Just Leave Your Kid with Grandma
“You both seem very nice but that kid ain’t gonna remember this trip, you should’ve just parked him with grandma for a week and gone to enjoy yourselves”-some guy online
My wife and I have backpacked and traveled with our son from when he was an infant. I recently shared a trip report online where someone decided to impart some wisdom on my wife and me: that we should travel for ourselves and not for our son. On another post, someone else chimed in with,
“You look like nice people but I’m gonna be honest. That looks like a chore. Wait till the kid can hike themselves. There’s no award for doing this.”-another internet dude
These two comments aren’t the only one’s I’ve seen or heard in the last two years, but they all sound about the same. I don’t know these faceless commenters, so I’ll assume positive intent…they clearly either don’t understand or they just don’t feel the way I do. So let’s break it down.
He Won’t Remember
The kid will likely not remember these things, but I will. Watching our son experience the world is so special to us. Hearing him yell, “BUS!” with pure joy every time we ride one…casually telling our Chilean waiter, “hola” before he could learned to say, “hello”…being with him as he exclaimed, “oh my gosh” over a scenic overlook for the first time. These are memories that I will cling to my whole life.
Consider also: why would anyone teach a toddler colors by sorting blocks when they’ll never remember doing it? When examined through this lens, it becomes clear that these experiences shape who he is. He won’t remember traveling just as he won’t remember us teaching him to talk, but these things decide who he will become.
Generally, traveling is not extra expensive until they turn 2 and need their own seat on the plane! After that, yeah…they’re totally expensive.
But, so is Disney.
It’s Too Hard/Inconvenient
What if he has a blowout? What if he throws a tantrum? What if he can’t sleep? Traveling and backpacking with a child is definitely hard and inconvenient at times, but so is just living at home with a toddler. If my choices are dealing with a blowout in the nursery or on a mountaintop, the answer is pretty obvious to me.
But it isn’t always that simple, so I need to be real about it. It can be absolutely miserable at times…like the time I got peed on waiting outside in an hour long line at LAX…or the trip from Istanbul to Barcelona where I walked the aisle the entire flight to soothe a sleep deprived baby…or the time I carried a pack and play 100 miles around Mont Blanc because our son didn’t know how to co-sleep.
So, we have chosen to just deal with it. We go into these situations knowing full well that they can turn sour at any moment and we are prepared to be as patient as we can and deal with it. I’d like to think that our son’s ability to be flexible and go with the flow is a direct result of our attitude towards working through uncomfortable situations with him.
It Won’t Be a Vacation
Our personal preference is to be active on vacation rather than just relax. So, by taking an active toddler, we aren’t really missing out on much. With our son in tow, we’ve snowshoed in the Pyrenees, backpacked along the Mediterranean Coast, indulged in a Michelin Star Swiss dinner, and canoed overnight on the Colorado River.
There are some things that he is just too young for now, but there are countless other things we can do while we wait for him to grow up a bit. We find the things on our list that he can do and just do them!
It’s Less Enjoyable
Well, we like it.
Our son is a pretty easy going, funny kid. He gets along with the people we meet on our travels, so he’s just a joy to be around. We love this kid so much, so traveling with him is a lot of fun for us all.
But, as one commenter added:
“Backpacking with my kid was way worse than I imagined. Key point, results may vary.”bummed out internet dad
He’s right…our experiences are not guaranteed for all, but there are things you can do to maximize your chances for an enjoyable trip like!
(See the bonus section at the end for all the tips!)
It’s Not Safe
It is certainly more dangerous to go outside and do things than to stay inside and do nothing. There is risk and there is reward in everything. While every parent has their own metric for where the reward no longer out-ways the risk, they’re probably all acceptable!
That’s not to say we don’t take precautions. First, we understand our limits and know when to bail. When we backpacked the Tour du Mont Blanc, I mapped out every location where we could bail or shortcut on our Garmin InReach. Emergencies happen and we do all that we can to prepare for them.
Also, by putting ourselves in situations like these, we create teachable moments for our son to better understand how to assess risk, take intentional steps, and how to deal with discomfort. On a recent trip to Bryce Canyon, he understood to stay away from the cliff edge and informed us that it was “dangerous.”
In the end, we have decided that there is so much to gain for our son by meeting people far different from himself and experiencing things he could never in his own home. Our hope is that these risks will result in him becoming an empathetic neighbor and caring steward of the world he lives in.
So, for now, we’ll keep on bringing our son everywhere we can.
We love it and we love him.
Bonus Tips for a More Enjoyable Time
- There are plenty of Facebook groups for travel, backpacking, paddling, and probably anything else you’d like to do with your child. These groups are often incredibly active and you’ll likely find an answer to just about every question you could have. There is a wealth of combined experiences there!
- Start as soon as you can and do it frequently. Our son thinks all this is typical because he’s been doing it from just about 6 weeks old.
- We lowered our expectations all the way to the ground.
- Find a travel or backpacking partner. I can’t imagine doing any of this without my wife. Being a team makes the difficult moments much more bearable. I see single parents online doing these things and I have mad respect for them!
- Take sleep training classes. Even if you don’t backpack, I highly recommend them! Getting your child to sleep quickly and fully in a tent or a different time zone is gold!
- Plan realistic itineraries for your child’s age and experience.
- We’ve changed the way we travel, hike, and backpack to meet our son’s needs by taking more breaks, planning shorter days, and working around his nap schedule.
more posts from by josh
- Just Leave Your Kid with GrandmaFind our why we take our son everywhere we go!
- Desert Hiking with BabiesIt’s totally possible to safely enjoy the hot, dry desert! Set yourself up for success and check out what we’ve learned from living in Arizona.
- Toddler on the Tour du Mont BlancHow did we hike 100 miles over 10 days through 3 countries around Mont Blanc…with a toddler?
- Carriers, Babies, & Smiles?How do we hike so much and so far with a well-tempered kid strapped to us? We have some tips for you!
- Meet Josh & His FamilyWho is Josh? Who is Brittany? Who is Callan?
- Torres del Paine’s “W Trek”, but with a ToddlerA guide to trekking “The W” with a toddler in Torres del Paine National Park.