We spent thousands of dollars, slogged gear and bags through 100-degree heat, stood in the lines, and ate all the food. All three of my children giggled, shrieked with joy, and shrunk back scared of characters they had never seen.
Our smallest—only nine months old at the time—loved every moment of it that he wasn’t sleeping in the stroller. He smiled, he giggled, and he tried new foods. After spending an hour standing on the hot cement in a crowd of thousands, the fireworks started. His eyes lit up. His little arms wagged with glee.
He snuggled in close as the booms simultaneously mesmerized and terrified him.
He doesn’t remember one bit of that trip . . . but I do.
We walked for hours—up and down narrow European streets. We navigated a language barrier, tried new pastries, and even visited an ancient castle.
Our littlest—only three years old—ran up and down the hill, marveled at the sounds of bells ringing, and giggled as he slurped chocolate with churros.
Later that night, after all the excitement and adventure and physical exhaustion, we sat down to dinner where he capped the meal off by vomiting all over the table.
Too tired, crying, and now sick, he slumped into the stroller as we made our way back to our apartment. Even that sad and disgusting moment couldn’t overshadow the fun and adventure of the day.
Even though he won’t remember most of that day or even the scene he made, I will.
My children might not remember, but I will.
Traveling with kids certainly isn’t easier and it certainly isn’t more convenient, but the memories I have with my children are far more valuable than my sleep or my comfort.
I will forever treasure the drooly grin on my son’s face as we looked up to the fireworks. The giggles that flew freely from his mouth when he saw his favorite Cars character and the wide-eyed look he gave me when I handed him his very own cup of thick hot chocolate will be seared in my memories for a long time.
Traveling with kids isn’t always about what the kids will learn but sometimes about what I learn.
My memories. My adventures. The way I enjoy watching them experience new and different things.
When I told friends and family that we were traveling regularly with three small children, many of them told me I was crazy. For many, it might not be worth the hassle or the stress or the loss of sleep.
To be honest, traveling with my small children has probably added gray hairs to my head and wrinkles on my forehead.
But it has also added laugh lines and happy memories and treasured family time. Traveling with my kids has only made my life more full and more fun.
Plus, traveling with my children has shaped their young minds, bodies, and beliefs.
Spending extensive amounts of time traveling with my small children, sitting in airports, and riding for hours in the car has shaped them.
My children recently learned to say please and thank you in three languages in one week—an impressive skill for a 5-year-old.
Travel has given them a different perspective on geography and culture. They have begun to understand that not only is our small hometown an almost unrecognizable speck on the globe but also characteristic of small towns around the world.
We flew into Paris, and the first sites they noticed were enormous swaths of farmland not unlike those we view from our very own living room window.
We drove through the mountains of the central United States, and they noticed how the animals were different, how the temperature changed, and how the vocabulary changed only hours from our driveway.
Even if they don’t remember, traveling with kids is still worth it.
My son vomited into my hands. My daughter collapsed in exhaustion demanding to be carried on an already blistering day. All three of them ran just a little too close to the waves, filling their shoes with water.
Traveling with kids might be more difficult than solo travel, but it’s worth it.
Traveling with kids might be more expensive and exhausting than a romantic getaway, but it will shape them.
While they might not remember every globally recognizable monument we visit or value the thousands of dollars we spent to see their favorite characters, we would do it again.
We would do it for the fun, for the adventure, for the things they learn, and also for our own memories.
Already, my small children know how to carry their own luggage, how to walk through airport security, and how to entertain themselves on long road trips.
Travel is an invaluable education and investment for our family.
It isn’t always about the sites or the incredible experiences. Sometimes, it’s just about learning how to come closer as a family or to stretch our comfort zones.
For our family, the memories don’t all belong to the kids.
In fact, I am certain they will forget many of our family adventures. However, the fact they will likely forget them does not keep us from taking them.
They might not remember all of our adventures, but I will—and I will travel with kids anyway.