Travel is a big part of our family life. We travel for work. We travel to see family. We travel to visit our home nations. And we travel for fun.
Before having kids, granted, I traveled a lot more. My work was on-the-go and I preferred it that way. Since having kids we’ve chosen to stay put a bit more – make sure we have some roots down, a little more routine, and a little more stability.
In saying that, we still travel far more than the average family. In the last four-and-a-half years since becoming parents, we’ve taken our kids on more than fifty flights with our small children. I guess you could say that’s a lot by most standards, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Although parents are often afraid to travel with small children, and sometimes fear what other travelers will think (especially during air travel), we have found traveling with our kids to be immensely rewarding and we hope to continue right throughout their childhood and teenage years.
To us, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Here’s why we love and encourage others to also travel with kids:
1. Traveling with kids teaches them about life beyond the bubble.
For our friends who are of European descent, they know this intrinsically. They go to other nations as much or more than we visit other cities or states. But whether it’s travelling domestically, or traveling internationally, kids reap huge benefits from being exposed to culture and lifestyle that is different to their own.
2. Traveling with kids gives families opportunity to learn together.
One of our core values as a family is life-long learning and personal development and growth. When we travel together, we put our entire family in a position as learners – learning about new places, different aspects of history, interesting traditions, new foods, and different worldviews.
3. Traveling with kids creates spectacular family memories.
Whether it’s a trip to the beach, a road trip to a national park, a train trip across Europe, or an outreach to a developing nation – families that travel together create memories that stand apart from the other (just as important) family memories made from meals around the holiday table or summer backyard campouts. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve taking long road trips down the west coast of America to visit grandparents and hop across the border to Mexico. I wonder what our children will classify as their favorites?
4. Traveling with kids promotes family bonding.
The family that piles in one hotel room together, or wades through villages in knee-deep mud together, or explores new cities together has an opportunity to grow closer through shared experiences that break their norm – both the inconvenient ones and the delightful ones.
5. Traveling with kids allows them to become great travelers.
Our kids have been traveling since my youngest was seven weeks old when I first took him from Australia to America to visit my family. . . and he’s been traveling ever since. At four years old he’s now a fantastic traveler – he knows what to expect, he understands the different standards we have for rules and behavior on the road, and he looks forward to going new places. Kid are adaptable anyway, but the more they travel, the better travelers they become.
6. Traveling with kids means you get to go to “kid places”.
Of course, you can go anywhere you want anyway, but when you’re with kids it’s kind of fun to have the “excuse” to visit a theme park, stay at a place with a pool, or delight in the zoo. When you travel with kids, you’re more aware of looking for opportunities for fun. And fun is never a bad thing!
7. Traveling with kids allows you to build a unique bridge into other cultures.
When you travel alone or with another adult, it’s easy to bump along in your own little world and never meet any locals unless you put yourself out there and try. But when you’re with kids you’re almost forced to meet people – it becomes effortless. Kids make friends so easily, which is one of the simplest ways to have a door opened into local culture. If you’re in a place very different to your own, locals may also want to take their pictures, hold them, or at minimum gush about how cute they are. Go with whatever you’re comfortable with (and your kids are comfortable with), but enjoy the special way of connecting with people that comes through the shared bond of parenthood. It’s a universal humanizer and really is a beautiful thing.
8. Traveling with kids helps you see the world with curiosity, wonder, and imagination.
Your kids will constantly surprise you with the things they notice, the differences and similarities they spot, and the questions they ask. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is never a bad thing. Traveling affords you the opportunity to do that on a whole new level. Priceless.
9. Traveling with kids shows them they can survive without a house exploding with toys.
There is so much excess associated with American and Australian cultures (the ones to which my husband and I belong), and along with the excess often comes entitlement. None of our families are exempt from these things. We love the opportunity to travel and see how other cultures live and entertain themselves, as well as the chance for our kids to see that they can still have a great time, just playing with a small, kid-size backpack full of carefully selected toys.
10. Traveling with kids helps you to slow down.
Granted, this one can sometimes feel like a frustration. But if we can get over our go-go-go, face-paced tendencies and tune in to our kids’ pace a little more, the way they cause us to slow down our travel can only be a blessing. Slower travel grants you more chances to notice, enjoy, appreciate, and let it all soak in.
11. Traveling with kids helps them gain courage and confidence.
Just like us, when they are introduced to new concepts and experiences, kids are given opportunities to grow not only in knowledge, but in character. Introducing them to new cultures and new people and new ways of living, helps kids to learn more about who they are and where they come from, and also gives them practice to stretch their wings in a safe environment (a family environment) and grow in courage and confidence.
12. Traveling with kids enforces the notion that kids are people, too.
So often we forget that kids are people, too. We assume they won’t appreciate experiences as much as we will and so it’s not worth the effort/expense/fill-in-the-blank. But kids, just like us, crave new experiences, exciting learning opportunities, and adventure. When we choose to allow them to participate in real adventures and real experiences in the real world along with us, we communicate to them that we trust them, esteem them, and honor their sense of personhood and intrinsic value along with our own.
Friends, have you traveled with your kids? If so, what’s your favorite thing about taking the whole family? And if you haven’t yet, what do you fear the most about traveling with kids?