Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Help Kids Remember Travel

Occasionally I'll read articles by or about naysayers when it comes to family travel. One of their biggest arguments against traveling with young kids is that these children will never remember the experience, thus making it not worth the effort or the cost. I find this logic really faulty for a few reasons:
  • Remembering a trip isn't the point. I love traveling with young kids in part because it teaches them flexibility, patience, diversity, proper behavior on airplanes, in restaurants, how to sleep away from home, etc. They may not remember the specifics, but these lessons become ingrained in them at a young age via travel. And hopefully, we'll reap the rewards as they get a bit older. 
  • Important time together as a family. When my husband has time off and we decide to stay home, we inevitably get caught up in projects or chores around the house. When we travel, we simply spend time together away from those distractions, enjoying one another and our surroundings.

  • YOU will remember it. Someday the Arrows will grow up and leave our nest. I hope that in 20 years I'll be sitting on a beach with my husband, enjoying retirement, and reminiscing about watching our boys splashing in the water as babies.
  • My experience shows that young kids often DO remember trips!
With the exception of trips we took before he turned 2, Big Arrow (now 3 1/2) remembers and frequently talks about all of our vacations and many outings we take. Sometimes he'll comment on something that to me was completely insignificant, months and months after we return home, like what color train we took in Boston or that time we let him take his shoes off at a restaurant.

I'm sure he doesn't remember everything, and he may end up recalling very little by the time he's older, but seriously, who cares?

But if you DO care, here are a few ways we keep the memory of vacations and adventures alive in our boys:

1. Read books. This doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money on a book about every destination (although they'd make great gifts or souvenirs). We check out books from the library, or we read general books that have an element related to where we're going or where we've been.

A few recommendations:
2. Play pretend. I'm always catching Big Arrow deep in an imaginary storyline with a plot that I can barely follow. Often his imagination takes him somewhere we've been before or recalls a particular event we went to. When I caught him "playing zoo" with Little Arrow a few weeks ago, I couldn't resist capturing it on video. He got a little silly when he realized I was filming, naturally. But bonus points for the creative use of a baby gate!

If your kids need a little encouragement when it comes to make-believe, you could think about where you've traveled lately. Perhaps a pretend trip to the museum or an imaginary airplane ride!

3. Pictures and video. Maybe it's just my kid, but Big Arrow is obsessed with seeing himself, whether it is in pictures or video. (In fact, he's asked to watch that zoo video about 30 times.) This is a great way to keep those memories fresh. You could even make small photo books for them to flip through after a big trip and display photos in their bedroom.

4. Just talk about it. Sometimes when we have time to kill (often in the car), I'll ask Big Arrow what he remembers about a vacation. Or what his favorite part was. Or what he didn't like. (This is often pretty funny, actually.)

I don't do these things with my kids because I'm desperate for them to remember our travels or because I'm super mom. Like I said, I don't really care. I see enough benefits to traveling when they're young to do it anyway. I just happen to love travel, so reading vacation books instead of another Elmo one or talking about our favorite museums while driving home from preschool is just fun for me (and hopefully them).

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walking on Travels.

*Affiliate links.


  1. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! We are the same way. If we stay here, inevitably we spend less time as a family. We go to Disney (leaving in just 72 hours!) and this is our third trip with our 3 1/2 year old. He probably won't remember everything, but we go through his photo albums weekly from his past trips and he loves it. Keep traveling!

  2. Since Goodnight SF made the list, I think the next logical step is to get those Arrows out here to see it all in person!

  3. Great tips! I'm going to share this on my site :)