Even in normal times, the idea of traveling with an infant can be daunting. Heck, plenty of new parents are terrified of walking around the block for the first time with their baby.
But there are lots of good reasons—financial, emotional, and practical—to start traveling with your kids when they’re tiny. My husband and I took our older child on a plane when he was three months old, and spent several weeks exploring Los Angeles with him. My daughter flew to Europe at six months old. Was it challenging? Sometimes. Are we glad we did it? No question.
If you love to travel but are hesitating to start exploring the world with kids, this list is for you.
For a long time, my kids were lighter than my magazine-and-devices-stuffed carryon bag. Though we sometimes brought strollers on our travels, more often we just toted a baby carrier. We could take our kids on subways, hiking trails, and beaches with little fuss. We didn’t have to mind them on stairs or throw out our backs holding their hands to cross the street. Bonus: Our kids often slept while we walked with them.
They don’t have opinions
Now that my children are older, I realize just how valuable this is. It’s fun to be able to talk about experiences with them, and to (sometimes) let them weigh in on decisions. But it’s oh so much easier to travel with a baby who can’t ask if there’s a Pokemon store nearby or complain that the restaurant forgot to leave pickles off their hamburger. Also, babies don’t know the difference between an art museum and Legoland—so you can go to whichever one you choose!
They fly for free (or cheap)
As long as you’re willing to have your baby in your lap, they can fly free on most domestic routes. You’ll often be charged a fee for international flights, but unless you’re buying a separate seat for your child, it won’t be the full fare. Depending on how much you travel, these savings can really add up.
You learn to live with less
When we started traveling with our infant son, we brought all the gear: a travel crib, car seat, stroller, changing pad, and on and on. We quickly learned that only some of those things were really essential—like the car seat, which was a safety must. Hotels almost always have cribs available and vacation rentals often supply them. Though we don’t generally like throw-away items, we started carrying disposable bed pads to use for diaper changes—which were especially useful in less-than-pristine public areas. We didn’t just lighten our travel load, but pared back on the gear back home.
It’s better than staying home
Parents have lots of concerns about being on the road with a baby. What if they have a meltdown? What if they have a poop blowout? What if they refuse to sleep. Those things are bound to happen somewhere. It’s way more fun to be eating paella, looking at Picasso or enjoying the views at a national park in the meantime, rather than sitting at home waiting for inconvenience to strike.
You’re making memories
Over the years, a number of people have tried to convince me that it’s not worth traveling with little kids. “They won’t remember any of it!” is a favorite argument. My reply is always the same: “But I will.” Not only do we treasure the memories of exploring with our munchkins, those experiences have become secondhand memories for our kids. They’ve seen photos of themselves trying ice cream in Paris and heard stories about our son throwing up all over a fancy hotel in Florida. They’ve become part of our family lore, whether the kids remember being there or not.
Just wait until they’re toddlers
If you think traveling with an infant is hard, consider the two-year-old. Toddlers can be stubborn, loud, and fond of kicking the airplane seat in front of them. Some like to try to dart into busy intersections, others enjoy waiting until takeoff to realize that they have to pee. I’m kidding—mostly. Traveling with your kids can be a joy at any age. And no matter what age or stage you’re at, it’s a great time to start.