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My family was always big on traveling when I was growing up. So big, in fact, that I spent most of my childhood overseas. We lived in three countries, and visited at least ten more by the time I turned 18.
I’m a firm believer in the advantages of travel. I’ve always loved traveling. I love talking to people who travel. I believe that travel enriches your life in ways that aren’t even explainable.
Starting children off early in the world of travel has some definite advantages which I would like to share with you, from personal experience as a child traveler. I hope that by the end of this post, I’ve convinced that you it’s worth it to take your children overseas and introduce them to new ways of living and doing things.
Without further ado, here are ten reasons why families need to travel together.
Exposes children to new ideas
Here is an obvious one. Children grow up assuming that everyone does exactly what their family does. As they get older and start school, or begin having play dates and sleepovers, they slowly realize that families are different. Not everyone eats the same meals, has the same traditions, or follows the same rules as their family.
Taking children overseas shows them a whole new way of thinking that they have never considered before. Children are raised differently. They play differently. They think differently. It is an advantage to your children to be able to absorb new ideas and ways of living. They can add those to their repertoire, and have a plethora of choices for games, foods, stories, friends…etc.
Travel is a great way to expose kids to novelties that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Creates a unique family culture
No one has been where your family has been, or seen what your family has seen, except your family members! That creates a very unique culture. This is heightened if you spend a longer time in another culture, or multiple cultures, which assimilate into your family culture.
In my family, my dad and I speak a mish-mash of Hebrew, English, and Tagalog with each other. There are probably very VERY few people in the whole world who could understand our conversations. They’re unique.
Shared experiences help families grow closer together. Nobody in the world understands you as well as your family does.
Tightens sibling bonds
Along those lines, travel is good for specifically tightening bonds between siblings. When you move to a new country, or even just go on vacation for a week or two, you don’t know ANYBODY else there. Neither do your kids. That forces them to draw closer to their siblings for playmates and company.
In my experience, siblings that travel together tend to be much closer than siblings who don’t. It’s easy to ignore your siblings when you have plenty of other friends to hang out with. But when your only option is to spend time with your siblings, you’re much more likely to come up with silly games and inside jokes that will promote a lasting closeness.
Note, I’m not advocating keeping children isolated from peers! I’ve heard rumour that this is a growing trend, and I think that’s silly.
All I’m saying is that traveling together strengthens your children’s relationships with each other.
That being said…
They have friends all over the world
If you spend any decent length of time in another country, your children will probably make friends there. I spent a week in Scotland in 6th grade and had two friends by the end of the trip. We went to the park together, hung out at the library, went for meals at each other’s houses… And that was only one week!
Kids are famous for immediately getting on with other kids they’ve just met. They don’t have all the complicated relationship dynamics adults do. If your kid likes to play tag, and the other kid likes to play tag, they’re fast friends.
This is good news for expanding your child’s worldview (back to point one), improving their global social skills, and multilingualism. They may have a new penpal, and someone they can visit in the future.
Having lived overseas as a child, I now have people all over the world I can stay with if I’m traveling and need a place to crash. Talk about saving money, and getting to see old friends in the process! Win-win!
If you’re just traveling for a short vacation, try teaching your kids phrases they can use to connect with local children, or show good manners at local restaurants in your host country. Kids pick up new languages much faster than adults, and usually get the accent better. Their mouths and brains are still flexible because they haven’t yet gotten into a set pattern of language like mono-lingual adults do.
If you’re planning on living in a country for a while, consider enrolling your child in a local school, or language lessons at the very least. Knowing multiple languages has plenty of cognitive benefits, and may also benefit your child later in life. Companies often hire people based on the languages they speak, since many companies have overseas branches and communication between branches is important. Even in the US, we have so many immigrants that speaking another language is becoming more and more important in every job.
Just working in childcare a basic, minimum wage job, I had chances to use Spanish, Korean, and French.
Travel is a wonderful way to expose your child to new words and sounds, and encourage them to learn some! You’ll be surprised how fast they pick it up.
Discourages picky eating
I wrote a whole post on ways to discourage picky eating. Unfortunately, I neglected to mention how travel can help with this common childhood affliction! Children often reject food that seems unfamiliar. However, once they are exposed to a food several times, they are more likely to try it eventually (especially if that’s all they’re being offered).
Exposure to many different foods increases chances of children trying them in the future. It also changes their mindset about food, creating a willingness to try new things. Eating a variety of foods is also healthier, because different foods contain different vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Give your children a one up on picky eating, and encourage more diverse food choices, by educating them about global cuisine. And what better way to do that then by traveling?
Improves awareness of other cultures
Awareness of other cultures is a big deal in our society right now, as there are crowds of immigrants flocking into the United States and many European countries. Cultural awareness makes it easier to connect with people from other cultures, and in more meaningful ways.
Many school puts on cultural awareness programs. Parents buy children’s books to acclimate their children to other ethnicities. There are fairs, festivals, and library events to celebrate and promote cultural awareness!
But without a doubt, the surest way to improve your children’s knowledge of and comfort with people of other cultures is by seeing how they live in their home country.
And the influence continues to extend, because traveling to Spain for example gives some glimpses of insight into South American cultures. Spending time with a European Jewish community yields knowledge that will be important when interacting with Jews all over the world, or when visiting Israel. Visiting parts of Canada may help prepare children to visit France.
Cultural awareness is best learned by interacting with people of that culture, in the place where their customs, foods, traditions, and other aspects of culture reign supreme.
Piques curiosity & stimulates learning
Children can learn a lot from travel! In one of my earlier posts, I wrote about how children learn a lot from the unexpected (read here), and there is no way I know of to be exposed to more unexpected stimuli one right after another than by traveling.
Other countries are full of the unknown. The traveling process is wrought with surprises. All of this is fertile ground for little minds to explore and learn.
Expect a lot of questions along the way. Children are naturally curious, and taking them out of their comfort zone into a whole new country is going to pique that curiosity like crazy! They will want to know all kinds of things that you may not even have the answers to yet, such as “What is that strange looking fruit in the marketplace?” and “Why doesn’t that man have any shoes on?”
Travel is a chance for you teach your children, and for you to learn together as a family.
In case you couldn’t tell, most of these benefits aren’t just for children. They affect parents too! And here is a big one. Travel improves parenting, and not just because you’ve already given your children all the great benefits we’ve talked about so far.
Parents can learn tips, tricks, hacks, and just different ways of walking the parenting road that people in EVERY culture walk. There are many diverse methods of raising children around the world, and getting to see some of those first hand can help develop your own parenting!
I intend to write a series in the near future on Parenting Around the World to give parents a chance to read about why it’s okay to do things differently but still raise thriving children. Traveling gives you this knowledge firsthand.
Inspires bigger dreams
Travel opens up new doors, new possibilities, than you never knew existed before. It doesn’t encourage a mindset of settling. There are still new places to explore. There are people to help. There are global businesses to become a part of. There are challenges to conquer. There is beauty to capture.
If you are the parent of a dreamer, she will thrive on travel. If you aren’t the parent of a dreamer, you soon will be.
Travel is inspiring, for adults and children alike. It encourages bigger dreams and broader horizons.
How can you dream small when you know how big the world really is?
What do you think about traveling with kids? How has international travel affected your family?
Here is my personal list of four favourite websites for travel:
Skyscanner – This go-to website has some of the best airfare ticket prices I’ve ever seen. It includes a lot of smaller airlines that many similar websites don’t include. My favourite feature is their whole month fare calendar, which allows you to see when the cheapest days for flying are.
Airfarewatchdog – This website also has good ticket prices, but the best feature is the ability to save a route and have them email you when the fare drops. If you know where you want to go, set up a fare alert for that destination. Additionally, they have a weekly list of lowest fares out of your chosen airport, so you can browse convenient destinations.
Tripadvisor – Tripadvisor is dominating the internet when it comes to travel reviews. They have a team of objective travelers who do professional reviews, but also collect reviews from everyday tourists. Reviews include pictures, a star-system, and detailed analyses.
Groupon – Ah, my secret travel weapon. If you have never browsed Groupon’s Getaways page, you really need to. They have incredible prices on hotels, airfare, all-inclusive travel packages, cruises, activities…etc. For my anniversary last year, we stayed at the beautiful River Street Inn in Savannah, Georgia for less than 50% off the original price!
Since I haven’t personally done much traveling with children besides my siblings, here are some wonderful articles put together by fellow bloggers that give ideas on how to make traveling with children a practical reality.
- 10 Essential Survival Tips for Flying with Kids (Wanderlust Storytellers)
- 25 Tips for International Travel with Kids (Gone with the Family)
- 13 Mistakes to Avoid When Flying with an Infant (Cloud Surfing Kids) ← this site has a lot of other good information for traveling with kids! It’s written by a flight attendant/mother. She knows what she’s talking about.
- Handling Babies and Toddlers with Jet Lag (A Mother Far From Home) See also Napping on the Go and How to Travel Organized from Rachel’s Vacay Travel Series
- The ULTIMATE Survival Guide: Flying with Babies and Young Children (French Bliss Me)