I often talk to other parents who leave their kids with the grandparents whenever they go on vacation. While it’s good to take a break sometimes, it’s also a missed opportunity. Children are inherently curious and typically love to explore and discover new things. What better way to do that than by traveling with their parents? There is so much to be gained through family travel. Here are a few important elements that come to mind.
Expand Their Horizons
Travel, even short road trips, are an excellent way to broaden the horizons for a child used to the same familiar surroundings day in and day out. Maybe it’s a weekend getaway from the city to experience a National Park or a drive into the city to see how people live in such close quarters. A change of scenery is the perfect chance to introduce new ways of life to your kids and get them to think about how other peoples’ daily routines differ from their own.
Learn to Appreciate New Things
Speaking of different ways of life, travel can open a child’s eyes to new cultures, traditions, and (best of all) foods. Just taking a half hour drive into the metro area near our home we can experience several different ethnic cultures and their wonderful restaurants. Even for a picky eater like mine this can be an eye opener. By introducing our children to other cultures, even those within our own American mix, we lay the foundation for more tolerant and worldly adults in the future.
Strengthen Family Relationships
In the day to day crush of work, school, and activities we often miss out on spending quality time as a family. Taking a vacation offers a chance for those important interactions that strengthen family bonds and let us really get to know each other. Sometimes those few days can be valuable for learning more about how our kids think, what they enjoy doing, and maybe even open up about things that bother them or cause anxiety. Travel is a window to the world and also into ourselves.
At school and home children are typically following a constant string of instructions and tasks. Do this at this time in this way. Make kids part of the planning process and/or let them make decisions about things like where to eat and what to see while on vacation. Not only does it make the trip more fun, but also reinforces a spirit of independence and makes for a memorable experience.
Develop Social Skills
If, like me, you’re the parent of a shy child then look at traveling as a way to break through that shell. Never push a kid to do things they are uncomfortable with or you’ll reinforce that introversion. Instead, encourage interactions with other people, such as museum interpreters, to develop social skills. One can still be an introvert and enjoy talking to new people and learning new things from them. On the flip side, if your child tends to be overly rambunctious, being around other people may help instill a sense of what is expected of behavior as they move into the teen and adult years.
Whatever motivates you to travel is also a good excuse to plan family vacations. Whether relaxing at the beach, running around a theme park, or just exploring the outdoors, spending time with your children offers so many opportunities we don’t get at home mired in our daily routines. Get out there and have some fun!
If you do spend the majority of your free days on family travel and you’ve had enough family trips for a while, maybe it’s time to venture out on your own and discover your inner self. Read my article on solo travel for some thoughts on why you need to seek some adventure on your own terms.