5 reasons why travelling with your children is essential
To travel or not to travel. That can be the question with kids. So, to help parents who are wondering whether they should take their children to a more adventurous destination this year, we’ve outlined five compelling arguments for why this might just be the best decision you’ll ever make. And remember that you don’t need to take a six-month sabbatical or commit to a childhood of home-schooling on the road to enjoy many of the world’s great travel experiences – even a half-term holiday can provide you with enough travel memories to last a lifetime.
Text books are all very well and good, but travel brings learning to life. Whether it’s ancient history or economics, taking your kids to adventurous destinations can give real substance to their subjects.
Have your children been studying Egyptian gods at school? Then imagine the look on their faces when they clap eyes on Osiris, etched into the walls of a four-thousand-year-old temple. Or maybe they’ve been brushing up on their continents? Well, there can’t be too many geography lessons more invigorating than a road-trip round Iceland, where the landscape is scarred by seismic shifts in the Earth’s surface. It’ll be hard for them not to feel inspired.
And then there are the things that you just can’t comprehend in a classroom. Like the sound of the jungle waking up at dawn or the silence of the desert; the speed of a bullet train and the smells from a spice souk.
Experience, as a famous Roman once said, is the teacher of all things.
As inspiring as that all sounds, travel can actually have a much more profound effect on your kids. It’s no exaggeration to say that it can help shape their characters and their outlook on life. And that goes way beyond the curriculum. Watching plastic floating through the ocean on Blue Planet II is one thing, seeing its impact on the environment with their own eyes (during a beach clear-up, say, or at a sea-turtle sanctuary) is an altogether more powerful proposition.
Take your children to certain countries and you might face some difficult questions along the way, about poverty or religion or – if they’re anything like our kids – the possibility of swapping the family car for a tuk-tuk when you get back home. Our natural instinct as parents is to protect our children, to shield them from uncomfortable truths. But you’re actually ticking a big parenting box just by getting them to think about such things.
And at the very least, the nuts and bolts of travelling in more adventurous countries – the occasional delay or slow journey (or both) – helps teach kids the forgotten art of patience. When everything at home is On Demand, a bit of good old-fashioned boredom can be a healthy experience.
Chances are, when you travel with your children, you’ll be doing things that they’ve never done before. Like cycling round ruined temples. Or riding a camel. Or taking an overnight train to somewhere unknown and alien. And each time your kids try something new, and they prove to themselves that they can do it, their confidence grows that little bit more. Even little things like eating new foods and playing with other children who don't speak the same language add to their self-assurance.
Travel can, at times, be challenging. But kids are much more resilient than we give them credit for. And for every difficult situation overcome, you’ll have a slightly bolder, slightly more flexible, slightly more confident little traveller.
Understanding, empathy and tolerance are more important now than ever. Which might make this the most essential reason of them all. Travelling builds an awareness of the world we live in, unfiltered by motives and agenda; it breaks down barriers and challenges perceptions. By giving your kids the opportunity to experience different cultures and unusual customs, by exposing them to different ways of life, you’re enabling them to make informed opinions for themselves.
Aside from the everyday social interactions, you can enhance their insight by staying in some characteristic accommodation, learning to cook a national dish or two, trying your hand at making a traditional craft or simply eating with the locals.
For many people, the clue as to why they really travel with their children is in the question. Spending quality time with your kids is the Holy Grail of modern family life and travelling with them gives you that in spades – holidays are the one time when the whole family is all together, without condition and without the interruptions of everyday life.
At no other point do children spend so much continuous time with their parents. Or their siblings. Because of this, and because the nature of travel means that every moment is that more vivid, our adventures tend to make the brightest memories and forge the strongest bonds.
Wherever you go, whatever you see and do, the best thing about travelling with your children is that you’re doing it all together.