We were lost in rural Italy when it happened. A planned car trip that should have taken an hour or so was suddenly much longer. My husband, our two sons under the age of three and I were all on edge. Adding to the stress: I spilled our only bottle of baby milk and our youngest was screaming. We began to panic.
Desperate, we stopped at a farm to beg for help. Instead of strangers, we found compassion. Farmers pinched cheeks and bounced babies. They refilled our milk and refused payment. What we thought was an ordeal turned into one of our most memorable moments.
Travel with young kids is rarely easy, but I’ve never come home thinking that it wasn’t worth it. The benefits for kids range from the obvious—new languages, new people, new experiences—to the things no one could have predicted. In our case, the shy kid turned into an extrovert thanks to worldly playgrounds, and the picky eater became a foodie because he was exposed to new things.
The easiest thing to do is stay put. Instead, consider these arguments against the path of least resistance.
• “It’s too expensive.” Choose options that allow you to set the budget. All-inclusive resorts and package deals that include flights and hotels will help.
• “It’s too hard to manage the kids without our stuff from home.” Resorts with kids’ programs mean you don’t have to bring toys, and some cruise ships allow you to pre-order baby food, so that gets cut from your packing list, too. Start with trips where you just need to show up to make them happen.
• “The flight will be a nightmare.” Maybe, but if you pick the right one, it will be short and direct and have a pot of gold waiting on the other end. You can’t predict how your baby will behave on the plane, but if you never take her anywhere, you’ll never find out or learn to make it better.
• “I just got them on a routine. This will wreck it.” If the routine is more important to you than the time you need away, then stay home. There’s no point in taking that stress with you. If you opt to travel, minimize disturbances by staying in the same time zone and keeping your itinerary loose and flexible.
A version of this article appeared in our July/August 2015 issue with the headline “Try it: Talk yourself into far flung travel with the kids,” p. 95.