Why Travel With Kids is an Enriching Experience
A few weeks ago, my wife Bec and I were enjoying breakfast with a two old friends we hadn’t seen in a while. We talked about what we’d all been doing, and our plans for the future. We mentioned that we’d considered travelling next year, but had changed our minds recently.
They urged us:
“If you don’t go now, you never will. You’ll get pregnant, and then that’s it. You’ll be tied down.”
Ironically, they weren’t too far from the truth: Bec is pregnant. And yes, it’s put our travel plans on hold for a while.
But I disagree with their other assertion, that having kids ties you down. Since I started working as editor for TravelBlogs.com, I’ve come across blogs of many parents who travel with their children, from the British couple who sold their home and quit their jobs to travel around Europe in a campervan with their toddler and dog, to the parents who are cycling with their 10-year old twin boys from Alaska to Patagonia.
Travel with kids is possible.
But I don’t want you to take my word for it. I asked some of the travelling parents out there to share why they believe travel with kids is not only possible, but why it’s an enriching experience for both the parents and the kids.
Debbie Dubrow (Delicious Baby)
Travel is one of many things parents can do to help their kids grow into well-rounded adults with perspective that extends beyond their own neighborhood. At home, we live a fairly routine life, with friends who are similar to us in many ways and a comfortable set of activities. It’s easy for kids to get isolated, and begin to believe their comfortable lives are the norm for everyone.
The world is getting smaller and there is no better education for our global citizens of the 21st century than world travel.
When we travel, we tend to break free of those bonds, talking with new people, and gaining a broader perspective through our new experiences. Sometimes we bring those experiences home with us, for example, the street performers in Rome helped us realize how much my son loved live music, and we started to find more opportunities to see live performances at home.
Even at a young age, kids can start to understand different lifestyles. At 3 years old, my son was fascinated to visit a Pueblo home in New Mexico and talk to the owner, a woman who chose to live without running water or electricity. When he learns more about Native Americans this Thanksgiving, he’ll bring that perspective and memory with him, and the idea of Native Americans living in Teepees won’t seem so foreign to him.
As my kids get older, and especially as we begin to visit more developing countries, I hope the travel will help them understand world events better, and help them realize that our responsibility to help extends beyond our own family and our own back yard.
Jeanne Dee (SoulTravelers3)
As we start our 3rd year of traveling the world as a family on an open ended tour, I can honestly say that traveling and seeing the world with your kids and as a family is probably the greatest thing that you could ever do for your kids and yourselves! The world is getting smaller and there is no better education for our global citizens of the 21st century than world travel. Some say it is a way to peace for our world.
Family travel is much easier, cheaper and more rewarding than most people realize. We started our open ended tour of the world when our daughter was 5 and have visited 4 continents, 25 countries, traveled over 50,000 miles ( most on land and sea) and live large on 25K a year ( even though much of it has been in “expensive” Europe). We hike, we bike, walk and have taken every mode of transportation, although our little RV is primary, it often sits as our base.
We are motivated to travel the world as a family as the very best way to educate our child and to bond deeply, spending quality, plus quantity time together, building unsurpassable shared experiences. My daughter rode a camel into the Sahara at 6 to do a violin concert for 60 Berber nomad children who never saw a violin and live without running water. We also fed them after wards and they played despite having no language in common. None of us will ever forget that experience or any of the others that took us from a very typical family to one living a treasured dream! I am convinced now that this is how life is meant to be lived, always on vacation, always Saturday.
She was reading a child’s version of Homer when we went to Troy and Ephesus in Turkey, along with Knossis in Crete, Pompeii and many other ruins. She got to talk with archeologists working on these sites and even dug up some ancient shells herself! She was reading Harry Potter as she floated down the River Cam in a punt, rode a double decker bus in London, and while waiting to watch Shakespeare at the globe and at one of his houses in Stratford. She had her sixth birthday atop the Eiffel tower, 7th listening Mozart’s Magic Flute in Salzburg, and her 8th visiting Junibacken in Stockholm where many of Astrin Lingren’s characters sang happy birthday to her in traditional Swedish style.
Life as a field trip is simply amazing!
How could you NOT think traveling with kids is worth doing?? I have traveled as a single, as a couple, with a group of friends, we have done some 3 generation touring with family on our trip too, but traveling as a family is the most sublime!
Stacy (Rambling Traveler)
I believe traveling with children is worthwhile because it exposes them to new experiences and provides unique opportunities for learning about the world we live in. In a “start as you mean to go on” fashion, we started traveling with our sons when they were very young so they would grow up as travelers who respected the earth and the people who live on it.
When we visited state and national parks, they learned about earth sciences and the importance of protecting our land. They also learned about Native American religious practices and how to show respect for those customs. When we visited historical sites and museums, they learn about the past, and when we visited sand dunes affected by deforestation, they learned even more about earth sciences. There are so many examples of this kind of hands on learning, including one of their favorite experiences, a hawk walk in Ireland where they learned a lot about birds of prey. These are all things they could have learned staying home and reading books, but the actual experience of traveling gave them first hand knowledge that not only tells them, but shows and involves them.
Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand. – Chinese Saying
Travel Tip: When our children were younger, we found our travels were more successful when we kept our itineraries flexible, included activities that appealed to our children, and worked within their schedules for eating, sleeping and playing.
Nancy Sarthre-Vogel (Family on Bikes)
It always makes me sad to hear people say kids are better off sitting in a classroom than they are out traveling and seeing the world! I can say wholeheartedly that my 21 years as a classroom teacher have taught me otherwise!
There about a million reasons why travel in general is good for kids, and a million more why traveling on bicycle is even better! Unfortunately I’ve been limited to about 250 words here, so I’ll be short… Here are some reasons why I believe travel (by bike) is great for kids and parents!
- stick-to-it-ive-ness. The boys have learned that small steps add together to make a whole. We may only travel 30 – 50 miles per day, but over time that adds up to a whole lotta miles! How many other times will they use that idea in life?
- some days are not so nice. In life, some days are not all we want them to be, but we plod through. On our journey, some days are cold or rainy or snowy or blistering hot – but we push on knowing that MOST days are nice. Isn’t that how life is?
- earth holds no boundaries. If ten-year-old kids can pedal 20,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina, is there anything they can’t do?
- understand the unifying nature of all humankind – regardless of color/religion/language. People are people, and my kids have learned that ALL kids are fun to play with, even if they can’t talk with them.
- real life video games with Mother Nature. Who needs some little idiot box when Mother Nature is all around you?
- creative. Our boys have learned to be more creative with what they have since they carry no toys. They use sticks and rocks and leaves and pine cones and berries and…
- learn in context. We may learn a whole lot of random facts and figures, but they all come in context so they mean something!
- active (in today’s sedentary world, need I say more?)
Linda (Travels with Children)
- Traveling with kids is good for kids. They find new interests, or expand on interests they already have. Trips to museums and other sites make information come alive for kids, and make it so much more exciting than a textbook or even classroom experiment can. They learn how to handle new situations, and interact with new people. They learn patience; sometimes it takes a long time to get to somewhere really exciting or interesting.
- Traveling with kids is good for parents. Taking the time to enjoy things with your kids creates a special bond with them. Traveling with kids also helps you to see more; kids notice so many things that adults miss. Kids help us take time to smell the roses. They also remind us that “seeing it all” isn’t the important part. Spending time together is what matters.
- Traveling with kids is good for other travelers. People enjoy seeing kids who are interested in history, or geography, or science, or nature. It helps remove the stereotype that kids are plugged into TV or video games all of the time, and it shows them that “kids these days” actually can interact with adults and behave appropriately (most of the time!) in public places.
Shannon Hurst Lane (Traveling Mamas)
Travel can be more educational than a textbook. When people become parents, it doesn’t mean they should take travel out of the equation. It also doesn’t mean that parents are required to bring the kids along on every trip (I enjoy solo travel as a parent). My children have been traveling since each was three weeks old, and while having little people presents more of a challenge to the parent, I also don’t ever think of my children as a burden. Bringing a life into the world comes with so many responsibilities, one of which is educating our children. I’m so thankful that my parents had enough sense to take me on family trips during my formative years. I learned that there is more to the world than the insular little world I was living in, so of course I want to pass these travel experiences on to my children. Also, I’ve been traveling solo since I was seven years old and to halt travel for me is to take something away from my soul. I wouldn’t be who I am without travel, and if I can’t be me then I can’t be a good mother. Whether people travel with or without children depends on the individual family unit, the personalities that make up that unit, and the lifestyle they are able to achieve. I cherish the memories I have traveling with my children and I know they will always remember these experiences when they are grown and leave the nest. Our children have an entire universe to explore and as a parent, it is my duty to introduce them to as much as I can.
Michelle Duffy (Wandermom)
Travel is education, it’s as simple as that. I can travel with my children without leaving my home, using books and the internet to show them people and places around the world. But when I can, I prefer to actually travel with them, to explore and discover the wide, wide world together. Travel with children is so much more than the details of how to get to your destination and where to sleep, it’s the feeling you get when your older child accurately explains the intricacies of a divided country such as Cyprus to your younger child because he’s seen and learned through being there.
Alice and Scott Smith (Living the Rural Dream)
As long-time travellers we had reservations when our daughter arrived 18-months ago that we could take her on the road with us at such a young age. Lots of people seem to have a negative view about travelling with children as if it’s some nightmarish experience … and I guess we did wonder if they were right. However, our daughter received her passport at 8 weeks and has covered a lot of ground since then, so we now feel in a position to dispel the myth that you can’t travel with children!
OK, so you can’t go out drinking at bars all night (although Spanish bars are pretty accommodating to youngsters), but you get to see a new side of town and experience destinations through fresh eyes. Yes you have to be more prepared and think ahead a little bit: clothes, bedding, bottles, toys etc, but as long as you’re prepared to master the art of changing nappies one-handed on the back of your truck or in plane toilets (Scott is particularly good at this), as well as train your child not to be a fussy eater, you’re halfway there.
With regard to our situation, we feel that by hitting the road as a family we get to spend valuable time together, sharing experiences and building a strong bond and our daughter gets to enjoy life with fewer restrictions. Not only that but we feel (and hope) that by being exposed to varied cultures and languages from such a young age she will grow up with a more open and understanding view of the world. And ultimately, far from being nightmarish, it’s just plain and simply fun!