As a Mom, I think traveling with kids is fun. I’ve enjoyed making trips with my son as well as my own nephews and nieces, and friends’ kids and it has always been memorable, in a nice way. And when I was a kid, my Mom always encouraged me to write about my experiences.
Traveling with Kids: Unexpected Benefits and Tips
For many of us, travel is the time to experience something vastly different from the everyday rigmarole and indulge in straight-up fun. While everyone has their own idea of the perfect trip, it’s safe to assume that we all plan to leave worries at home and that usually includes the kids.
Why bring the family?
At first glance, traveling with kids seems to be a lot more hassle than it’s worth. There’s more luggage, more expenses, more chances for mix-up and mayhem. But before we address these challenges, consider these advantages of vacationing as a family unit.
Kids Open Doors
Overall, we’ve found that nothing brings out genuine goodwill like children. For example, on crowded buses and subways, passengers are often moved to give up their seats to the little ones and to lend a hand when wrangling with luggage.
Many hotels have family discounts and restaurants may have a “kids eat for free” option. Airports allow families with children to board and deplane in advance of others and many airlines offer small toys to keep kids entertained during the flight. Children are invited to tour airplane cockpits or visit with train conductors. Little ones may even be asked to help feed animals at the zoo!
Kids are Natural Ice Breakers
Kids are awesome conversation starters. Not sure what to say to someone you’ve just met on an African safari? Leave the introductions to the little ones. It’s easy to react to something kids do or say and before you know it, others will be inclined to join in.
Travel Feeds Imagination
No matter how many stories you read about the Grand Canyon or movies you see about Niagara Falls, the only way to truly experience their majesty is to be there in real-time. It isn’t until kids actually see the vastness of the desert or the hugeness of a humpback whale that they’re able to comprehend all that exists beyond their own backyards. This is how we fuel their imaginations and instill a sense of wonder and adventure that they can pass along when they have families of their own.
Travel Encourages Flexibility and Connection
Kids who are exposed to different cultures soon learn that despite various outward appearances and unfamiliar habits, young people the world over are very much alike. They see that although children in South America speak a different language and kids in India enjoy exotic food, they also like to run, play ball, swim, and read just like they do. By fostering this sense of connection, children learn the value of diversity and become more able to adapt to unusual situations.
New Experiences Equal New Skills
Travel is the perfect distraction! In a different environment new sights, smells, and activities motivate children. Instead of watching videos, they can visit the historical site they read about in class or discover real life caves on a far-off beach. The time that’s normally spent downloading new apps can be spent interpreting new languages and building confidence by exploring new lands.
10 Family Travel Tips
Now that you’ve decided to include the kids, here are ten clever tips for making the most out of a family trip.
- Tag them. Make a “business card” for each child (their name and your cell phone number) and make sure they carry it at all times. Before your trip, practice what to do if they ever get separated from you.
- Pack only what you need. Give each family member a packing list and discourage anything extra!
- Arrive early. Factor in an extra hour when traveling to airports. Nobody likes to wait around, but it’s certainly better than missing a one-time-only connection!
- Stash snacks. Kids plus low blood sugar equals a meltdown! Keep healthy snacks that won’t melt or squish (think dried fruit, nuts, granola bars) in your carry-on bags (bottled water if possible, too).
- Surprise! If traveling with very young ones, pack a few small “surprises” that may help to distract a bored or whiny traveler (for example stickers, Matchbox cars, crayons, or silly putty).
- Plan a stroll. Strollers are the ultimate multi-taskers. The perfect travel stroller not only shuttles a tired traveller, but it can be used as a seat in a restaurant or a luggage carrier in the airport.
- Safety first. Pack a small first-aid kit and keep it with you at all times. Include the basics: Band-Aids, antiseptic, wipes, fever reducer, Benadryl, and thermometer.
- Write it. Present your child with a journal or a scrapbook before the trip and encourage keeping a daily record and collecting keepsakes like ticket stubs and menus.
- Snap it. While you may discourage carrying a cell phone, a camera is a great way for kids to engage in their surroundings. When they return home, encourage making a photo album and sharing it with family and friends.
- Bring a bit of home. It’s never a good idea to bring along your child’s prized teddy bear in case it goes missing, but packing a favorite t-shirt or blanket can be a huge comfort for those moments when your little one is missing home.
Travel may be the ultimate escape, but perhaps it’s also the epitome of family time. Take it from me, vacationing with kids has the potential to be more than just a ticket outta Dodge.
What tips or experiences would you add? ♥