If you haven’t taken a family trip yet, there is no better time! Many parents feel nervous and unsure about traveling with their young children, but providing your kids with experiences over things is so valuable on many different levels. It can seem like a lot to take on; packing the car and heading to an unfamiliar destination. Will baby/toddler sleep well in a different bed? Will the room be dark enough? What if their nap schedule is ruined? How can we possibly bring everything we need? Will they cry on the airplane? These are familiar concerns from parents who have yet to take their first family vacation. Once you actually do it, I promise, it isn’t as bad as you might think! Traveling as a family exposes your kids to so many wonderful opportunities that you often can’t replicate at home.
First and foremost, traveling allows for wonderful quality time as a family. I always find that family trips bring us closer together with so much special time to bond and connect on a deeper level than just day to day interactions. With so many busy schedules, activities, work trips, preschool, play dates, etc. it is easy to forget to take time to slow down and make connections through experiences. Unplugging, truly listening to each other and being engaged makes the experience of travel so meaningful. Life long memories and connections can be made!
Second, traveling can refocus your priorities on people and experiences, not stuff. With birthday parties, surprises from grandma, hand me downs from friends/neighbors it is easy to get caught up in accumulating stuff. We live in a very consumer minded world with ample over consumption, especially when it comes to toys. Personally, I like to live by the approach that ‘less is more’, but can easily get derailed from this. Taking a family trip and traveling with less allows for you to refocus on the people around you and the experiences rather than things. A break from the excess generally helps kids appreciate what they have at home much more.
Third, traveling broadens your child’s horizons and allows them to experience other cultures, traditions, types of foods and races. These invaluable experiences teach so much about the world around us. Most kids can’t conceptualize much beyond their home, school and their familiar environment. Showing them that the world is bigger than their backyard gives them the tools to begin to realize other people and lifestyles exist. Again, seeing people who look different is a fabulous way to show your kids the amazing diversity our world has to offer. Talking about these differences and modeling your support for all people are the building blocks to raising children with open minds. Not only does travel expose them to new cultures, it is also fun to observe new animals in their natural habitats. Kids love seeing and learning about unfamiliar animals and bugs, and their habitats. Their curious minds will have a million questions!
Fourth, traveling can provide your children additional learning opportunities to problem solve and try new things such as hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, skiing, etc. Encouraging your child to try new things and take risks is also helping them learn to be a good problem solver. You can certainly seek out new activities at home (dance, karate, music), but often a new environment (when traveling) lends itself to different activities not offered within your direct community. Some fun examples of this are hula dancing in Hawaii, rafting in the mountains, zip lining, snorkeling, boating, skiing, etc.
Fifth, travel can provide opportunities for your kids to become more flexible with routines and sleep conditions. I know I am guilty of making sure my kids sleep in perfect conditions; room temp regulated, blackout shades and sound machines on. This makes it tough to have them take an impromptu nap on the beach or in the car while traveling. While it is certainly important to try and follow your normal routines and bedtimes when traveling, it is also ok for your kids to stay up late a night or two and sleep in the bathroom. Flexibility with routine is another great skill for kids to learn through travel. My kids have slept in hotel closets, bathrooms and everywhere in between! Surprisingly, they are still alive and actually slept well in those places despite my initial hesitations. Kids are flexible and can adapt to new places, so pack those bags and take that family trip you’ve been thinking about!