I recently had a conversation with a few well-traveled people about the idea of travel to Europe with children. The consensus was that they wouldn’t dream of doing it, certainly not before the child turned 10. I politely disagreed, pointing out that we traveled to Europe with our son when he was 5. I was told we have a unique child, basically that we’re lucky.
Yes, I guess we do have a unique child who was able to travel to Paris and visit several museums, churches and historic attractions with minimal complaining. The real point of the discussion, though, was based on food. And I guess we did struggle a bit with food. We thought our son would do OK with cheese in Paris and meat in England and Scotland.
In fact, cheese plates in French restaurants were wonderful. And what turned out to be our best meal of the trip in a café in Paris included salmon. It was my salmon, but it turned out to be Colby’s. I was stuck with the cheese plate.
Sausages in England and Scotland, shockingly, didn’t go over quite so well. Neither did fish and chips. But you know what? We dealt with it. Yes, we brought a jar of peanut butter from home that really helped the cause.
But being afraid of what the kids will or will not eat is no reason to not travel to Europe with children.
Another point that was mentioned in passing with this group of travelers was that younger children wouldn’t remember the trip. I will say that less than three years since he spent three weeks in Europe, Colby doesn’t recall as many details of the trip as he once did.
But travel with children isn’t all about the memories they will have down the road. It’s about that moment.
Watching Colby dance on the Eiffel Tower, attend a Premier League game in London, play in the surf of the North Sea, collect seashells on the beaches of Normandy, and dance on the steps of London’s National Gallery are memories I will always have.
I do hold out hope that Colby will remember some of these moments as he gets older; the videos and photos we have will surely help in that cause.
But more than creating memories for him, travel with young children helps create a traveler’s mindset as he gets older. It opens his eyes and mind to the world, learning that there are other people out there.
There are many important roles I have as a parent. But one of them is showing my son this big awesome world, and helping teach him the importance of understanding other people and places.
Another important reason to travel to Europe with children – or just a couple hours down the road – is it gets parents out and about. So many people shut down once they become parents, never going out, letting long-lasting friendships disappear and most definitely never traveling.
Many people say they’ll travel when the kids are out of the house or even later when they retire. I caution against waiting for retirement to travel. You can’t predict your health or financial standing.
Travel now, travel often and most definitely travel with children. Don’t let being a parent keep you from traveling somewhere wonderful, whether it’s Europe, Africa, Asia or Indiana.