As adults, we mark the calendar and count down the days until we can get away from it all and go on break. Children are no different—going on a family vacation is an event to look forward to, one that will light their brains up with new discoveries and help them uncoil and enjoy life. If you’re still not sure it’s worth the cost of a plane ticket to take your family on a trip, consider these 11 reasons for why you should below.
photo: Hansen Lu via Unsplash
1. Your kids will learn to be flexible.
Sometimes you just have to muscle through the whining at restaurants, the schlepping of diaper bags, the lumpy pillows and everything else that goes along with wayfaring with young kids in tow. Why? Because, eventually, you’ll get to the sweet spot of having well-traveled, flexible children that can behave at a nice dinner table, make eye contact with adults and have decent conversations. The more you expose your children to the outside world, full of different cultures, foods, and ways of life, the more your children will be adaptable and amenable.
2. The kids can express themselves.
When traveling with kids, parents are dialed into the child’s experience. They are asking questions, listening to their answers and teaching their kids how to think deeper about what they are seeing and experiencing. Getting out of the ordinary routine allows parents to interact with their kids in a way that they don’t do as readily while at home.
3. Learning is more fun on vacation.
Can you learn about architecture, art, geography, culture and history from a book? Of course. But, wouldn’t the information stick if you actually saw it, could feel it drip through your fingers, smell its musk, walk up the stone steps, taste the spicy seasoning, press your nose to the frozen glass and see the thick brush strokes on the actual canvas? When kids get to use all five of their senses, they’re more engaged and present. Travel affords us the opportunity to see, think and feel deeper.
4. Everyone will have a different takeaway to share.
Traveling with your family is like investing in different stories—everyone will come away with their own perspective from the same experience. Your son might say that the best part of the trip was the Mallard ducks in the pond that he got to feed, while you might recall the surrey bike that got stuck in the mud, forcing you to get your white sneakers dirty (there were ducks in that pond?). Retelling these stories year after year will bring your family great joy, especially if you can laugh at the unfortunate happenings.
5. They’ll learn how to be social.
Kids learn how to interact with people of all ages while traveling. They’ll talk to servers at restaurants, hotel staff, hikers on the trail, new kids at the pool, elderly folks at the airport—traveling creates wonderful opportunities to interact with the world around us. Your children will learn that they are not invisible, that people can actually hear and see them, and that they have to respect other people’s space and property. Talking too loudly in a museum or stepping on someone’s beach towel with dirty feet or taking up too much space in the elevator—kids will learn how to be mindful and kind to others.
6. Travel teaches patience.
When out and about, the hurry-up-and-wait game is often the M.O. Kids will have to wait in lines, be strapped into a stroller, sit on a curb to wait for a cab, run with gear to make a connection, walk longer than expected, be patient while parents are talking to other adults—traveling teaches kids about being tolerant, resilient and easy-going.
7. It also kindles the power of passion.
Traveling helps kindle passion in your child, and it encourages them to want to learn. A trip to the Kennedy Space Center might ignite a love of space; visiting the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida might create an interest in sea life and diving; seeing hot air balloons and riding in a cable car up Sandia Peak in Albuquerque might generate a craving for adventure. No matter where you go or what you do, traveling somewhere together will give your family opportunities to delve into different enriched environments, full of various sights, sounds and smells.
8. They’ll learn that experiences are more valuable than stuff.
Many parents feel like their homes are overrun with LEGO and toys scattered everywhere, and according to a new study, an excess of toys may obstruct a child’s growth, behavior and ability to use their imagination during creative play. Perhaps a better option is to donate the toys to encourage giving and focus on giving your kids more meaningful experiences. Children will value the time spent with their family while on a vacation, long after the trip is over, which means it’s money well spent.
9. Vacations usually include the Great Outdoors.
Many family trips involve time spent in the great outdoors. Whether you’re sticking your toes in the warm sand, swimming in a choppy lake, hiking through a forest of oak trees, or roasting marshmallows over a crackling campfire, getting outside will provide enriching experiences for your kids. Kids just know what to do in the outdoors to keep themselves busy. A stick becomes a sword, the sand becomes a castle, water becomes an antagonist to punch and jump over—creative play is instant and intrinsic.
10. Everyone will be faced with challenges … which is a good thing.
There’s always a risk that travel will not go smoothly—planes get delayed, flights get canceled, drivers get lost. You may have forgotten to pack an essential lovey or pair of socks. All of these challenges provide opportunities to teach your kids about problem solving and working together for the common goal. You might find that your older child steps up and comforts your younger child or that your middle kid is flexible beyond what you thought was possible. And, if it’s mom or dad crying while checking into the hotel, after a long and trying day of travel, your kids will learn a bit about cause and effect and empathy.
Pro Tip: Make sure you pack essentials in your carry-on bags in case your checked luggage doesn’t make it to your destination—medicines, toothbrush/paste, phone chargers, contact case/solution, reading glasses, hairbrush, etc.—and consider an anti-theft Pacsafe backpack for peace of mind. Also, make sure you have copies of your passports, itinerary and important contacts in case of emergency.
11. You’ll be able to fill up the family happiness bank.
The emotional, social, and psychological perks of family vacations extend long after the trip is over. If you were to ask the adults in your life what their happiest childhood memories were, likely they’ll recount a family trip. Your uncle might say it was the time his parents rented an RV and drove to a national park, your mom might say that she loved when her family brought her to a beach house. Thinking back to their happiest memories can also be a powerful tool for your children when they are experiencing a tough time—the reflection may bring them a sense relief and peace.
— Wendy Altschuler
Feature photo: iStock