Two AFAR editors, both parents and lifelong travelers, came down on opposite sides of a classic dilemma.

GO NOW

Sure, you miss out on some grownup stuff, like fancy dinners out and extended shopping sprees, but traveling with a kid reveals another side of the destination—even if the kid is too young to remember it. When we went to Paris with our son, we got to see a kid’s perspective on the city. We played with boats in the pool in the Jardin du Luxembourg, we went to the puppet show. My wife and I had been to Paris before, but we never would have done these things. You definitely have to alter your expectations. We always chose destinations where we knew there weren’t going to be bathroom issues, where we could get food easily—places where the basics of life were not going to be super challenging. We’ve been to France, the Netherlands, and Japan, but didn’t opt for the Bolivian salt flats or rural China. And honestly, people are just nicer to you when you have a kid. When we went to Japan, one concierge made an origami frog and handed it to our three-year old son. My underlying theory is that it’s shaping his identity, whether he knows it or not. Even if he doesn’t remember riding the bullet train, he knows that he’s a kid who has ridden a bullet train. He can look at pictures, and be like ‘Oh, that was me.’

—Jeremy Saum, executive editor, dad of Luke, age 7

SAVE IT FOR LATER

Doing a big trip abroad is fighting against the nature of your kids. It’s a two-fer problem. One, most of the trip is going to be lost on your kid. They may see pretty things, but they don’t care if that pretty lake is Lake Tahoe or Lake Lucerne—it’s just water they can throw a rock into. So it can be a waste of time and energy and money. And second, for me, all the things that I love to do are nearly impossible with a kid under five. Unfamiliar foods? The worst thing ever. Long walks through the city with lots of traffic and crowds? Forget about it. And where can a stroller actually go in that charming cobblestone-paved city anyway? If you can find a place within two hours of your house where your kid can sit in the dirt and throw rocks, it’s a win. They’re happy, and if they’re happy, then you’re happy—and that’s when you actually get to enjoy your vacation. So stick a pin in all the places you want to visit, then circle back at six, seven, eight, after they’ve read the Magic Treehouse books, they have some sense of Greek mythology and the world, and they can see these amazing places and say, ‘Wow, I learned about this!’

— Lisa Trottier, contributing editor, mom of Theo, age 8, and Stella, age 10

Photo by Yoshikazu TAKADA.
This appeared in the August/September 2015 issue.