is, as long as parents use their travel experiences to teach their kids something about the places they visit – the culture, the differences, the similarities – and give them perspective as to how fortunate they are compared to many others in the world, it is worth every penny of the travel dollars spent. If kids don’t learn at a young age how fortunate they are, they often grow up never learning that, and become very entitled teenagers and adults.
I’m definitely not saying that international travel is the only way to accomplish this, but it is surely a very good way to teach it if you have the means to do so. On the flip side, if parents take their kids on extravagant vacations, and let the kids sit in a five-star hotel playing video games and watching TV with a nanny, then yes, I would agree, that is a complete waste of money. Making an international trip a “worthwhile” experience for children is really up to the parents.
Florian Craanen, Communications and Sales Manager, Family Twist
Taking your kids on a holiday abroad is probably the best thing you can do to a child.
Other than a satisfied smile on a child’s face, the results might not be immediate, but in the long run, it’s highly beneficial. If intelligently planned (don’t pack five museums into one day!) and if the children can be involved in the planning of the trip, then a holiday abroad can become as entertaining as it is educational for every member of the family!
Traveling with your children is the best way to create unforgettable family bonds and memories that they, as well as the parents, will cherish forever. With a suitable choice of activities and pace, not only will the children learn about different cultures, food and experiences, but they will also develop an acute sense of open-mindedness, tolerance and self-confidence.
A child will always want to travel to satisfy a natural curiosity and a thirst for discovery. If the experience is bad, don’t blame it on the child… blame it on the wrong choices made by adults.
I guess Mr. Feller isn’t the traveling type, and he is making the same mistake he mentions in his article: “to treat their children like an extension of themselves.” But I guess it’s not his fault. After all, he probably never got to help plan the 1976 trip he made across the Atlantic.”
Tamara Gruber, Family Travel Writer, We3Travel
It may be true that prior to the age of five or so, many travel experiences may be more for the benefit and memory of the parents than the children. But what is wrong with that? Do children not benefit from quality family time together… laughing, learning, experimenting and relaxing in ways that may not be as easy at home where the daily chores and tasks lie in wait? I’m also a firm believer that travel makes us all more open to new experiences and more resilient. Aren’t these qualities that we want for our children? Don’t we want our children to learn to play with other kids that may not look or sound just like they do? Don’t we want our kids to learn to get back up when life knocks them down because they knew how to deal with setbacks before and they came out the other side?
Once kids reach school age and are able to understand and retain some of what they are seeing and learning, travel experiences only enhance what is learned in the classroom. I have seen firsthand my daughter’s face light up when she recognized a painting hanging in the Prado from her art book, and the pride she has taken in answering questions asked by the Colosseum tour guide because she read about a destination before we left, and the joy of being able to associate what she is learning in history books with what she has seen in real life. It is our job as parents to make sure that we prepare kids before we travel, involve them in the planning, and make these experiences valuable. Through travel, both near and far, children can gain an appreciation for our world and all the people in it. For those of us that live in your average American suburb, I’m sorry but it is a lot more fun to hike through a national park than walk around the block. I’d rather bike through Provence than on our neighborhood bike path. And I can assure you that getting kids to make pizza in Rome is a lot easier than getting them to help cook dinner in the kitchen! And the wild turkeys that wander through my neighborhood can’t compete with the grizzly we spotted in Yellowstone.
While I know that these experiences are not possible for every family, there are ways to look for opportunities to “travel” locally by visiting museums, eating in restaurants, and exploring local natural resources. Travel can be an indulgence, but every family makes choices based on their priorities. The choice of a family trip versus other luxuries in life that we work so hard to afford is a valid choice that should not be discounted.
Beth Gilchrist, Owner, Lost World Adventures and Traveling Mom
Kids, especially the very young, will probably not remember much about their journeys. This should not take away any of the pleasure or learning that takes place when exploring. Travel gives everyone perspective, and children all the more. They will have a sense that not everyone in the world, or even a “civilized” country like America, is as fortunate as they are, which is a blessing. Not to mention the joy that traveling with young ones brings to parents and other adults. Looking back on an adult-only experience rarely evokes the same sense of nostalgia. You will have memories in photos that you will no doubt reminisce over for a lifetime. Ours have brought us pleasure beyond words. Vacations bring families together by challenging boundaries and relationships, and growing bonds that can’t be broken.
Adventure freely and often! You won’t regret it.
Lissa Poirot, Editor-in-Chief, Family Vacation Critic
Travel is NOT wasted on young kids. Yes, a five-year-old may not appreciate a long day at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa in person, but by traveling at a young age, the child is learning different life lessons than other children who get stimulation via heavily scheduled play dates and sports schedules.
What do they learn by traveling? They learn how to be more patient when there are delays or they have to endure things that do not always excite them. They learn about different cultures and peoples. Visiting a new place, especially a different environment or country, is a chance for them to learn about new things. And for parents to teach their kids. They become more independent and empathic, and they can discover new things in a way that makes them more passionate to learn more, and even apply what they learn to lessons in school. The world becomes a smaller, less scary place when they travel, and my kids have pen pals in other countries whom they have met on trips.
Not only does travel stay with you, travel has been proven beneficial in strengthening family bonds. Families that travel together have shared experiences that bond them and will be discussed long into adulthood. I’m sorry the writer felt New York City was a bunch of concrete. My children, at ages 5 and 6, remember well the bright lights of Times Square making night look like day, hailing taxis (my daughter was a pro), climbing the rocks in Central Park, and the joy of discovering Dylan’s Candy Shop. They remember the trip, and loved the trip. My kids are now 11 and 12 and eagerly ask when and where is our next adventure. Travel with your kids before they are teens!”
Susanne Walsh, White Stallion Ranch
Travel for children fuels curiosity, respect for diversity, patience and tolerance. Kids quickly learn that the world runs on its own schedule, not theirs – so they develop flexibility and a sense of their place in the world, as well as an appreciation for challenges and change.
Carrie Anne Badov, Partner and Editor-in-Chief, EverythingMom Media Inc.
My husband and I did a road trip from Toronto (Canada) to Las Vegas (Nevada) with our three kids, then 4, 2 and 6 months old. Sure, my youngest doesn’t remember the trip, but my now 14- and 12-year-old still recount the open air escalators crossing the main strip and meeting “Elvis”. During our fist trip to Hawaii, a destination many say is too expensive for kids, and best for honeymoons and older families, my son (9) learned a Fijian warrior game at the Polynesian Cultural Centre which he brought back to teach his classmates in a school presentation. My kids still play the game with random sticks they find.
The impact of these types of trips may not be measured in the stories my kids share, but I see the benefits every day. My kids are more open to cultural differences, open to making friends with those who seem to sit on the outside of social groups and have a broader interest in food beyond the children’s menu (a sad excuse for not allowing adventurous food experiences with kids). My only wish, as one of two parents who work full-time, is that we had more time to travel.
Christine Prince, Owner, Cherokee Park Ranch
The statement published by The Telegraph could not be further from the truth. In this day and time when both parents work full time, there is nothing more valuable than time spent with their children on vacation. Personally, our own children recall vacations with fond memories that they had experienced as early as age three.
My best defense of this opinion is based on this story.
A family from Texas vacationed with us with their two young children (4 and 6). At the end of the vacation, the husband told me that THIS vacation had changed his life. While I was flattered that he had enjoyed his time experiencing a truly Western adventure, I was doubtful that it ACTUALLY changed his life. He continued by telling me that he and his wife had decided before coming to our ranch that upon returning back home they would begin the process of divorcing. But after watching and engaging with his wife and two young children for seven days with no television, telephones, work etc., he realized that he simply could NOT throw in the towel.
What does taking your children on vacation matter? In this story, a happy ending!
Those who say traveling with kids is a waste of money just don’t get what it is really all about. Oh, did you mean the beach at the Four Seasons in Nevis? Well, yeah that was a waste.
What is family travel? It’s not really about just going on vacation. It can be a whole world of education and meaningful experiences, while you’re having fun, if you plan it that way. Like TFA does.
Traveling with young children does not need to be lavish or outside of anyone’s budget. But taking them to a new city or town, or to a different country, in a thoughtful way opens their eyes to all kinds of things.
‘Thoughtful Way’ means:
1) Not hiding out at a beach resort or on the cruise ship.
2) Yes, getting into the middle of local culture and activities.
3) Making use of local guides – and asking them questions about their own families.
‘All Kinds of Things’ means:
1) Many people live differently from the way my family lives.
2) Many people speak a different language – but aren’t so different from me!
3) Many people have different skin colors – but aren’t so different from me!
4) Many people eat different foods… do different jobs… live in different houses…. You get the picture.
It’s not expensive to set up ‘home’ for a week within someone else’s culture. It’s not hard to carry water and snacks with you. Or if you prefer – travel via an organization that provides a guide who handles all the pesky logistics, leaving more time for the fun. Like TFA provides.
Would you say ‘Why bother teaching young kids to read when they can’t understand the classics?’ Or ‘Why teach them how to talk since they can’t discuss complex ideas?’
Do your kids remember when they learned to talk or read? Of course not! But that learning became a part of them. And learning new things, even at a young age, becomes a part of who you are as you get older. Young kids often exposed to different cultures will be more accepting and comfortable with differences as they get to be teens and adults.
Of course some destinations are better for teenagers and young adults. As parents you want to have the deeper conversations with them when you travel, when they are ready for it. But there are all kinds of six- or 10-year-old things to talk about in many, many places in the world!
And how I love the wide-eyed eight- or 10-year-old children who never hesitate to ask questions or want to understand what is in front of them. Very different from the sulky teen who hides embarrassment and turns away, unwilling to take the risk of being vulnerable.
Claudia M. Laroye, Founding Editor, The Travelling Mom
The author trains his sights on one aspect of travel – the higher-end, luxury side of life – and finds it wanting. Yet there is so much more to family travel than that narrow, exclusivist view, as posh as it might be, and as evidently offensive to the writer. Let’s assume that not all families have caviar dreams with budgets to match!
Family travel is about building memories and strengthening bonds between family members, extended relatives and friends. Whether it’s camping a few hours from home, taking a ski trips with family friends, or embarking on that first trip across the sea to visit ancestral homes on a multigenerational trip, travelling with kids is neither a waste of time nor money. Such opportunities can create curious, worldly young people who gain an appreciation for what they have, their own history and sense of place, and the world around them.
Proof: When our 18-year-old, soon-to-be-college kid posts a family selfie to his friends exclaiming that ‘Family trips are the best!’ I know that we’ve done it right.
Lindsay Nash, Marketing Coordinator, BikeTours.com
We strongly believe that active travel experiences can help shape and define a child’s view of the world. The bike tours we offer allow children to be active, explore the world in a way that is engaging and age appropriate, and see new destinations in a unique way. And having children along helps adults slow down, stop a lot, and see the destination in a way they never would have before. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Beth Markley, Manic Mumbling
Your child won’t remember everything about his travels, and that’s okay. We made it a practice to read to our kids every night before bed, pretty much from birth until they told us they wanted to read for themselves. Do they remember every moment of Dr. Seuss or the Berenstain Bears? No. Was there still value in our doing so? Of course.
Teenagers who travel well don’t necessarily spring, fully formed, from kids who’ve been kept at home their whole lives. Today, the kid we schlepped to Ireland when he was a baby, and then continued to take with us on our travels, is a teenage exchange student in Denmark, an experience he pursued because of an ethic of travel and a desire for new experiences, brought about in part by his traveling as a younger child.
Ashish Sanghrajka, Founder, Big Five Tours & Expeditions
Most psychologists will tell you that children between the ages of five and 15 are the most impressionable in their life at that stage. This also applies to how they travel: Are they along for the ride as this writer clearly was, or are they leading the trip. Being the focus of the trip doesn’t mean watering it down, it means challenging a young mind.
I STRONLY disagree with this writer. I have a nine-year-old and a four-year-old. I just took them in July to see what inner-city poverty looks like in Granada and what the purest coastline in the south looks like staying at an ecolodge in the jungle outside Costa Esmeralda. I could have taken my children to Disneyworld, but on Labor Day I took them to Washington DC instead to show them what is right and wrong with our country in the current election cycle SO THEY COULD MAKE UP THEIR OWN MINDS ABOUT THE CANDIDATES.
Kids see everything, they hear everything, and clearly this writer has proven my point that they remember everything, especially from the impressionable years. If you wait until they are teenagers, it’s too late. In those impressionable years, nobody tried to show this writer as a child what kind of impression a family-focused adventure could have. Look, I grew up in New York from the age of seven to 15. It was a different city. Back then I wouldn’t have brought someone my age to New York; today it’s a different story. That is the whole point: family travel is not just about traveling together. It is about the dynamics and the experiences that are focused on you, not tolerant of you.
Jean Fawcett, Media Relations Manager, Abercrombie & Kent
What’s indulgent about building memories together that will last forever?
Families are also much more spread out than they used to be, living in different cities, with fewer opportunities to spend quality time together. Oftentimes, family travel, especially multigenerational travel, is the only time they can get together as a whole family. The memories that come from this – for all family members: grandparents, parents and children – are priceless and definitely not indulgent.
Also, family travel is not just for kids. Parents and grandparents should be able to enjoy the experience, and if that involves the comfort of a luxury hotel and indulging in over-the-top experiences, then go for it.
With all that, I would still say that there are some grey areas, things that must be considered, such as the age of the grandparents. Yes, it’s easy to say “Let’s wait until the kids are old enough to appreciate it,” but if the age and health of the grandparents or great-grandparents is an issue, then it might be worth going now.”
Kathie Yost, Latigo Ranch
I have seen more tears from children than adults (and I do see it from adults as well) on Friday night and Saturday when families get ready to leave. One little girl stood in the office begging her dad to buy her horse, another in tears made her folks promise they’d come back. I see that on a regular basis all summer long. Tears speak loudly!!
Caroline Shin, CEO, Vacatia
Our experience serving thousands of guests this year strongly suggests family travel is life-enhancing for children of all ages.
The comments we receive fall into a few categories:
Family vacations are “quality time.” They provide parents and children the perfect opportunity to spend time together, a welcome break from the demands of kids’ school and increasingly structured activities, and the time obligations of one or both parents working. The added treat of a multigenerational or extended family vacation makes the departure from routine all the more memorable and beneficial.
Family travel broadens young people’s perspectives beyond the local or familiar, helping them understand how people are basically the same everywhere, while also helping them learn about and appreciate differences in communication, culture, society, or even food. This perspective will help them be successful in an increasingly diverse and shrinking world.
Helping a child experience new places, try new things, and even assist in planning the itinerary for family travel – all can help increase their confidence as they depart from the familiar. Self-confidence is one of the the most important gifts a parent can give a child.
One size does not fit all
How family vacations are planned and experienced can make a big difference in the success of the vacation and the benefit to the kids. Needless to say, there is no one answer as all families’ needs are not the same. Fortunately, family travel is one of the most actively blogged topics on the internet so with a little advance study, one can easily learn from others. As an example, Vacatia reached out to family travel bloggers earlier this year for suggestions and more than 50 responded with tips literally within hours.
Laurie K. Bohn, Director, Trade Sales & National Training, Royal Caribbean International
I am a strong believer that travel with family at any age is super important.
Having grown up in a family that traveled together frequently, I recall my mother and father sharing that travel is what helps you learn about life, people and other cultures. The experiences you encounter will be ones that no one can ever take away from you. They will help you shape your thoughts, ideas and perspectives on the world.
It’s been the greatest gift ever and was the foundation for my passion for travel that I have carried with me my whole life.
Taqi Moledina, Group CEO, ARP Travel Group
Over the month of August I took my children to South Africa and Zimbabwe on a unique lifetime experience. Not only did we see wildlife, but also visited a local school and village. We travelled to some historic sights and educational centres, too.
I believe taking children from a young age on a holiday is educational and enlightens them about the world beyond their own borders. Otherwise I believe these days children lead sheltered lives with the internet, tablets and pressures of performing well in school.
Not only does it give children the opportunity to be children, but it educates them on what others have and don’t have. I believe children travelling opens their eyes and minds to the greater world; it gives them a new perspective on what is outside of their own worlds. My children are four and seven years old and we have always tried to ensure they have a good balance of time to enjoy the holiday, while ensuring that there is always a learning element.
On our recent trip they spent time playing with young children in South Africa and when they came back it opened their eyes to appreciate what they have not only at home, but the facilities they enjoy at school. I believe these types of experiences mature children to appreciate what they have around them.
We visited the Apartheid Museum as well so they could appreciate the struggles and losses people have had and how they may complain, but in reality they have very comfortable lives.
My son started travelling with us from when he was six months old and has really got the travelling bug. He is a mature traveler and also appreciates how to sit and occupy himself on the plane. For my daughter, who is younger and more innocent, she has learnt patience, appreciation and understanding. Even on a beach holiday there are always things for children to learn and experience such as marine life or birdlife.
I believe travel broadens their horizons, gets them to look up and out, and in addition teaches them things that they would never learn at school.
I am very much for children to travel and experience the great big world out there. I will always continue to travel with my children from this young age and in to their older years. I believe it even changes the dynamic of the relationship between a parent and a child. This is also important as children get older and become more independent. Family travel and experiences should be an important part of everyone’s lives.
Heather Greenwood Davis, Travel writer
A waste of money? It will be if you go in with that attitude. If the trip is only for the kids and they’re too young to remember it, you might feel it isn’t worthwhile. But I’d disagree. One of the best trips I took with my kids is one neither of them will remember outside of the millions of photos in albums that we look at together. They were 11 months and almost three years old at the time. My husband and I were new parents, trying to find our legs and the balance between a life lived for them and one lived with them. We faced all kinds of hurdles on that trip through Italy and France, and the kids enjoyed the places in the moment, even though the memories didn’t last for them. But what I think they got most out of those early travels were calmer parents. Parents who grew more confident in their abilities to parent, who realized that they could still see the world with kids in tow and who resolved to take the lessons of this first trip and turn it into another, and another. I have no doubt that our longest trip (a yearlong adventure around the world in 2011) was made possible because of that first trip with the kids. They’ll remember 2011 more than they will 2006 but it was no less valuable to our family.
Kit Bernardi, Travel Journalist & Photographer
Traveling with children at any age and on any budget families can afford is hardly a waste of money. Whether touring a local museum, visiting a state park or flying across the globe to explore a city, all are family travel experiences worth investment of time and treasure.
Dr. Jessie Voigts, Wandering Educators
I disagree with Mr. Feller completely. Travel is best introduced when very young, when the journey can become normal. Traveling with young kids, whether it is their first or 10th journey, shows them that travel is part of everyday life, that eating foods from around the world is normal, and that learning about other cultures and showing curiosity about other paths of life is something your family values.
With these daily experiences, teaching global citizenship starts early. Maybe your two-year-old loves a certain food from a different place. Maybe your seven-year-old makes a new friend on a playground halfway around the world, and now they are not only Skype pals, but you journey back to visit as often as you can. Ethnocentrism has no part in this – you’re directly experiencing (and enjoying) difference.
By teaching kids that it is important to visit, learn about, and experience other cultures and places, you make the world a smaller, friendlier, kinder place. Your kids will grow up wanting to keep exploring, wanting to learn about and from far-flung places, and the world is their playground. Soon your college student will major in something global, and work (as most of us do, now) with colleagues from around the world. By preparing them for a global life and global economy, you’re truly raising knowledgeable, experienced world citizens.
Jennifer Spatz, CEO & Founder, Global Family Travels
My most powerful memories are from having lived overseas and the vacations we took as a family. Together, we experienced many diverse cultures and made new friends, opening our hearts and minds to each other and to those we met. These travel experiences forged a deep bond among my family members and instilled values that might have been hard to learn otherwise.
Below are some additional reasons why we should travel with children beginning at a young age:
1. Traveling when children are young fosters their curiosity about the world, and instills a lifelong sense of discovery in them.
2. Traveling strengthens family bonds through the fun times and shared experiences of newly explored places.
3. Traveling fosters cross-cultural understanding, even at a young age. You don’t necessarily need to fly halfway around the planet to discover new cultures. Our own country’s diversity can be discovered by visiting ethnic restaurants or local festivals celebrating different traditions.
4. Having children help navigate a new environment and meet new people while traveling increases their self-confidence and self-esteem.
5. Fun family travel experiences create precious family memories of a meaningful time together.
Amber Mamian, Travel Writer, Global Munchkins
Every dime we have spent on travel has multiplied on numerous accounts when I look at the people my children are becoming: kind, compassionate, flexible, well educated, independent and creative. The notion that kids are not interested in culture is absurd. My kids have started businesses just to be able to donate to charities and have volunteered countless hours for causes both near and far. The driving force is the deep connection they have with cultures thousands of miles from home. It’s a connection they have as a result of being well traveled. Same with the idea that kids only want to eat junk food. Our dietary desires are formed out of habit. My five kids would choose a plate of injera or curry over a burger any day. I think what the writer needs are some pointers on how to raise happy, healthy, global-minded kids.
LiLing Pang, CEO/Editor, Trekaroo
There are a myriad of reasons to travel overseas with kids, but the writer seems to only consider one – cultural appreciation. He says, “Children are always inconveniently tired, have very little interest in culture, can’t walk longer than 45 minutes without needing sustenance and moan if burgers aren’t on the menu.” This is far too narrow a view of the value of travel. Of course traveling with young children has its challenges, and they sure derive different meaning from their travel experiences, but we shouldn’t discount these as less valuable. Kids are never too young to start seeing and learning that people around the world live very different lives but share a common humanity. In fact, Children are often better than adults at reaching beyond language and cultural barriers to find common ground with other children. It’s a skill that can take a life time to develop, so why not start young?
When we took our kids to Cambodia, they were just eight and five years old, and two months old. It was a slog at times, but our two oldest still draws from that experience when we talk about important world issues we hear about on the news. Issues like poverty, war, and modern-day slavery touch them in a deeper way in great part because our kids have pounded rice in a rural village, given a pencil to a child on the streets of Siem Reap, watched a group of blind men, ravaged by war, play beautiful music outside a temple. Although, at the time, their responses were age appropriate, they continue to draw from our travel experiences year after year as they mature.
I do agree that for some, travel has become the “most ostentatious form of competitive parenting,” as Mr Feller observes. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because parents are competitive about which college their children go to, it doesn’t mean there is no value in sending a child to an Ivy League school. There are so many styles of travel and so many reasons families travel. Sometimes it’s about disconnecting so you can connect as a family. Sometimes it’s about relaxing as parents so you can be present with your children. Sometimes it’s about immersive experiences.
Regardless of your motivation, one thing is for sure: If you allow yourself to embrace it, traveling with kids is a wonderfully rich experience. Yes, even if your child spends the whole time counting bubble gum on the streets of New York (this actually happened with our four-year-old), what’s important is that they are adding a new dimension to how they understand this amazing world. As parents we have the privilege of experiencing a destination from a completely different vantage point. And let me tell you, it’s quite mind-blowing how much gum has been chewed on the streets of New York.
Jorge Pérez, Tierra del Volcan
Traveling with children has to be like going to the movies with children. You have to chose the right trip relative to their ages! If the journey you choose is not suitable for your children’s ages, it could be a waste of money or a bad experience for the whole family; but if you choose the right one, it could be something that will impact your children in a positive way forever.
So my recommendation is if you have a toddler, travel closer to home to places that awaken his senses. Older than a toddler but younger than a teenager, nature encounters will create great memories and your children will have great future connections to and love of nature. With teenagers, you could add the cultural component to the other two. Of course, these age ranges are not black and white.
The second observation is: one of the main reasons to travel is to create family bonding and good memories. So even if your child does not remember the trip, you do. You as a parent do remember. Your trip will be a moment that will remain in your mind forever. So it still is money well spent.
Marcel Perkins, Managing Director, Latin Trails
It is important to distinguish between the different kinds of holidays – long haul or short – you are planning to take your kids on. I personally would not take kids on a five-day Opera tour unless they were amongst the talented few children who are virtuoso musicians. I feel the same about an adventure holiday, unless a child is not sporty and does not enjoy the outdoors. In the end, it comes down to planning a holiday properly. If it is a family holiday, you have to consider each traveler as a person with his or her own genuine interests, and these should be included in the travel plans, just the same as if you were traveling with a group of adults. Try and take your 350-pound buddy on a zipline tour (with a 300-pound weight limit) and see how much he enjoys it! Or imagine a five-day museum tour with your college nephew on spring breaking. I disagree completely with the article because it does not take into consideration the value of a travel agent who can help a family put together an amazing trip that takes into account interests for all ages.
As an example, my kids have been taking part in adventure travel since before they could walk. We took a Galapagos cruise when my son was 2 1/2 years old. I admit I did have to carry him on my shoulders a few times, but it was my choice. As a result, he is an amazing snorkeler (future diver) and loves animals. My daughter visited a lodge in the Choco rainforest in Ecuador when she was seven. We witnessed the dreadful cutting of trees. Nowadays she is 18 and in Germany applying to study biology and conservation. I still remember a road trip cross America with my parents when we drove from New Jersey to Texas. It created family bonds that go beyond anything. We visited Machu Picchu and my youngest daughter, six at the time, was the first to reach the Sun Gate at the end of the Inca Trail, which is much more than a walk of one mile or 45 minutes. My kids are foodies and can enjoy a hamburger as much as quinoa soup or fettuccini with truffles. We are not rich either. It’s just a matter of lifestyle.
These of course are personal examples and definitely not enough to build a magazine article around. But the example of a writer’s boring trip with his mother is not enough to build an article around either. It was naive of the editor to put it in a newspaper. The topic needs research, statistics and not just a big polemic topic to drive in cheap SEO.
I think the best education you can give a child is showing him the world. Perhaps a luxury king-size bed is not the most appropriate for a six-year-old at the Jumerai, but perhaps a family room at Plaza Grande hotel in Quito overlooking the main plaza during the holy week parade is not so bad. It all has to do with the lifestyle of the family and the preferences of each person being taken into account. It is about including a learning experience, a leisure experience, some adrenaline, and even some nightlife for parents… It is about planning the right trip for each family. And if you are a millionaire and can afford to take kids around the world… who am I to judge you? In the end it is about spending a month doing research to plan your own trip; or hiring a family travel planner that has the experience to create something memorable for everyone.
Lauren Goldenberg, The Family Traveler
Everyone has an opinion about traveling with children in tow… many related to their own personal experiences (we find the same for airlines, hotel chains etc.) and cultural background. The Europeans “see” children and childhood very differently than Americans do. I don’t think we can completely compare the British mentality to ours.
Using a knowledgeable family travel specialist instead of trying to book a trip on your own will make all the difference in your family vacation. We plan custom trips for our families all over the world. We work with each family to determine a unique set of needs in regards to budget, bedding, amount of tours versus exploring on their own, amount of free time, recreation etc. to find a formula that creates a trip that makes everyone in the family happy. We also help families understand what issues they might experience along the way from our own experiences as well as those we gather from our clients. Each family can determine how many such trips they will make with their school-age children. It’s not a competition.
Although Mr. Feller definitely makes some valid points, he really misses the point. Family travel is beneficial on so many different levels. It brings families and multi-generations together who at home live such busy lives and have less time to connect. It exposes children to the challenges of travel in general as they see their not-so-perfect parents have to adjust as needed. It allows families to learn about the world and world culture together in shared experiences. It brings history, culture, architecture, archeology, cuisine, the arts and more to life for children. Much better than learning from a book, movie or game. Parents need to make sure that each experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. Mr. Feller’s use of an around-the-world luxury trip as a representation of what parents are planning with their children is just not an accurate representation.
I do agree with his last statement, though, about finding experiences closer to home that can broaden a child’s knowledge, experience and horizon. Many families forget how easy that can be. BUT these also lead to a better experience when you do take that trip abroad with your school-aged children!
Steve Born, Vice President of Marketing, Globus family of brands
Parents traveling with their kids can be among the most rewarding and memorable times they spend together. What Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without families recalling the fun and foibles of a trip together? The time spent traveling with kids can be a break from the schedules, stress and ‘parent things’ that could keep us distant when we’re at home. And let’s face it, they will make the trip more fun.
But you do have to be practical, and it does take a different plan than if parents are heading off on their own. Like most things in life, though, the right plan can result in big rewards.
· Being together: There is absolutely no down side to parents spending time with their kids – of any age. Kids will sense “vacation parents” are different than “home parents,” and that in and of itself makes the time more relaxing and more fun for everyone.
· Fun factor: Kids make us all feel younger. They can turn what would have been an hour of checking your email into a shared memory enjoying the world’s best ice cream at the pool café. Build in attractions and activities that are designed for them, and you’ll find yourself having more fun, too.
· Be real – food is a big deal. Give in on this one and you’ll find the kids are more energized versus exhausted. Let their palates take the lead, and I bet you’ll find something on the menu for yourself, too. After all, who doesn’t like pizza in Italy?!
· Be practical. Like you would hosting anyone, take into account their needs and what’s going to make them comfortable (or at least not exhausted).
o Things like giving them space, and space for down time. It’s OK if you let them have a night of room service instead of French cuisine. Alternate the museum with the hotel pool. Be reasonable with the pace and number of activities per day. After all, it’s their vacation, too.
o Give them a starring role. Letting them help make restaurant choices and activities, ideally pre-trip, will charge them up and give them specific things to look forward to. Have them engage in (fun) research of the destination and sights before you leave so that they feel a connection. And mix in pop culture elements that are interesting to them. After all, they may not be interested in the Crown Jewels, but balancing that with a Jack the Ripper tour is pretty cool.
o There’s an age break (we think it starts around 8) where the shared experiences of traveling internationally with kids rises above snapshot memories to become experiences, particularly if you let the kids take an active role in the trip. Consider different types of trips for under 8, 8-12 and 13-18. For under 8s, the schedule comes first; 8 and over, now you can create an international vacation that works for everyone.
Rob Rankin, Managing Director, Vagabond and Driftwood
I agree on the luxurious experiences – a waste of money and an unhealthy way to bring the kids up. It spoils them. We took our family on an expensive five-star holiday in March in the Canary Islands, and it was a total waste of time and money. Nice hotel, but not an experiential destination.
Then this summer we went to Barcelona and stayed with a local family and spent a week in an Airbnb apartment on the Costa Brava (north of Barcelona), which was a very local experience (and much cheaper). The kids loved it! And my best trip with the kids this year was camping!
Dan Wulfman, President, Tracks & Trails
Honestly, I would agree that luxury travel experiences ARE wasted on kids. Hell, I think luxury travel is wasted on adults. For me and many others, being coddled and pampered isn’t why we travel.
I believe, as do many experts, that experiences in the natural world are enormously valuable to children, at ANY age. Witness Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, and all the research supporting his assertions. And I know from my own experience raising two boys, who are now in their teens, that they possess a resiliency and self-confidence that I see in few of their peers. I attribute that, more than anything else, to their having spent many months of their youths hiking, paddling, exploring, meeting children and adults from all walks of life, and helping solve problems, large and small, as we explored our continent and several others.