Shouldn't you wait until kids are older and can remember family holidays before you "waste" your money on taking them traveling with you? As a travel writer and founder of online family travel website Suitcases and Strollers, this is a question I get asked a lot, and I have one response. No.
Don't wait until the kids are older. Traveling with a baby is actually relatively easy (versus, say, trying to travel with a toddler) and cost effective. But, beyond that, there are many reasons why taking infants out of their everyday environment and going on baby-friendly holidays is beneficial for both parents and child. Here are the most important ones.
• Traveling with a baby is the best way to prepare for travel with kids. The first trip with kids is always the hardest. Once everyone understands the logistics involved in bringing a totally dependent child with you on the road, you can all adapt faster and get used to the new experience. Baby holidays will teach baby how to sleep in a foreign environment, adjust to time zones and acclimatize to different schedules, and it will teach parents what coping mechanisms they need to get baby to do all of this comfortably.
• Traveling with a baby doesn't cost much more than traveling without a baby. You do not need to pay for airline seats, meals or many other additional costs when you are traveling with an infant. Any costs involved (such as cots in hotels) are usually minimal; in fact, some airlines will actually give you additional free baggage allowances if you are traveling with a baby. All good reasons to go on holiday with baby now because, once they turn two, the freebies start to disappear.
• Almost all holidays are baby-friendly holidays. Unless you are seeking serious family adventure holidays, babies are very transportable and can go anywhere. Put them in a stroller or sling and they will sleep (or lie relatively quietly) through shopping sprees, gallery visits and tours of historical buildings. If you start traveling with baby very young, they can even sleep quietly in a capsule or stroller through a fine-dining restaurant meal.
• Babies don't have an opinion about family holidays. Again, this means that you can basically do whatever you want (within reason) while you travel -- a luxury you are soon about to lose. Even if you have to make the small compromises, like returning to the hotel for nap times or missing dinners in a restaurant, holidays with a baby never involve tantrums about leaving the souvenir shop, or whining about how boring the museum is.
• Traveling with an infant is an easy way to meet other people. People all over the world love babies. Strangers will stop you in the street, try to talk and interact and, many times, will even offer to help you when they normally would have just walked past. This special treatment has a finite lifespan, so enjoy it while you can.
• Traveling with a baby exposes them to new experiences, like foreign smells and sounds. Getting babies used to new environments is a good way to ensure that they are never too reliant on familiarity and routine, but instead are adaptable and able to take change in their stride.
• Family travel photos are always better than cheesy portrait shots. Even just a basic photo on a beach will have memories and associations that give you reasons to continue to swap stories and talk as family, rather than just another photograph taking up wall space.
• Family holidays are happy time. Holidays with a baby are the moments when you get to really spend long tracts of time together as a family, removed from the every day stresses and distractions. If you're relaxed and happy, baby is relaxed and happy -- and this will mean better bonding time.