Maybe some of this is partly down to cultural and generational differences in traveling, period.
Unless you are much older than I thought, closer in age to my grandparents than to my parents (who are now in their mid- to late seventies, while my only surviving grandparent is almost 100), I think it must be a cultural thing, if at all; I’d be interested to read how other Americans see the issue.
Airplane travel used to be a luxury, and vacation time still is a luxury in the US compared to Germany. At least in former decades, many American adults themselves hardly expected to be able to travel to other countries for sightseeing until they reached retirement age.
Airplane travel was very very expensive in my childhood, too, and many Germans my age first took a plane trip when they were already well into adulthood. Nobody said that the family holiday had to encompass flying. And yes, I appreciate that most Americans will get fewer days of paid vacation time than I do, but surely a week is doable for them too.
Families took car trips with older children, but going all that distance and then also taking a baby or toddler who would probably be uncomfortable on a plane, and would only have to be either carried around much of the time or parked in day care once you got there, just wouldn't have made a lot of sense.
Probably most people travel to their holiday destination by car here, too, and they certainly did when I was little (or by train, actually). That, of course, can also be done with younger children (and was/is done). Also, not all babies or toddlers are uncomfortable on planes (and weren’t you talking about cars anyway, so where did the plane suddenly come from again?). Maybe I wouldn’t choose to fly to Australia with a newborn baby, but a one-or two-hour flight (to somewhere where in my childhood you’d have gone by car, probably driving for one or two days) seems doable to me. And sure, you’ll have to carry or push (you can take a pram or pushchair with you, after all) the child around a lot of the time, and you’ll probably do less sightseeing than you would on your own because you have to make more breaks for ice-cream, toilet visits, playgrounds and “I’m tired/hungry”, but there is more to going on holiday than just ticking off as many museum visits as possible. You probably wouldn’t go on a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Rome with a two-year-old, same as I probably wouldn’t choose to fly to New York with a two-year-old, but camping holidays at fairly nearby lakes, package trips to Portugal or Mallorca, hiking through southern Germany, B&B in England, houseboats in Ireland, holiday houses in Denmark or Holland or near Lake Constance or on one of the German islands in the North Sea, those are the kinds of things families might do here. Obviously your country is huge, so you’d be less likely to travel to a foreign country unless you live close to the Canadian or Mexican border because of distance and/or cost, but maybe a week on the east or west coast if you live further inland, a visit to a National Park if you live in a city, or a city trip if you live in a rural area, to the Rockies if you don’t have mountains in your area... take your pick.
I can see that many younger people evidently do it now, and I can understand that you find ways to manage, certainly if grandparents and grandchildren live far away from each other.
Which is the case for many of my friends, who left home for university and then rarely got jobs in or near their home towns when they were done; some don’t even live in the same country.
But I still don't think I personally would want to take a small child sightseeing, as it would be unnecessarily stressful for parents and child both, and would limit the kinds of things the parents could do, as many quiet indoor places like museums and cathedrals would be out.
It doesn’t have to be stressful. Obviously you’ll have to plan your days differently, but you’ll be used to that because your home life with a child is also different from your life without. And like I Said above, you might get fewer things done. But even with small children you can go to museums or cathedrals. Not with all children, obviously, but parents should know what their kids will or won‘t do. And sometimes bribes like „if you‘re really good when we‘re in this church we‘ll have ice cream/go swimming/visit the zoo in the afternoon“ work. And holidays aren‘t a competitive sport where you aren’t done until you’ve ticked off ten activities on a list. Plus, people should always matter more than things.
Also, what Gibson said in #33, especially the first paragraph.