Recently over a rare lunch out together, my 18-year-old daughter and I were discussing her future plans, and the topic turned to having a family.
“Get to know each other first,” I advised. “Travel. See the world.”
She laughed. “We can travel with babies. You did.”
Traveling with kids is not without challenges, but as parents who believe in travel as part of a broader education, it was gratifying to see we are raising kids who believe the same. (Even if she needs a small dose of reality – but there’s time for that.) As parents, we’re all working toward that victory dance, right?
The victory dance is a pretty awesome experience, but the reasons to travel with your children run far deeper. Here are some of the many reasons we have chosen to make traveling with our kids a priority.
Learning from the World
Which experience would you remember more vividly – reading about a Civil War battlefield in your textbook, or putting your feet on the soil and touring the site?
The world is filled with things to learn and experience, and having the opportunity to fill their senses with a place and learn about it first-hand is a beautiful gift. Children who reinforce the dates, places, and stories they learn in books with real-world experiences are sure to learn in a more meaningful way.
My kids adore photo books. We have printed photo books for many of the trips we have been on, and they love to flip through photos of past trips and reminisce. Shared experiences are the best experiences, and the memories we have made as a family bring us together.
The family that travels together learns how to navigate the unexpected as a unit, bonding in new ways that don’t happen in a four-bedroom house with individual space for everyone to retreat to. Stepping away from the school schedules and busy routines that keep us all in line from day to day allows a family to experience each other in ways we simply don’t usually have time for.
Becoming More Flexible
Speaking of schedules and routines, travel helps children to become more flexible. Sometimes flights are delayed, or the accommodations aren’t quite what you expected, or the food is something totally unexpected. Kids who travel learn to adapt and adjust to situations that are thrown their way.
Does that mean they magically learn to handle any situation? Of course not. But it does mean they have the tools and experiences to be better equipped for flexibility. Kids learn to say YES to a wide variety of experiences, because they have the last time and the time before to lean on.
When children are exposed to different cultures, whether it be from the next town or a country halfway around the world, they learn to accept others and see more ways we are the same than ways we are different. We could all use a little more exposure to the way others live, and starting this exposure early gives your kids a head start on being tolerant teens and adults.
One of my favorite things that happens when your family is made up of little travelers is a great expansion of curiosity. My nine-year-old’s understanding of geography could rival the average high school grad, and she constantly asks questions and seeks out information to grow her knowledge. She adores museums, and takes her time to enjoy a museum or exhibit. She shares my urge to see basically everything and go basically everywhere. Igniting her curiosity at a very young age (she first visited New Zealand before she could walk) has had a great impact on the person she is growing to become.
Have you had the opportunity to travel with your children? What benefits would you add to this list? I’d love to hear!
Next month’s topic: start in your own backyard
Crysta Parkinson lives with her husband and nine-year-old daughter, Bria, in Williston. They have a big “his, hers, and ours” family, with five of their six children now grown and off exploring the world on their own. Crysta is a freelance writer, social media manager, and blogger. She can be found online at http://www.crystaparkinson.com and and her travel blog, http://wellwornsuitcase.com