Traveling with kids… is it worth it? It’s a question that comes up a lot when discussing our plans. There is a huge extra cost to take the children (the extra airfare alone could fund an entire second trip for Eric and I). There are no mornings to sleep in, and relaxing on a beach with no worries is not a realistic possibility. So what makes it “worth it”? What makes family travel so beneficial? I’ve put together a short list of the top reasons to take your kids on your next trip
1. Traveling with Kids means Quality Time
Think of your regular schedules at home. You have work, the kids have school, you eat dinner, they do homework, everyone tidies, the kids get ready for bed, you make lunches and maybe do some meal prep for the following day. How much time per day do you actually spend with your kids? I mean real, connected, quality time. A few minutes after school when they tell you about their day? At the end of the evening when you read them a book before bed? With everyone having their own busy schedules, it can be hard to find time to connect. Traveling together changes you’re entire schedule. In fact, there doesn’t have to be a schedule if you don’t want one. All day, every day is quality time.
2. Opening Minds through Travel
Travel broadens our view! We all (our children included) live with stereotypes ingrained in our minds. Imagine how differently you will see other cultures once you’ve spent time immersed in them. Children who have had the opportunity to view other cultures and make friends all over the world soon learn that where you are from, whatever your religion, doesn’t matter. It helps them view our world as one big, dynamic family.
Another “eye-opener” is children’s openness to trying new foods! As much as we all try, we have to admit, our meals aren’t always the most exotic or exciting. A lot of us have our general fallbacks for busy nights; the lunches we pack the kids tend to become repetitive. Imagine being in Thailand and eating Tom Yam Goong, or Beef Vindaloo in India. Not every food will be a hit with the whole family, but you will all be surprised by the new foods you learn to love! Those expanded palates will follow them home and make for lifelong adventurous eaters!
3. Testing Limits through New Experiences
I have a daughter who is terrified of bugs and spiders and basically any creature that isn’t a cat. But take her to a reptile zoo and she is the first in line to touch and hold everything! Traveling with kids can have the same effect. Take them out of their comfort zones and they will begin testing their limits. The child afraid of heights may end up crossing the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge in Northern Ireland. The child afraid of the dark might find his favourite day was visiting the Waitomo Caves watching glowworms in New Zealand. Oftentimes these trips offer experiences that cannot be replicated at home. Exposure to these, in a new setting, can change their outlook, and teach them they are braver than they believed. The same goes for parents!
4. Improve Family Teamwork
Let’s face it, travel isn’t always easy and it doesn’t always go as planned. Bumps in the road can make great stories, but that doesn’t mean they’re fun in the moment. Whether your flight has been cancelled, you’re lost with no GPS or the fully booked hotel can’t find your reservation, you’re in a great position for your family to learn to work together better. You can include your children in the problem solving conversation and ask their opinions on the best course of action. You could also give them jobs that would be helpful (Is everyone tired and hungry? Ask a child to help a parent find breakfast while the other sorts out the problem). Facing these obstacles as a family unit is a really effective way to learn to work together, problem solve and be flexible.
5. A Whole New Kind of Education
Whether you’re on a short vacation, or doing long-term travel, your kids never leave their educational experiences behind in their classroom; The delivery of their lessons just changes. Camping in Yellowstone Park in the United States? Why not take the opportunity to teach your children about volcanic activity and geology. And where else can they get a better understanding of hieroglyphics and pyramids than in Egypt? You can all learn about ancient China while walking the Great Wall or study literature while walking in the footsteps of writers like Shakespeare or Jane Austin while in England. Everywhere you go there is an opportunity for them to learn in the biggest hands-on classroom!
6. Learning to be Minimalistic
While traveling there is only so much you can take with you. Baggage sizes and weight limits can be restrictive, especially if you’re trying to avoid extra airline fees. You also don’t want to take so much that it makes it difficult to get around during your trip. Leaving home with so little can be nerve-wracking, however, this can be viewed as a hidden blessing. So many of us have houses filled with ‘Things’. They cover our walls and shelves, our floors and closets. We are so used to living with so many Things that we stop asking ourselves if it is all really necessary. Traveling with so few items reminds us of exactly how little we need to get by. It takes the focus off of owning Things and rewires our minds into gaining enjoyment from activities and experiences. You will be surprised how few items you need while traveling, without feeling like you’re “doing without”. And that viewpoint can easily transfer on to your home life.
7. Getting to Know your Family
Traveling together is a great way to get to know each other better. Inviting your kids to help with the planning can be a real eye opener into their interests. At home, some children (especially as they become older) may not be as interested in long conversations with their parents, but that can change when you’re stuck on a plane or bus for long period of time. Kids are happy for a distraction. Add to that their excitement about being somewhere new and you’ll find they are eager to talk! Ask them what their favourite part of their day was and why that particular thing stuck out to them. Ask random silly questions (“If you found a magic lamp with a genie, what three wishes would you ask for?”). I have no doubt that some of their answers will surprise you. There is no end to the things your family can learn about each other while abroad!
8. An Excuse to Unplug!
If your kids are anything like mine, they try to get as much screen time as possible. Whether it is tv, an iPad, Leappads, video games or something fun on our cell phones, they can never seem to get enough. We limit their use to minimal amounts, but that doesn’t stop them from asking. But head on a trip somewhere and we never hear a word about it! Kids don’t care about playing a video game when they are in the middle of an interactive children’s museum in Canada, playing on a beach in Florida or exploring castles in the United Kingdom. Travel immerses kids and adults alike in exploration of the world around them, and often technology is the last thing on anyone’s mind (except for maybe a camera, of course!).
9. Meeting New People
There are a lot of people who seem to have the easiest of times meeting new people and striking up conversations with strangers. I honestly wish I was one of those people. Eric and I are both introverts. And I’m shy. Meeting people while we travel is hard, and usually only happens if someone starts a conversation with us. Enter children; People go out of their way to talk to our kids and in turn, us. Talking about/with our children is an easy gateway to other topics. If you’re in a country with traditional dress different from your own, you just know your kid is going to have questions. Children are great at initiating conversations with the locals. And it really is a win-win for all of you.
10. Memories that Last Forever
This is pretty self-explanatory, but here it is…. Traveling with your kids makes memories that will last forever. Between your own memories, travel journals, photographs and nostalgic conversations, these trips you take with your kids will never fade. The new things they try, the places they see, the new foods they eat, are so much bigger than everyday routines. Not only do you get to make great memories of times with your children, but your kids will grow up with vivid and exciting memories of their time with you.
Does your trip have you heading for the airport? Read Flights with Kids – Tips for Arriving Sane
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