The ever-popular “where to travel before you have a kid” proclamations trigger the contrarian in me. Flight duration, travel risk, and frankly “how much fun you will miss out on if you bring your child” are common rationalizations why some places are better left to the adults. This kind of dialog contributes to the myth that traveling with children is too hard to justify, and that certain destinations should be avoided once you become a parent. Of course, your experience of ANYWHERE will be different with a little human to take care of, but dismissing much of the world as a family travel option hardly seems like a rational conclusion. In fact, these places can become even more meaningful when seeing them through the eyes of a child.
Here are some examples:
The Culture Trip includes the exact same route we enjoyed with our (then) two year old as a priority for pre-child travel. Riding the White Pass Railroad, spotting bears, and eating lots of crab all occurred when I visited Alaska as a 20-something, but took a new meaning when experiencing them with my son. Additionally, the decisions we made because he was with us introduced us to new places and people we would have never met on our own. Exhibit A: tidepooling and totems in Ketchikan with a local wilderness guide by Hummer 4×4.
The Culture Trip also alludes to all the fun that can be had wine tasting and visiting Gaucho estancias without kids in tow. We did all that and more when our son was not-yet 2. We also visited Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands on this trip and mostly loved how hospitable everyone was, especially to our little guy. Do you know the elderly South American man in the photo above? Neither do I! People tend to open up much quicker when you have a cute kid in tow, allowing you to get authentic insights into each place.
I find wineries to be great fun with children, especially when surrounded by beautiful vistas and delicious snacks. Driving from Santiago to Valparaiso, Chile allowed all of us to understand terroir in a very different way- because rolling around in the grass tends to do that….
And while I can understand that rugged overland transfers with an infant are not for all parents, the reward of panoramic penguins cannot be overstated.
Fodors declares that everyone deserves a beach holiday without children. Fair. But this hardly seems a reason to prioritize Mexico as a pre-child trip. We have been (with and without child) many times, simply because there are so many wonderful things about traveling in Mexico that it seems arbitrary to draw a hard line.
Some of my favorite memories of Mexico are a direct result of having been there with a child. From Cancun and Cozumel to Isla Mujeres and Costa Maya, we never struggled to enjoy sun and sand. But beyond that, making connections with local families who also have children provide a different insight into real life. For example, we spent a blissful afternoon playing with a young family, the kids having a bilingual “tea party” in the crystal blue waters while the adults compared notes about raising kids in different cultures. And if quesadillas are basically ambrosia, why not share that joy in situ with fresh tortillas from an abuela?
The Nest claims that Africa might be too far away or too adventurous for children. We spent our honeymoon travelling through southern Africa scuba diving, travelling by local bus, and doing many things very differently than we did upon return with our 3 year old. The common denominator (and non-negotiable) were the safaris. Watching the pages of a child’s bedtime stories to life reminds you how magical nature is, and seeing animals taking care of their own offspring makes you realize how interconnected we are. Having your little one next to you brings these points home.
Oh, and the wineries! South African wineries truly include the whole family when considering visitor experience. Their attitude and design provide more opportunities for kiddies to mingle on the playground as the adults taste. Plus, the delicious local cheeses and fruits really don’t have an age requirement.
We have also visited Barcelona, Napa, Vegas, and many other places frequently represented on these lists both with and without a child. Are they more romantic without children? Of course, but so is my backyard. So where should you visit before you have kids? Everywhere. Where should you visit with your kids? Same answer. Because whether my child remembers any of these experiences we have had together, I most certainly will, and will think back on these places more fondly because we shared them.