Are you thinking the title of my blog post doesn’t make sense? Surely it should have been “Got Kids. Can’t Travel.” But as I visited most countries in Europe, and many states in the USA before I turned 12, and as my own children could add to that list a number of countries in Asia, as well as Australia, I have definitely seen the HUGE benefit there is to traveling with kids.
Before I go into the benefits you all will gain, let me just say I am also aware of the challenges, and more planning does need to go into travel when children are involved.
You need to make sure to plan in nap times if they are very small. You need to take plenty of snacks – especially if they may struggle with local food. You need to make sure your destination has kid-friendly activities.
For example, we waited until our youngest was 6 years old before embarking on a 5 week tour of Europe. Europe is expensive and we wanted to be sure all our children were old enough to appreciate the history and beauty.
Also, when I say ‘travel’, it does not mean only overseas travel. It also refers to travel in your own country. It means going anywhere outside your immediate environment to encounter something a little different.
So – why travel?
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
Travel teaches children to be appreciative of other cultures
Travel allows children to interact with other people – so similar to themselves in many ways – yet with different ways of doing things. Hopefully they will come to an understanding that culture is one of things that makes us unique and interesting.
They will see people from different cultures who are kind and funny and smart – and learn that their own culture isn’t superior – just different.
As a child who grew up in South Africa, I got to experience a day in an American school – and that was fascinating. My own children got to have fun with children in Laos – my son took this photo.
Travel gives children an understanding of our global village.
People all across the globe are easily connected today by the internet, planes and other modern technologies. And although all people share common characteristics, there are also huge differences as a result of the location and culture one grows up in.
Travel prepares children to grow up to be adults who can thrive in jobs where they are regularly dealing with people from other countries. It also makes them more concerned about people all over the world. I know the unrest in Egypt has been so much more ‘real’ to our family as we walked those streets you see in the news, and we spoke to many unhappy Egyptians when we visited 5 years ago.
Travel teaches children to be adaptable
When you leave the comfort of your own home town, you are setting off on an adventure. No matter how carefully you have planned your trip, there will be travel issues and many other surprises. The food and the climate and the terrain and so much more will be different and your children will need to learn to ‘go with the flow’ and cope in a variety of situations. Things definitely won’t be the same as they are at home!
We started traveling with our youngest when she was 6 months old. I kept her in her usual routine as much as possible – I put her to sleep at nap time wherever we were. Once that was in the British Science Museum, and once in the Ice Palace at the top on the Jungfrau in Switzerland. While I watched her, my husband was with the other children, so they could carry on having fun.
Our children have watched us ‘problem solve’ when our plans went awry and now as they are older, I see them capably manage to travel on their own. They are not concerned about going into the unknown and love the adventure of exploring somewhere new. Often the things that go wrong lead you to some of the best memories of a trip – or at least, the ones you talk about the most afterwards!
Travel lets you ‘feel’ history
Whenever possible, we try to let our children experience some of the history they have studied recently. After studying ancient Rome, it was incredible to stand in the Colosseum, walk around the dusty remains of Pompeii and visit the Roman Baths in Bath, England – a great reminder of how far their Empire stretched.
When our older children had a year of intensive US History we spent a few days in Washington DC. How amazing to have so much of the nation’s history all around one! This is so much more meaningful than studying history as a list of dates and events!
I could come up with so many other benefits, but this post is getting long, so I will let you suggest more in the comments. I do just want to end with a quote from one of my past students. Sarah F said this to me on returning from her first trip out of the country:
I have taken Geography classes and learned about what’s out there. But to actually see it was incredible. It really opened my eyes to the world.
If any of you would like me to follow this up with more posts about how to travel with children, let me know in the comments. It is something I have had first hand experience of all my life! And I know how to do it very cheaply too!
All photos (except the one from Laos) are my husband’s. Visit his Travel and Photography Blog if you still need to be convinced it is worth while traveling!