Just hearing the word “travel” makes me want to pack my bags and go! Well, that’s not entirely accurate. It makes me want someone else to pack my bags so that I can just go! I’ve always loved to travel, even as a little girl. I loved the new sights, experiences, tastes and the novelty of never knowing quite what to expect.
As a parent, I’ve passed my love of travel on to my three kids. Packing for my large family is more of a chore than in the glory days of packing for one, but the joy of travel together far outweighs the effort required to make it happen. We’ve taken on marathon road trips, visits overseas, local explorations and vacations ranging from super active to those where we channel our inner beached whales. Each one has left us with lasting memories and has brought us closer as a family.
Traveling with kids requires more – more planning, more packing, more money, more energy, more patience and flexibility and, well… more. All of that can lead parents to take fewer trips or to shy away from taking a family trip at all. There are so many wonderful things that our children learn from travel that it’s worth the effort to make it happen. And, I can tell you from experience, the more you do it, the better you all become at it, making subsequent trips easier and even more enjoyable.
While travel can be expensive, causing many families to forgo taking trips together, it doesn’t always have to break the bank. With a little creativity, you and your kids can reap the benefits of traveling without a hefty hit to your wallet.
If you need to keep costs minimal, consider less expensive experiences like day trips, visiting state parks or camping. If you have zero budget for travel, consider “traveling” in your own home. Research a place that you’d like to visit. Then route the trip, make a traditional meal from that area, listen to “local” music, make homemade crafts and decorations embodying that location, and even dress as you would if you were a resident of that city or town.
Here are just some of the ways your children can benefit from travel:
- Sense of adventure
Learning to seek out new experiences and try new things starts young. When your child becomes comfortable putting himself out there at a young age, that zest for life is more likely to carry on into adulthood.
- Acquire new skills
Traveling teaches kids skills they might not learn otherwise, such as how to board a plane, ride the subway, order in another language, read a map, behave in a hotel, ride a city bus, pack a bag and myriad
Research shows that children gain confidence when they feel a sense of accomplishment or self-assuredness. Travel provides the opportunity to master new skills and navigate new experiences, offering an excellent way to build confidence.
- Flexibility and patience
We all know travel horror stories like the time that the plane sat on the tarmac for hours, the car got a flat or the museum was closed for repairs. Travel requires you to go-with-the-flow when things go wrong and to practice the patience needed for riding in the car for hours or for standing in long lines. The more your children practice being flexible and patient, the more likely they will be able to call upon those skills when they need to be flexible and patient at school, at home or with friends.
- Appreciation for others
The best way to learn about different ways of living and being is to experience them firsthand. Travel broadens children’s minds, leading to understanding, appreciation, tolerance and compassion – beautiful character traits to instill in our kids.
- Better understanding of geography
It is one thing to read about the piney woods of East Texas when you’re surrounded by live oak and cedar, but it is another thing altogether to stand at the base of a pine tree, drinking in the scent and staring up into the needles. Experiences are ripe with sensations, which help us to form longer-lasting memories. Experiencing the varied topography of our country – or other countries – helps children to truly learn and understand geography.
- Family bonding
Let’s be real here. You’re going to have some tough moments when traveling as a family. Sometimes you may even wonder if you’re actually un-bonding! But, overall, traveling together helps you grow closer. Sharing novel experiences leads to lasting memories – ones that you will talk about for years after. It’s unlikely you can say the same about the time you all sat around watching a TV show together. Shared experiences become the family lore that reminds us that we are all in this together.
While the idea of traveling with children might be overwhelming, remind yourself that the goal is not perfection. No matter what your trip looks like, or how it goes, you will be making family memories and teaching your children to be open to new experiences. So, what are you waiting for? Get packing!
Alison Bogle is a writer living in Austin with her husband and three children. A former fourth-grade teacher, she now enjoys writing about children and education.