Traveling with your kids will teach them much more than they can ever absorb in a classroom setting. Learning about diverse cultures and languages, international cuisine, indigenous art, and distinct landscapes is much more perceivable and palpable in real life than it is in a textbook. Taking your kids outside of their own bubble and their own neighborhood will inspire a greater connection to the world, stretching their minds into a new empathetic understanding. Suddenly, the Earth seems to be a massive space, where you only occupy a tiny swath, yet your desire to explore and protect it grows.
Adventuring somewhere new will surely light up your children’s brains and set them up for a lifetime of discovery. Read on to unearth the benefits of wandering with your brood because instilling the travel bug in your kids is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give.
Get Over the Hump
Let’s be real: Traveling with kids is not always easy. Little ones necessitate an enormous amount of gear and tricky nap schedules; school-aged kids don’t necessarily want to do everything you’ve meticulously planned on the itinerary (and will let you know about it!), and older kids might be embarrassed about any affection or attention you give them in public. It can be grounds for a social and logistical mêlée as you navigate the somewhat complicated territory.
Sometimes you just have to muscle through the crying on airplanes, whining at restaurants, refusals to sleep in their own bed (even though you paid for an extra room), and all of the drama that happens when you’re wayfaring with kids. Eventually, you too will get to the sweet spot of having well-traveled, down-to-earth, flexible children who can make eye contact, engage in conversations with full sentences, and not make a colossal mess at the restaurant table. The more you expose your kids to different cultures, foods, and economic diversity, the more they will be adaptable and amenable to change.
Think and Connect Deeper
Leaving home and seeking out a unique destination is an excellent way for parents to dial into their children’s experiences. Kids will inevitably ask questions about something they’re seeing or doing, and adults will have the opportunity to have more in-depth discussions. Without the distractions of regular day-to-day routines and domestic obligations, guardians can interact with their youngsters in a supportive way, encouraging inquisitiveness.
Children will learn how to talk to new people they meet along the way respectfully, make eye contact, and express gratitude. Teaching your young ones that they can travel throughout the world, bump elbows with strangers, initiate conversations in an unfamiliar language with other kids, and observe different ways of living will assuredly reward them with confidence and compassion.
Make Learning Stick
Of course, you can learn about a different country, or even a different city in America, through studying the humanities, geography, or global history in school; however, nothing beats how well you’ll retain the information if you’re actually out exploring. Kids are tactile learners who benefit a great deal from tapping into all five senses, which is why most parents are cautious and concerned about the amount of time our kids are sucked into digital games and screens.
Getting outside to feel the bark and count the rings of a pine tree or tasting the salt on your lips from the ocean or hearing a songbird fly overhead engages our ability to send information to our brain, which helps us perceive the world. Visiting cities with prodigious art and science museums, ones with special programs or access to experts, is also ideal for interactive, hands-on learning.
Socialize with Strangers
Kids who travel learn how to communicate to everyone, regardless of financial stability, the color of someone's skin, their gender, or their age. They'll say hello to hikers on a trail and move to the side, make a new friend at the campground pool, help an older adult in need of a subway seat, and express appreciation to anyone who offers their assistance or kindness. Teaching your children how to order a meal at a diner or a hectic snack stand, follow the social rules of public transportation (keep quiet in Tokyo), or ask for help in an emergency creates a lasting impact that is super important for their cognitive development. Your children will learn that they can advocate for themselves, have agency over their decisions, operate independently, and, most important of all, be visible. When you're seen (and you know you've been seen), you'll be more aware of the noises you create, the regard you're giving to someone else's property or space, and the overall mindfulness and humanity you're revealing to others.
Create a Verbal Journal
One of the best benefits of traveling with your family is that everyone will walk away from the same experience with a different perspective. Your kids will remember the gold flakes that topped their ice cream in Japan or the fluffy dog that jumped out of a fountain and made a group of uniform-clad school kids scream or the bubble foam teen beach party in the Dominican Republic. You might remember precisely how the mountain huckleberries tasted when you plucked them from the bush in Montana or how your husband almost cried when he hit a deer while on a long road trip. Telling your stories, reliving the adventure, will not only bring your family closer together, but also, it will be a source of great delight and love.
Fill the Happiness Bank
Travel affords meaningful experiences that trump material possessions. Parents who place the importance on creating memories over amassing excessive amounts of toys and personal belongings teach their kids the value of making real connections with people, with family. It can be argued that too much screen or video game time places kids in an insular world, away from loved ones and people who care. It’s the real world connections, the relationships we invest in and build, that are building blocks to happiness. When your kids are adults, and they think back to their childhood, likely their happiest memories will be ones from a family trip. These recollections can also be a powerful tool to use during particularly challenging times, offering a sense of reflection or joy.
We can’t know what our kids will grow up to be and do in adulthood, but, as parents, we hope they choose a career that will bring them joy and intellectual fulfillment. Traveling is an excellent barometer of passion. Maybe visiting an animal sanctuary will inspire your child to become a veterinarian, or volunteering at a beach cleanup will motivate your kid to delve into marine biology, or taking an international cooking class will ignite a budding chef. By visiting different destinations across the globe, passions will be kindled and at the very least, a desire to learn will be nurtured.
Make Nature a Part of the Equation
Kids know what to do outside. Sticks become swords, moss and bark become fairy homes, and stones become saucers to launch in rivers. Children naturally move their bodies more, exploring the natural world all around them, and their intellects are alert. Imaginative play is the name of the game in the great outdoors. Research backs the idea that kids who spend time breathing fresh air and playing in nature are healthier physically, emotionally, and psychologically than youngsters who dominate inside spaces.
Planning a trip where kids can be active out-of-doors will benefit them in spades. Go on a hiking adventure, build a campfire and sleep outside, spend time on a farm or go horseback riding—it doesn’t matter what you do, just go outside.
It's not often that a trip goes off without a hitch. Everyone, parents included, will have their patience tested and have to learn how to rise to the occasion, which is a fantastic perk of taking your family out of their comfort zone. Flights get delayed or canceled, drivers lose their sense of direction, precious "lovies" get lost, humans get sick, and sometimes people are rude. Chances are, you'll have to wait in a long line or two, with nowhere to sit, and then have to sprint to make a connection, with all of your luggage in tow. The hurry-up-and-wait philosophy is often the modus operandi. Your kids might turn their noses up at each dish on the menu and be forced to have a meal of squished granola bars from your backpack.
Any setback you encounter while traveling is an opportunity to teach your kids problem solving and how to work together as a family for the common goal. Kids will have to learn how to be patient and not interrupt when adults are talking, wait their turn for an activity, and keep their cool when things don’t go their way. Tolerance, resiliency, and stamina will be tools in your kids’ toolbox post voyage. Everyone will be more adept at going with the flow, expecting the unexpected, and relishing the ride.