Having children is frequently used as an excuse for not travelling but it doesn’t have to be that way. As a child, my parents took my brother and me on camping trips to Europe every year and those times are some of the best memories of my life.
Right now, finances mean that my travels are on hold for a while and having two toddlers does make things rather more difficult but I fully intend to start instilling a love of travel in my children within the next couple of years.
I want them to experience the whole world. I don’t agree with the concept that children need to be “old enough to appreciate it” before you take them on that trip of the lifetime. Take them while their eyes are still open to the wonder of the world and they’re not affected by prejudices and fears.
Just consider the following compelling reasons for travelling with your kids:
1. The world is a global classroom
I fully believe in the value of education and even after having children of my own, I’m not 100% convinced with the concept of home-schooling. However, the lessons learned from travel are not something that can be taught in school. Give your children the experience of travel and you open up their minds to new cultures, new languages and new ways of thinking.
2. They change your view of the world
Adulthood can you jaded and it’s so easy to overlook the little things when you are travelling. Children look at the world in such an open way that even the simplest things become amazing. Share in their pleasure of new sights and new experiences and you’ll be better for it. Everything is an adventure for small children, however mundane it may seem to you. Look at the world through their eyes and your travel experiences will be enhanced immeasurably.
3. They help you to see the positive side
Travel is not always fun and long bus journeys, missed flight connections and less than luxury accommodation can put a damper on your mood. But your kids won’t see it this way. A bus journey is an opportunity to charm your fellow passengers, a budget hotel is like ‘camping inside’ and exploring an airport when you have a few hours to kill can turn into an adventure on its own
4. They break down social barriers
If you want to become instantly more approachable, just carry a baby. You’ll find that when you’re travelling, people just love kids and will go out of their way to talk to them, entertain them and spoil them. Kids are a great icebreaker and give you no shortage of conversation topics.
5. You’ll be raising adventurous eaters
Kids that travel a lot generally aren’t picky eaters. If they grow up trying a wide range of cuisines and unfamiliar foods, they’ll dive into that fish curry or Mediterranean mezze without a second thought.
6. You’ll improve their language and social skills for life
Young children pick up new languages amazingly quickly, without any apparent effort. By exposing your kids to other languages and allowing them to mix and play with local kids, you’ll improve their vocabulary and their communication and language skills. Languages learned at an early age and ‘forgotten’ can usually be reactivated later in life very easily. I still remember the German phrases I learned when was 5.
7. You’ll be helping to foster understanding of other cultures
It’s one thing to read about how people in another part of the world live and another to experience it first-hand. Western media has some worrying underlying messages about other cultures and by exposing your children to other beliefs and ways of life, you are helping to raise globally aware citizens.
8 They force you to slow down
A whistle-stop tour of Asia or Europe with small children in tow is fun for nobody. Travelling with kids requires more planning than if you were on your own and it’s a lot more difficult to just pack up and move on. For this reason, you’ll find yourself staying in places longer and settling into accommodation for weeks rather than days. There are huge advantages to slow travel, the main one being that you’ll get to actually experience a place rather than just passing through.
9 You teach them to value experiences over possessions
Let’s face it, if you’re bringing your kids backpacking with you, you’re not going to bring the whole toy collection along too. When you’re travelling, children become accustomed to playing with other kids and making toys out of the things around them, rather than screaming for the latest plastic flashing monstrosity. Wouldn’t you rather have a child who asks to go to the beach instead of the toy shop?
10. You get to spend true quality time with your kids
In an ordinary world where you get up and go to work and your kids go to school and you reconnect in the evenings when everyone is tired and grumpy, it can be difficult to carve out real quality time with your kids. Travel with them however, and you’re creating experiences and strengthening your family bond every single day. I’ll say it again, some of my happiest childhood memories are from our family holidays.
So traveling with your kids is not a waste of time. It’s not selfish or unrealistic or ridiculous. It’s not always easy, but the benefits make up for the downsides many times over. Travel with your kids and grow their life and yours.