Q:I want to take my two boys, 4 and 6, on a trip out of the country—we’re thinking maybe France, Italy or Greece. Do you think this is a good age or will they not appreciate it?
Seeing the world can be an incomparable educational experience. It provides a brand of learning like no other, one that is all encompassing.
Without question, however, there are certain ages that lend themselves to travel and others that do not. And there are also different kinds of trips that work better for certain age children.
Traveling from city to city—in and out of airports and hotels—is one kind of trip. Settling into one destination and having a home base as you explore your destination is a whole different kind.
Before I answer your question, I need to ask you why you feel the need to take your boys out of the country. Do they need to see the world at their young ages or do you have a hankering to go to France, Italy or Greece?
Vacations have really changed since I raised my kids. These days it seems that taking one’s children of all ages to exotic, foreign or fancy places is what you do.
In fact, the family vacation has evolved from a weekend in Vacation Village in San Diego (!) to two weeks in the British Virgin Islands. A day of skiing at Big Bear has morphed into a week in the Swiss Alps.
Here is what I hear from parents: “I don’t get to see my children that much. So I take them on vacations where we can be together. And I want to go where I want to go.”
And here is my reply: “Do you know the difference between a vacation and a trip? You take children on a trip. Adults go on a vacation!”
Truth be told, young children do best when they are at home, in their familiar and predictable environment, where they will sleep and eat best. It’s parents who need vacations, who need to get away from the grind.
Adults adapt more easily than most kids. Do children need trips to foreign lands? I don’t think so. But I digress.
In deciding if you should take your 4- and 6-year-old on a trip to Europe, you need to consider not only their ages but also their development, maturity and individual temperaments. Much of what makes a trip to France special (all the amazing sites to be seen) would be lost on a 4-year-old, for example.
However, if you are planning on renting a chateau, some place he can dig in and call home for a month, eat croissants daily, go on one adventure a day, that’s a different story.
Some children are more adaptable than others. Some require more regularity than others; some have short attention spans; some need always to be on the move.
In planning your trip, you would need to hone your expectations of each child, keeping their needs in mind. Otherwise, it will be torture for you.
Of course it can be done. There are those parents who carefully orchestrate their trips considering what the children can endure, researching the best way to visit the Musee d’ OrSay, planning a speed tour of the Louvre and lots of play time in between. Is that you?
Would your children appreciate the experience? If you mean will they know how fortunate they are to have parents who have taken them to France, then, probably not. Not now anyway.
But when they are much older and are looking back on all that you did with them and for them, or when they have kids of their own, then they just might.
If by appreciate you mean will they grasp and value the experience, then I am sorry to say, probably not.
I have the feeling that you and your husband are overdue for a trip to Europe. Are your 4- and 6-year-old children old enough for you to go and leave them with family or a sitter? Absolutely! Bon voyage.