While debating out loud whether to take my 4- and 2-year-olds eco-camping in Hawaii or sightseeing in Panama this spring, my brother-in-law started laughing at me.
 “It doesn’t matter where you go,” he said mockingly, “because you know what they’re going to remember about these trips? NOTHING!”
 I stared back at him in horror. Was he right?
 Do my children get as much out of a trip to Wisconsin as they do from a trip to Belize?
 And why didn’t I think about this $5,000 ago?
 When I was a kid, my travel-happy parents schlepped us all over the U.S. I know, buried in my mom’s closet, there are albums filled with photos of our adventures. Some are on Polaroids. We’re riding lifts to the top of Pikes Peak, leaning against the pyramids in Egypt, and standing in front of Mt. Rushmore, wearing the matching American flag ponchos my mom knitted for the occasion (so very 70s!).
 These old photos do trigger memories of those family vacations (they didn’t take many movies in those days). But sadly, most of it’s pretty fuzzy now.
 What I remember are moments, not places. I don’t recall the coastal scenery during our drive down Highway 1, but I remember stopping at a Denny’s in Oregon where the entire staff was named Carol. I don’t remember our historical site-filled “Spirit of ‘76" bicentennial road trip, but I remember my little sister, out of boredom, mooning a passing car on the highway (ah, the pre-car seat era).
 Are those the kinds of things my kids will remember from our expensive but interesting family vacations?
 I must say, I wholeheartedly believe travel teaches children (and adults) important lessons and values that can be hard to learn here in well-to-do suburbia. It teaches them to appreciate, or at least be accepting, of other cultures. To place less emphasis on material possessions and keeping up with the Joneses, and to judge someone based on the kind of person they are.
 In the past 3 years, my children have joined us on trips to Belize, Anguilla, St. Martin and repeated 3 ½ hours flights between Chicago and Phoenix. And what have these trips taught them? To behave on airplanes, for one. To be considerate of others and polite to strangers. Look, I’m not saying they’re perfect little angel doves. But they know that sometimes they have to sit and be quiet, even when they don’t want to. They know that happy, nice people can live in homes with thatched roofs and dirt floors.
 Perhaps most importantly, traveling has taught my toddlers that sometimes you have to go with the flow, because things don’t always go as planned (flight cancellations teach that lesson real fast). Now, isn’t that one of life’s most valuable lessons?
 When they watch videos of themselves on these trips, they seem to remember a lot about the experiences. Will they remember them in 20 years?
 Let’s be honest: probably not.
 Maybe, the reality is, I’m just taking these trips for myself. The kids are probably too young to remember anything. Maybe the truth is that I want to go to Panama rather than to Touristy Town USA and I am just trying to justify towing my kids along with me.
 Perhaps I am trying to create these special family moments for selfish reasons; because I think I am making them well-rounded, wordly people, and that will reflect well on me.
 Oprah once did a show featuring a dying mother, who in an effort to make her final days with her kids special, trotted them all over the globe. They went to Paris and Disneyland and all of the places a kid would ever want to go. They had lots of fun.
 Then, after the woman died, Oprah interviewed the kids and asked them about their favorite times with their mother. And you know what they said? It wasn’t the Magic Kingdom or the Eiffel Tower. It was the ordinary moments.
 One of the children said something that still makes tears roll down my cheeks – that her favorite moment with her mother was when they both got up in the middle of the night and ate Cheerios together in their house.
 I’m not ready to concede to my BIL’s theory, but I will say that Wisconsin is starting to look better to me (and my checkbook). And I’m definitely going to pack Cheerios.