My most recent vacation was about a month ago in Cabo, but before that, it had been about 11 years since I had last traveled. Some of my fondest memories with my family are from when I was in middle school, when the three of us enjoyed cruises and trips that I remember vividly to this day. But during my younger days, like 4 or 5 years old, we vacationed in places like Cancun, Jamaica, and Hawaii, and I can’t tell if I actually recall those memories or if I’m filling in the gaps through photo albums. A frequent discussion I have with my coworkers and friends, who are also in their 20s, is how we wish our parents had taken us on more vacations when we were much older.
Maybe it’s because I’m not yet a parent, but when I see families at the airport with their toddlers, I can’t help but think, “What a waste.” As I was recently waiting to board my flight back to San Francisco, a pair of parents with a 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son were almost bragging to the couple ahead of us about how many times they’d taken their kids to Disney World and on vacations abroad. It’s amazing that they’re fortunate enough to provide incredible experiences at such a young age, but will their children remember all the travel when they’re older? Because I know I don’t, and I definitely wasn’t able to appreciate any of it.
What I suggest is to hold off on those grand vacations until your kid is about 12, when they can begin to understand what a privilege it is, and maybe save the international travel until they’re in high school. Of course, I do understand that sometimes, it’s not about the kids, and that the parents just want to enjoy a vacation. But in other cases, when the main goal is to create family memories, you can still accomplish that in other ways. With year-round extracurriculars during my teen years, I was unable to take any time off, and working during college didn’t allow me to study abroad. It wasn’t until college that I realized how important travel is, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about wanting to redo those family trips now. Especially during a time in my life when an international trip is outside of my budget, I think about how much money my parents spent on our vacations that ended up being a complete blur.
I’m not telling you to deprive your children of fun family memories, either. I’m simply arguing that you should travel locally or within your state, because although your little ones might not care about the destination, they will remember that you were all together and having a great time. That’s the most important thing, anyway.