Why traveling is one of the best gifts we can give our children – and ourselves
Our family of 5 is often associated with the words crazy, spontaneous, adventurous, and dare we say, downright nuts. We’ve got a non-stop yapping 8-year-old backseat driver, a toddler who thinks the car is their personal crumb-covered buffet, and a baby who’s still testing out their lungs (and my limits) like she is a didgeridoo. Yup, we’re the type of family that takes the phrase “thrill-seekers” to a whole new level. It is never a dull moment with us around. It’s like a live-action version of the movie ‘Home Alone’, but instead of Kevin, we’ve got the whole gang. We are always on the lookout for the next great adventure, and we’re not afraid to take on challenges that would send other families running for the hills. We live for the thrill, the excitement and we enjoy doing things that other people would find overwhelming. But despite all the challenges that come with traveling with kids, we still do it all the time, because we believe it’s the best gift we can give them. The memories we create and the experiences we share together as a family are truly priceless.
So, why do we do it? Why do we subject ourselves to road trip sing-a-longs and rest stop loo breaks? Because we believe that the world is one big amusement park and we want our kids to have a lifetime pass! We want them to have stories to tell their future therapist, oh, I mean friends. We want to show them that there’s more to life than just the four walls of our home, and that the world is full of opportunities to make unforgettable memories.
So, what’s our motivation for introducing our children to the world through travel? This is my little “Kid’s Travel Guide”:
1. It broadens their horizons
Traveling with kids means exposing them to different cultures, languages and ways of living – expanding their horizons and their taste buds! Not only do they learn that the world is diverse and there are many ways to live, but they also develop empathy and understanding for people who are different from themselves. And hopefully, they might even branch out and order something other than chicken nuggets when they grow up!
2. It teaches them to be resourceful
Traveling with kids is like taking a wild roller coaster ride, full of unexpected twists and turns. But that’s the beauty of it! The little ones will learn to expect the unexpected and become top-notch problem-solvers. They’ll learn how to think on their feet when their luggage goes walkabout or their favourite toy gets left behind at a rest stop. They’ll learn how to navigate unfamiliar places and make new mates despite language barriers. And all these skills will come in handy when they’re grown-ups, like when they’re stranded in an airport and have to get creative with their tucker because they forgot to stock up on snacks. It’s a valuable life skill for any adult: how to survive on airport pretzels.
3. It creates unforgettable memories
Traveling with kids can be suuuperrr hectic, but it’s all worth it for the memories you’ll create together. From exploring ancient ruins, to trying new foods, to getting lost in the middle of nowhere, the experiences you’ll have together will be something you’ll remember for the rest of your days. Those memories will be way more interesting than the ones where they’re just staring at their screens.
4. It’s quality time
Traveling with kids is like a family vacation and therapy session all rolled into one. You’ll bond over the good, the bad, and the “are we there yet” moments. Whether you’re exploring a new city, hitting up the theme parks or just lounging on the beach, the opportunity to spend quality time together without the distractions of everyday life is priceless. Just think of all the great stories you’ll have to tell after surviving a trip with kids. Just don’t forget to pack the sunscreen, otherwise it’s not going to be quality time, just crispy time.
5. It’s fun!
Traveling with kids is a recipe for fun, adventure and a whole lot of shenanigans. It’s a chance for them to see new places and try a lot of new things. It’s an opportunity for them to be the ‘big kid’ and make decisions for themselves, like whether to try that street food vendor or stick to the hotel’s buffet (hint: ALWAYS go for the street food, it’s where you’ll find the real local flavours). And if all else fails, it’s an excuse for the parents to act like kids too, and make memories that will last a lifetime.
6. It plants seeds for future memories
Even though very young children may not remember every little detail of their travels (or at all), the experiences they have and the memories you create together can shape their perspective and interests for the future, and they’ll still carry the emotional connection they have with the family (this is a big one for me). It’s like planting a seed; they may not remember the exact details of the trip, but they’ll have a sense of familiarity and fondness for the places they visited, and that could inspire them to return and make new memories as they get older. If you ask me, what is the best age for kids to travel? I would say as soon as possible! Who knows, maybe one day they’ll take you on a trip as a thank you, and you can finally sit back, relax and let them deal with the “are we there yet” questions. Bonus for you, you’ll be able to brag about all the cool places you’ve been and the experiences you’ve had with them – even if they can’t remember it.
7. It’s an investment in their development
Traveling with kids is like a field trip on steroids, it exposes them to new sights, sounds, and experiences, which can have a huge impact on their cognitive, emotional, and social development. Think about it, by exposing them to different cultures, languages and ways of life, you’re basically turning them into little diplomats. Plus, it makes them way more fun to take to parties (“Mummy, can you ask the waiter if they have any squid in their sushi?”), they’ll be the life of the party, and you’ll be the cool parent. But seriously, traveling gives them a valuable perspective on the world and its peoples, and it’ll make them more open-minded and adaptable, skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
8. It teaches them to be spontaneous (or as we like to call it, “winging it”)
We love traveling because it is much like a game of improv, you never know what’s gonna happen next. There might be unexpected delays or changes in plans, but it’s all just part of the adventure. These changes can be an opportunity for kids to learn about the beauty of spontaneity and going with the flow. Like, who needs a plan when you can make memories on the fly? Take that, Murphy’s Law! They’ll learn that sometimes, the best memories are the ones that happen unexpectedly, like the time we got lost in that one city and found the best ice cream shop ever, or that time we missed our ferry and ended up having a picnic at the terminal. Hey, at least we got to eat our feelings instead of just crying about them!
So yes, I don’t think I need to tell you about the chaos of traveling with kids, but I am here to remind you that it is the greatest adventure you’ll ever take. As a family who have traveled to more countries than most people around us, I can tell ya, every trip is a one-of-a-kind experience and the memories we create together make it all worth it, even if it means hauling around a nappy bag, a double stroller, a portable crib, 3 carseats, and bags and bags of clothes.
Some trips are smooth sailing (JUST KIDDING, it has never been smooth sailing), other times it’s a little bumpy, but it’s always an opportunity to bond and share experiences that’ll have you laughing for years to come. As the kids grow older, I am so proud to know that they will take the experiences from our travels together and apply it to their daily lives, making them more open-minded, resourceful and spontaneous people. As Mark Twain once said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
To me, there’s nothing quite like exploring the world with the people you love. So trust me, go pack your bags, bring your sense of adventure and create memories that will last forever!