I read a meme recently that said, "Traveling with kids isn't a vacation. It's just taking care of your kids in a different place." I laughed because of course there is some truth to that. But as parents we do not travel just to go on a nice, relaxing vacation. As the kids get older and more self-sufficient, there will of course be times you will be able to relax and enjoy your vacation, but travel should be more than just lying around on a beach. Many of the reasons Marvin and I love to travel - for education, for cultural awareness, for personal growth, and for just a general change of scenery - are also reasons we want to travel with Emmett.
Read more to see ten reasons to travel with your children.
1. Traveling internationally exposes kids to other cultures and realities.
If our kids never leave their hometowns, their ideas of the world and the people in it can become distorted and one-sided. Getting kids out of their home countries will help them realize that though we may have differences in fashion, food, religion, etc., we are actually more alike than we are different. Children should be afforded the opportunity to hear different languages and learn about different cultures.
2. Traveling with kids allows parents to see the world through a child's eyes.
3. Traveling from a young age teaches kids how to act in public
We have been traveling with Emmett since he was just a few months old. He has been on trains, planes, buses, and boats. He has eaten at many different restaurants and been around gobs of people. Because of this he is generally well-behaved when we are in public. Does he get overly tired and have the occasional meltdown? Yes, but that's generally our fault for not planning far enough ahead or not being prepared enough.
When you travel, you generally spend a good bit of the day in the presence of the general public. And when your kids start traveling early, they get used to being around people and learn quickly what is expected of them.
4. Travel teaches kids adaptability.
Travel inherently requires the ability to adapt to the world around us. When we visit unfamiliar places, use unfamiliar currency, hear unfamiliar languages, and read unfamiliar maps, we learn to acclimate ourselves to our surroundings. And watching how Mom and Dad deal with unexpected delays and changed plans helps kids learn to "go with the flow." New situations often require thinking outside the box, but these can lead to some of the most amazing new adventures!
5. Travel teaches kids valuable life skills.
Reading subway maps, airport signs, and train station timetables are important skills, as are haggling skills and hand gestures as a form of communication. Teaching these to skills to young children will help them grow up to be capable adults.
6. Travel is education.
One of the biggest reasons to travel with your children is that you can easily use travel to teach young minds things like geography, language, architecture, art appreciation, and zoology. Before you leave for your trip, help your child locate your destination on a map. Have them learn three things about the country you are traveling to, as well as how to say "hello" and "thank you." While there, have the kids keep journals about where they went, what they saw, who they met, and things they learned. Family travel affords children many new learning opportunities.
7. Traveling with kids forces parents to slow down and travel differently.
Recently there has been a push for "slow travel." The pandemic forced many people to slow down and get to know their own home countries. For us, while borders were closed, we visited a number of places here in Houston that we had never been to before and really got to know our city better. But even after things opened back up and we started venturing out further, we have had to slow down. We cannot cram 73 activities into one day, leaving the hotel at 7am and returning at 10pm. We visit a few places in the morning, enjoy a nice lunch, then head back to the hotel for nap time. This leaves all of us well-rested for evenings activities and gives us a nice break from the hustle and bustle. We have always enjoyed exploring a city by foot or via public transportation, but having our son with us has really cemented this practice, because hauling around a car seat is just too cumbersome.
8. Traveling with kids allows them to explore different culinary treats.
We love to try new cuisines at local restaurants that serve local foods. And we avoid places like McDonalds like the plague. So we love introducing Emmett to new dishes. Does he always love what we give him? No, he's a toddler. He doesn't always love what we give him, even if it's something he has happily eaten for the last three days. But as he gets older, he will continue to try new foods, his "taste buds will grow up" as my late grandmother used to say, and he will learn to appreciate the cuisines of other countries. Travel with your kids to encourage them to try new foods and expand their palates.
9. Travel teaches kids responsibility.
As your kids get older, allow them to take on more and more responsibility for themselves and their things. On our first international flight with Emmett (he was 15 months old), we helped him pack some of his favorite things into his little dinosaur backpack, and he held it in his lap when he was in the stroller or he carried it on his back when he wanted to walk around the airport and onto the plane. He was so proud of himself and so happy to know where his cars were. As he gets older, we will allow him to help pick out the clothes he will take with him and will have him pull his suitcase through the airport. When he is old enough, we will let him help us choose our destinations and plan our activities. Having kids get involved in the process not only teaches them responsibility but also encourages them to use their executive function skills of organization and planning and time management. And because they have had a part in choosing the activities, you'll do things that they will actually enjoy doing!
10. Travel expands kids' executive function skills.
In addition to teaching them how to organize information, plan a trip, and use time wisely, kids also learn how to monitor their emotions and control their feelings and actions. Because things do not always go as planned and because travel can often throw off our internal clocks, kids will learn not just to be flexible and adaptable, but, with your help, they can also learn to recognize what they need (Am I hungry? Am I tired? Am I "peopled" out and need some quiet time?) and control their reactions to travel's inevitable curveballs.
Of course, traveling also offers the opportunity to bond with your offspring in a way that you may not have time to at home with work, housework, and other daily responsibilities. But more than creating wonderful memories and providing quality time together, travel offers so many opportunities for growth, both for you and for your children. Whether you take your kids on a day trip, a road trip, a short flight, or a long haul flight, your children will appreciate their new experiences in new places. Family trips will help your children become responsible citizens of the world and will teach them to appreciate different people in different places.
Traveling with kids does present its own set of challenges. Do what you can to offset jetlag (shift their sleep schedule slightly, offer lots of liquids), slow down, take a deep breath, and adjust your expectations. Your hard work when they are young will pay off. Have a good time, make the best memories, appreciate the little things, and enjoy quality family time!
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