My inspiration for this blog was borne of the frustration of listening to parents say that their kids were too young to travel. In truth, no perfect age exists to start traveling with kids, so just start now. Beginning while they’re younger helps children develop a deeper appreciation for the world around them.
The Big Picture
The big picture of traveling as a family and starting when kids are young is this: The memories created through travel and the family connections made are irreplaceable. Sitting at dinner, we find ourselves recounting our adventures, the foods we tried, our best snorkeling experiences, and the moments when things didn’t go as planned but we worked through it and can now laugh about it.These memories bond us together as a family. Spending time together, in a small hotel room as we finish out an amazing day touring, creates closeness and shared moments. As kids age, they become more independent and pull away. Their activities become more self-involved, spending time with their friends is a priority, and now you find yourself struggling to find the time to get away as a family together. As we age, all of us will reach a moment when we wish we had spent more time with our kids. The time is not coming back.
Some Will Say, My Kids are to Young to Appreciate Travel or Even Remember Their Journeys
The life lessons and development they are gaining through traveling outweighs this argument. Taking kids at a young age out of their schedule and comfort zone can help develop them into kids who can adapt to new situations, learn to problem solve, and help to understand and appreciate the world around them. Travel is more than appreciating paintings; it’s about learning to be resilient, too.
Introduce them to the Larger World
Traveling with young kids introduces them to new sights and smells that they may not experience on their neighborhood playground. It exposes them to people of different cultures, and helps reshape their view of the world.
These are experiences cannot be taught in a traditional classroom. Our older son still speaks about how he will never eat durian fruit again, but it’s that moment in the outdoor Chinese market in Bangkok that exposed him to a taste he would never have had at home. Or when our daughter tasted fresh pineapple picked right out of the growing field in Costa Rica that she realized the intensity of how sweet something could be when it’s fresh. Our kids realized it’s not just about Instagram, while we were stuck during monsoon in a Hmong raised, bamboo hut in the middle of the jungle of Thailand, eating fermented tea leaves while listening to the rain hit the thatched roof.
It Will Make Your Kids More Adaptable and Flexible
Traveling with your kids will take them out of routine and structure and that’s okay as life does not always go according to plan. It’s an important lesson to help our kids deal with the unpredictable. They will survive and become stronger and more adaptable to change. We took our kids to Israel one summer and our daughter did not do well with the time change, her sleep was messed up for a night which meant ours was too, but eventually she adapted and we had a wonderful 8 days together. On our overnight flight to Spain, our middle child decided to stay up all night to binge watch movies, against our wishes. We all paid the price our first day in Madrid, but he learned an invaluable lesson, that it’s important to try to get some sleep on overnight flights. He adapted the next time we flew overnight.
Unplugging and Bonding
We are all so plugged in all the time these days. Traveling with your kids is a way to unplug and create family closeness. Since we have been traveling with our kids, we have had specific downtimes when the kids can use their electronics (usually an hour a day), other than that time, the electronics are locked up and forgotten about. In place of them are time spent growing together as a family.
At whatever age your kids are when they travel, they are creating memories or memories you as parents can share with them when they are older. We talk together of our shared travels. We discuss how amazing it was that our kids were able to bathe elephants at a elephant nature reserve in Chiang Mai,Thailand. These memories are a gift to children at any age, memories that cannot not necessarily be made with material items bought on the request of your kids. A substantial body of research supports that we are more fulfilled with memories made than items bought.
More Adept to Saying Yes to New Experiences
Traveling with kids at a young age makes them more inclined to accept new challenges and experiences. Since a young age, they have been exposed to new adventures and different situations that they are eager to take on more. They may have to change their meal times or eating style, going from using a fork and knife to trying to
figure out how to use chopsticks. From a young age our kids have been willing to take on any adventure thrown their way. Our older son and daughter didn’t think twice when offered to zip line across a 50 feet-deep gorge when they were 7 and 8 years old.
Not Always Smooth Sailing
It goes without saying that there will be issues when traveling with young kids. Sleep will be interrupted, meltdowns will happen in the middle of a restaurant, but this helps to create problem solving in a constructive manner and learn from experience. Kids also will learn how to deal with situations and become more patient. The plane could be delayed for 8 hours or re-routed, the hotel could sell our room, and we might need to find a new place to stay at the last minute. These are all ways to learn and problem-solve; kids learn from their experiences. The lesson is that getting upset is not going to fix anything, but working through the issue and coming up with a solution will help to solve the problem. These are lessons kids will take with them through life.
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