Traveling with children can seem daunting, but it is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your family. When my kids were young, people always thought it odd that we would travel with them starting when they were babies. After all, they would never remember it, right? Though, by that logic, we shouldn’t have taken them anywhere. I know there are some things the kids don’t remember, but we don’t regret a second of it. The decision to take your children on vacation and at what age is deeply personal, but with a little planning and an open mind, you will give them a gift that can last a lifetime.
Here are just 7 reasons why you should start traveling with your kids when they are young.
Build confidence and independence
As your children see you navigate unfamiliar territory, whether it is a city near home you have never been to or a country abroad, they will learn that the world is not such a scary place. Moving beyond their comfort zone in the activities presented to them or the foods they eat will only build their confidence. I’ve seen my kids walk a beam 6 feet over the side of a cruise ship, dive into 30ft of water to swim under a waterfall, jump off a diving platform into a Jamaican river and eat all sorts of interesting things. They are grown now (when did that happen?) and there is almost nothing they won’t try at least once.
Allows them to become more flexible and adaptable
Travel can throw a kid for a loop. Different time zones, new bedtimes, different foods. By presenting the opportunity to deviate from their normal routines, you will help them become more flexible and able to adapt to different situations later in life. They’ll be able to handle anything that comes their way when they are older.
When my children were 3 and 6, we took them to Spain. Through a whole comedy of errors, we missed our connection in Paris resulting in a 7-hour layover in the airport. My husband and I were agitated, but they thought it was a grand adventure. Jet lag? A good night’s sleep and it was if they never left their time zone. After that trip, I realized that all my pre-trip worrying was for naught.
Make them compassionate citizens of the world
Children are little sponges and probably the most observant creatures on earth. By exposing them to the world outside their bubbles, they will learn to appreciate the diversity around them and the gifts they have been given in life. It is a small world, yet it is huge at the same time. As they grow older, they will have knowledge and awareness that will allow them to find their place in this beautiful world of ours.
Expose their brains to new languages
No, they won’t necessarily understand what they are hearing, especially when little. But exposure to foreign languages will help them develop their English skills more rapidly. A 2017 study also showed that even limited exposure to another language results in greater retention later on. As they get a little older and you travel internationally, they will understand how language works and relates around the world. Encourage them to learn and try out basic words and phrases to get around. The look of satisfaction on their faces when people understand and appreciate their efforts will be priceless, and maybe encourage them to take their language learning further.
Try new things
Travel is the best time to get your kids to try new foods and experiences. This also ties into the confidence-building we talked about earlier. We also had a rule in our family that when on vacation, they had to try a new food once a day. If they truly didn’t like it, they didn’t have to finish it, but at least try. Now, they can say they’ve eaten rattlesnake and liked it. It’s not limited to just food, though. Try activities they may not have the courage or opportunity to do at home – parasailing, snorkeling, dancing. Yes, there is a video of my teenage son dancing in Greece. You will never see it, but trust me, he did it after swearing no one would ever get him to dance!
Education is not just book learning or sitting in a seat in the classroom. Travel is probably one of the best forms of education you can give your children. The opportunities to interact with different cultures, learn about different geographies, try new foods – the learning is endless. There is no better way to learn history than to see it come to life up close and personal. Seeing Stonehenge beats sculpting it out of foam any day (my son’s project in 5th grade). And you can start before you leave home. Have your children help with the planning. Give them a budget and let them research various sights and tours to see. Ask their input. You may be surprised at what they can do and the new things they discover they love.
What’s that saying? “The days are long, but the years are short…” Time flies! When our kids are young, we tend to say “oh, we have plenty of time for that.” But, really we don’t, and before we know it, our little ones are grown and flown. So start early creating those memories that will last a lifetime. It may not be easy, but vacations with your children can slow down time, even just for a short while.
Remember, travel can be anywhere – it can be home or abroad. Open your hearts and minds, and don’t be scared to get out there with your little ones who one day will become well-traveled and world-wise adults.
Looking for a good travel book for your children? I suggest Lonely Planet’s series of travel guides written for children. Start with the Lonely Planet Travel Book; A Journey Through Every Country In the World.* Your kids will be hooked.
What’s on your bucket list? Where do you want to travel with your kids? Leave me a comment below!
*I do not receive anything for recommending the book.