It’s easy to eye your shrinking household budget and decide that you should cut the family trip this year, or to throw your hands in the air and declare that you’d rather go on a second honeymoon than bring the kids along.
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In certain situations, this may be true, but giving up travel with your kids should be an option of absolute last resort. Here are 9 reasons why traveling with your children is more essential than you may think.
1. It Teaches Them To Think Globally
It’s easy to get so caught up in the issues of your neighborhood, your state, or your country that you forget there’s a wider world out there; this is even truer for kids, who may never have seen that wider world first-hand.
When you take your children traveling with you, you expose them to new cultures, new foods, and new ways of thinking. The best part is that you don’t have to travel to another country to give them this experience.
Taking rural or suburban kids to a big city and showing them the fast-paced way of life there, bringing city kids to a quiet camping area to remind them of how beautiful the natural world is outside their town, vacationing in a region that’s mountainous or coastal or cold or hot and showing them how that changes the way of life in that area.
Any of those things can remind your children that the world is so much bigger than what they’re used to seeing outside their front door, and that different people see the world with different eyes than theirs.
2. It Shows Them New Things Aren’t Scary
This goes hand in hand with the global thinking. Some kids are naturally adventurous; others are a bit shy and afraid to try new things. If you have a little explorer on your hands, travel can help you to nurture that sense of excitement and curiosity.
If your child has a more nervous temperament, traveling can give you a safe space to show them how fun new things can be. The best part is that “new things” can be anything, from experiences to cultures.
Going on a boat doesn’t have to be scary; neither does eating an octopus. Encouraging their sense of curiosity and adventure can help them to be more open-minded and accepting as well as helping them to find their inner daredevils.
3. It Helps You Focus On Each Other
When you’re traveling, you’re not paying bills, working on laundry, shopping for groceries, or putting in extra time on that huge project at work. If you make a rule that your family unplugs for most of the vacation – and you should – you also won’t be focusing on phone, tablet, and TV screens instead of each other.
There are too many times in day-to-day life when your child is clamoring for your attention but you’re too busy to give it. That doesn’t mean that you should feel guilty and that the things you’re doing aren’t important, but it does mean that you should take time not to be busy so you can give your children the attention they crave. Travel and vacations give you that time.
4. It Makes Memories
It sounds like a Hallmark commercial, but it’s true; traveling together gives you memories that you’ll be able to talk about together for the rest of your lives and that they can look back on fondly when they’re adults themselves.
Even if your children are too young to remember the trip, you’ll remember, and when they’re asking you to tell them about when they were little, you can always dust off the “that time we hiked the Appalachians with you in a backpack” story.
5. It Exposes Them To New Interests And Experiences
If you never actually visit a beach, you and your daughter might never find out how much she loves marine biology; if you cancel that trip to Greece, your son’s nascent love of mythology might not get the chance to blossom.
Bringing your children to new parts of the world exposes them to ideas and experiences that they simply can’t access at home and could lead to them discovering a lifelong passion. Showing them books and videos about interesting topics just doesn’t have the same impact as actually seeing and interacting with those topics themselves.
6. It’s Educational – And They Don’t Have To Know It
You don’t want to treat your vacation like a field trip, but the fact is that vacations can be a thrilling hands-on learning experience for your kids.
Seeing historical landmarks with their own eyes, getting up close with new ecosystems on a nature trip, visiting the real-life setting of some beloved book, show, or movie – all of those things can build connections in your kids’ brains and help bring learning to life for them.
7. It Teaches Life Skills
You don’t usually think of travel as something that teaches important life skills, but it does, especially when the trip involves some challenging situations. When you go on vacation, you need to schedule and plan.
You need to learn to delay gratification when you wait in that unbearably long line at the theme park or to accept disappointment when the exhibit you most wanted to see is closed. You need to set up back-up plans and contingencies, and you need to make it through the car or plane trip without throttling each other.
Everyone has a vacation horror story or two that they look back on and laugh about years later, and those stories are just as educational in their own way as the trips to museums and parks.
8. It Lets You Indulge Your Inner Child
Admit it; there is part of you that gets really excited at the thought of going to a theme park, a zoo, or the biggest playground in the Tri-State area. If you wait until your kids are older to go on vacation or if you only go with your significant other, you’d feel a little embarrassed mentioning that you want to go enjoy the “kid stuff.”
When you vacation with your little ones, though, it’s downright expected that you’ll actively look for fun activities rather than only seeking out the educational ones and the well-worn tourist traps. And who doesn’t want more fun on their vacation?
9. It Lets You Slow Down And Enjoy Yourselves
At first, it may be annoying that kids wear out so quickly on trips; you can only see half as many things as you did when you and your partner were traveling solo. However, traveling with little ones can be a blessing in disguise.
When you can only fit a few things into each day, it lets you go slowly and enjoy the things you do see rather than rushing through your entire guidebook at a frantic sprint. It helps you to avoid that dreaded “I need a vacation after my vacation” feeling you get after an overloaded break. Going at the children’s pace can make for a more relaxing and enriching trip for everyone.