Why I travel with kids

With fair regularity, I get asked why I travel so much with my kids. Isn’t it exhausting? Will they even remember it? How do you make the time to get away? I could give the stock answers, and I sometimes do: I travel with my kids because I want them to have first-hand knowledge of their country and world. I travel with them because I hope that in so doing, I will create life-long learners of them. I travel with them because I enjoy it, and yes, I travel with them because I can.

But the more I journey with my children, the more I realize that travel isn’t just about the big picture. (Ironic, no?) For us, it’s about those singular moments that shine in the spaces between the major stops on the itinerary: the surprise glimpse of a sailboat from the window of the train, the unexpected enjoyment of the emptiness of a cathedral on the historical tour, the temporary camaraderie between the siblings stuck together in the back seat. It’s the anecdotes that become family lore: the missed turn on the interstate that leads to the missed flight (and longest stint in an airport ever), the rodeo that turns Toby into a hero when he announces he’s ‘an American’ to a crowd of cheering cowboys, the subway conductor who delays his train to give us directions to Penn Station. (Most of our anecdotes include navigational error.)


The secret (which isn’t a secret at all) is that these moments can’t happen without the big events that frame them. Had we not planned a trip to New York City and put everyone on a cross-continental plane, I’d never have seen Calvin enter Central Park on a muggy June evening and confidently join a pick-up game of soccer, or Toby volunteer as a sidekick in a street performer’s act in the Battery. Had we not mapped out a five-state road trip to four national parks, I’d have missed Nate’s sheer joy upon zip-lining through Montana’s Big Sky wilderness and Toby’s scream of delight upon seeing a bear with her cub. (He scared them both.)


These moments are captured and surrendered in the space of minutes and hours, and some will be remembered and some will not. But as a traveling parent, I have to believe that the lasting impression created by these moments will be much more wide-sweeping. I have to believe that the confidence born of knowing their place in the world (which is everywhere, anywhere, and anything in-between) will enable them to always say I am capable. I am compassionate. I have as much to learn and as many experiences to have as there are places in this world, and I know not one definition of beauty, of history, and of humanity, but many.


About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.




  1. So much wisdom here, Amy.

    Growing up, we traveled across the country on the train many times. (My dad doesn’t fly, but still traveled a lot for work and we all went with him – from Connecticut to San Diego, Seattle, the Grand Canyon.) I think that the hours we spent in transit and at the places we hopped off the train loom just as large in my memory as the destinations themselves. And the opportunities to see our country and to build memories alongside my brothers and parents? Beyond compare.

  2. Well-said!!

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with you — traveling with kids is worth the effort and expense. I frequently take my small ones on the road or in the air, and am struck by how many people tell me “bless you” or act like I am some kind of martyr for venturing out with two kids under 4. You only live once; I say make the most of it. That’s the attitude I want my kids to catch.

  4. I love traveling with my kids. I get to see things through their eyes and it becomes new to me, or at least another perspective. I love the memories – sometimes memories of nothing. And we’re like you, most of our anecdotes are the little things. Of course there are the big moments, but the little things are what I cherish. I also agree that all the travel as a youngster helps establish confidence and a frame of reference. Great post!

  5. Anytime I have traveled I have taken my kids along. I just wish we could afford to do it more. They love it & I’m better for it, when we travel together. It’s so much more than just the fun of it!

  6. Love it! All of our favorite memories are from traveling. You said it perfectly!

  7. Love, love, love it! Travel forces us to be together and to experience together and see the world anew together.

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