Growing up we were always taking trips. I remember one time–I was probably around 8 or 9– my father came home on a Saturday afternoon and told my mom and me to start packing. He’d just booked an impromptu trip to Puerto Rico and we were leaving in two days. It was one of the best surprises of my life.
I have so many awesome memories of our vacations. I remember going to Disney World when I was 6. We took the monorail from the airport to our hotel and my dad was pick pocketed and a ton of his cash was stolen. I’m sure he was pretty upset but I don’t remember it ruining our trip at all. I remember our trip to California when I was around 10. My mom –who is usually great with directions–got all turned around because we were on the west coast. If she said go right, we knew we’d better go left. And then there was our first family trip to Europe when I was 14. I loved London. Paris was, like, totally boring.
I could spend days writing about all my travel experiences (Rome for Easter! Madrid in college! St. Thomas for our babymoon!) but that would really only be fun for me. Suffice to say travel has been a huge part of my life and it’s not something I’m willing to give up now that we have kids. Sure, now’s not the best time to go sightseeing in Europe — but we can and still do travel often with the kids.
People often ask why we go through all the trouble to travel with the kids. It’s no secret that air travel is tedious–from security lines to long flights– and it’s not easy even for an adult. And, it’s not like we get to sit on a lounge chair all day when we get to our destination. While it’s true that our days of reading a book on lounge chair are over, it misses the point about why we travel and why we take the kids with us. So why do we travel with our kids? Well, here are 6 reasons.
6 Reasons to Travel With Kids
1. Kids are natural explorers
Kids are used to new experiences. After all, they haven’t experienced all that much in their short lives. So, follow their lead. Let go of judgement, and explore your surroundings. Try new things. And if all else fails, literally follow your kid. Down the beach, down the street, I bet they’ll take you places you didn’t think you’d go.
2. Kids are conversation starters.
While you’re following your kids around, you’re bound to meet people. Everyone loves a cute baby or a happy traveling family. Kids are a great way to start up a conversation with locals and kids often force us to talk to people we might not otherwise talk to. Maybe you planned on walking back to your hotel after dinner but the kids were too tired. So you hop in a cab and your cab driver is friendly and talkative and tells you about a great local restaurant you don’t want to miss while you’re in town. Those kinds of things happen more often when you’re traveling with kids because you can only plan so much and the rest you have to just improvise.
3. Kids see the world in a different way.
Kids are innocent and full of awe and wonder. Hopefully you’ll be in the same state of mind when you’re on vacation–relaxed and willing to go with the flow and experience new things. Sometimes the stress of travel can get to you. Kids and their sense of humor force you to calm down, slow down and live in the present. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have been a tad stressed about a security line or making it somewhere when Gia’s little voice pipes up and says something cute or funny. It instantly reminds us to relax a little. It is vacation after all!
4. It’s a learning experience.
When you travel, there are so many opportunities for discovery. From trying new food to meeting new people and learning about different cultures there are so many learning experience that are powerful and meaningful for kids.
The act of traveling itself is a great learning experience too. A long road trip can spark a discussion about maps and geography, and spending hours in the car is certainly a lesson in patience for the whole family. Air travel is exciting for kids but there are also a lot of rules that come along with airports and planes. From security lines to boarding times to buckle your seatbelt signs, air travel has its own set of circumstances that require patience. The upside to all this is that any kind of travel is a great way to teach your kids how to act and handle themselves in a variety of different situations.
5. Even kids need a change of pace sometimes!
Of course kids love routine, but the exact same thing day in and day out can be frustrating and boring for anyone–no matter what their age. Travel is an awesome way to break out of a routine and go on an adventure. We usually go away in February and right after Christmas Gia starts talking about taking the “big airplane to the beach”. She loves the fact that we get out of the cold and that we get to spend a week in close quarters with my family.
Like many kids, my kids thrive on routine so when we’re on vacation we do still stick to a loose schedule. We generally eat meals around the same time as we do at home and we do what we have to do to build relaxing time into the day. Gia would swim for hours on end and each day we had to make sure she had some down time in the shade or she’d be a cranky mess. Nicholas still naps so at nap time we took turns walking him around in the stroller till he fell asleep. It was a great way to get some exercise and, once he was asleep we’d push the stroller on the beach and park him in the shade. And then we’d get to sit on a lounge chair and just relax for a while!
6. Create priceless memories and adventures
No matter what happens on a trip–good, bad, or downright crazy — you and your family will undoubtedly make memories to last a lifetime.
Every time we travel I keep a travel journal and I jot down a few things about each day. When I look back at the pictures and reread my notes, it’s like I’m reliving the trip. I’ll never forget Nicholas’s first plane ride or the time when we missed the ferry from St. John to St. Thomas and it turned around and came back for us. When I’m really organized I like to make photo books out of all our pictures so we have a beautiful keepsake of all the amazing places we’ve visited.
The bottom line is that traveling isn’t easy. It’s costly, it takes a lot of planning and a lot of patience. But the benefits surely outweigh the drawbacks–and that goes for the whole family!