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Deconstructing Hate against Family Travel

Matt Villano

I don’t know Bibi Lynch, but if I meet her at a pool party this weekend, I’m going to have my 3-year-old tie her down and regale her with detailed recollections from our last vacation.

Harsh? Not really, especially if you read Lynch’s “essay” about family travel on MSN UK Travel.

The piece is titled, “Why travel is wasted on the young.” The peg: A recent survey that indicates the average British toddler has visited 13 cities around the world by the time he or she is 3.

In the article, Lynch (who is British) champions a tired and all-too-common argument among the We-Hate-Kids-on-Planes set: There’s no reason to bring toddlers places because they won’t remember anything.

No, she doesn’t cite scientific research to support this claim (I’ve checked repeatedly, no studies prove kids are incapable of forming memories this young). No, she doesn’t conduct any actual reporting to see if some parents remember trips they took when they were toddlers (FWIW, one of my earliest memories is a family vacation I took with my parents when I was two).

Adding insult to injury, Lynch, who I’m assuming has no kids (I asked her on Twitter; she declined to respond), has the audacity to allege that the epidemic of traveling toddlers is less about kids and more about us parents—“parents who can boast that their babies are that cultured.”

Then, she offers this: “Such travels should be saved for people that will fully experience and enjoy such amazing life events.”

Seriously?

To the latter point, I personally know hundreds of adults who never “fully experience and enjoy” the trips they take. These are the same people who complain about the food in Lynch’s home country and spend half of every vacation staring into their cell phones. (They’re also those people who travel so they can boast that THEY are that cultured.)

But to the former point, this whole kids-won’t-remember-anything argument is a bunch of phooey. As I mentioned, I remember trips from my toddler years just fine. Furthermore, it doesn’t really matter WHAT kids remember from family trips at that age; what matters is that we parents do what we can to instill in them a sense of exploration and an appreciation for (and of) new and different things.

IMHO, the notion that travel is wasted on our kids is about as closed-minded as it gets—a one-way ticket to a life of narcissism.

There’s a whole world out there for us to teach our children about. The sooner we start showing it to them, the more “normal” it feels to them to explore, the better equipped they'll be to learn about all of it as they grow.

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