Let’s be honest. Traveling with kids is not easy. It can require superhuman levels of patience, resourcefulness, and optimism, not to mention at least double the luggage. But having kids is not a reason to stay home. In fact, having kids is one of the best reasons for getting out and exploring!
The world is currently experiencing an unprecedented shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but at some point, the world will reopen, and traveling will resume. There’s no reason why we can’t dream about our next family destination now and look forward to future adventures.
It undoubtedly takes courage to pack up your family and hit the road to an unfamiliar place, but the benefits are extraordinary. At the time of this writing, our kids are five years old and two years old, and we have taken them to 10 countries on four continents and counting. But you don’t have to go far for your family to reap the benefits of traveling.
Whether you’re catching the train to a neighboring town, driving a couple of hours to a beach or lake, or venturing several time zones away from home, here are some of the best benefits of traveling with kids. Spoiler alert: traveling is just as valuable for grownups as it is for the kiddos.
Education is baked in
Perhaps one of the most obvious benefits of traveling with your kids is that it’s inherently educational. Simply walking historic, foreign streets, learning about other cultures, trying new foods and taking new recipes home to recreate, meandering through museums and parks, and encountering indigenous flora and fauna are just some of the many ways your family stands to marvel at new destinations.
Plan some easy ways to engage your family members during a trip. Create a simple scavenger hunt suited to your child’s age. Let your child loose with a digital camera to document whatever they find to be most interesting. Collect nature items that you don’t see at home.
If you’re visiting a country in which they speak a language foreign to yours, commit as a family to learn how to say “please”, “thank you”, and “good morning” in the native language. If you’re visiting family, help your child interview a grandparent or start a pen pal relationship with a cousin.
Traveling shakes up your routine (within reason)
Traveling with your kids is a prime opportunity for everyone to break out of what can sometimes be a mundane routine. We all settle into routines of school, work, eating, and sleeping, and there is certainly comfort in predictability. But every once in a while, it’s healthy for your brain and wellbeing to shake things up.
Now let me be clear: If you have a baby or toddler who requires daily naps, then by all means, try your best to honor those naps! The entire family benefits from well-rested little ones. Enough said.
Just by virtue of being in an unfamiliar place, our senses are alert and heightened. As we navigate new surroundings, our minds engage in ways unlike at home. This awareness naturally pulls us into the present and encourages that sometimes elusive practice of mindfulness. Watch your kids to see where their curiosity takes them.
Children show us new ways of looking at the world, and they remind us to slow down and take it all in. Discover a new place together. Ask them questions. Answer their questions. Dance with them. Make up silly songs together. The interactions you share will be some of the greatest benefits of traveling with your kids.
Remember that comfortable home routine referenced above? Well, traveling pushes us all outside of our comfort zone thereby teaching our kids and reminding us to be prepared for unexpected challenges and circumstances. Learning and relearning the life skills of resourcefulness, resiliency, flexibility, problem solving, and positivity are some of the many benefits of traveling with kids that come to life when you’re out in the world.
Let’s not forget the skills of actually traveling, such as booking a train ticket, packing wisely, ordering food in another language, or figuring out a foreign bus schedule.
Luggage delayed or lost? Seek out a second-hand shop for some affordable clothes. Run out of diapers at a park? Use Google Translate to ask another family if you can use one of theirs. Arrive at a museum only to find it’s closed for renovations? Pivot your plans to a botanical garden or an outdoor market. iPad battery run out of power with no outlet in sight? Take a deep breath and pull out the playing cards or spark a game of “I Spy”. And maybe throw in a round of ice cream cones for good measure. You get the idea.
Traveling also opens your kids’ minds to how other people live. Seeing and experiencing another culture firsthand can be eye-opening, as it demonstrates not just the differences but the similarities. Children have an amazing capacity to interact with their peers, find common ground, and play. Teaching tolerance and inclusivity starts early.
Here’s one more life skill to add to the mixed bag that traveling offers: gratitude. Traveling has a way of affording us new perspectives and renewed appreciation for what we have. We return home a little wiser and a little more thankful. What an invaluable lesson to share with your kids.
You make priceless memories
We create memories with our kids no matter where we are or what we’re doing. But traveling offers that extra context or unique sensory experience that helps sear memories in our brains. Festivals in foreign lands, holidays at the grandparents’ house, family reunions, beach time, camping and countless other destinations and special events provide priceless environments for creating special memories.
Collective family memories bind us and inform our sense of belonging. We grow together when we band together to navigate a foreign country or work together to pull off a family camping trip. A family is a team, and new adventures challenge the team to learn and grow.
Before you leave home, decide how you might document your family’s travels so that you can relive the memories for years to come. In practice, this could be as simple as a daily social media post. Or bring along a small notebook for your child to journal about their favorite thing each day. Maybe commit to creating a photo album or photo book of your family’s travels to display at home after you return.
Traveling doesn’t have to be far from home
The goal is simply to get out and explore new surroundings with your kids. You don’t have to travel thousands or even hundreds of miles. Grab a map and identify a few options nearby for weekend getaways. Often you can drive or take a train or ferry to nearby destinations. Create some plans that fit within your schedule and budget.
One of the many benefits of traveling with kids is that they don’t care how far you take them geographically. They will be engaged simply by being someplace new with you. And as they watch you plan and execute your family trip, they will learn, at least subconsciously, that new places are accessible, enticing, and even transformative no matter where you go.
There’s no time like the present! Think about what interests your family, and design a trip that includes something for everyone. As our world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, and virtually all traveling has come to a screeching halt, we are reminded that having goals and a positive outlook are essential. Let it be a family goal to travel someplace new after we all come out of COVID-19 hibernation. Let the countless benefits of traveling with your kids be your inspiration to muster the courage and confidence to travel. You will be so glad you did.
“Travel is challenging, and so it builds confidence. Travel can be uncomfortable, and so it fosters appreciation. Travel is exciting, and so it feeds curiosity. Travel is rewarding, and so it is worth it.”