If you’ve considered traveling with your kids, you’ve probably run into the common belief that traveling with kids can be a nightmarish experience.
Before we had children, countless friends and relatives told us to enjoy travel while we could, assuming we’d stop traveling when our kids arrived. But we persevered, and as a family, we’ve visited Cuba, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Mexico, Canada, the Philippines and Costa Rica.
We’ve traveled through diapers, the terrible twos, toilet training and all the way to first grade.
After all that, I’m here to announce loud and clear: It is possible to travel with children and have a wonderful time.
Why travel with kids is amazing
A deeper connection to the people and places you visit. Many cultures are child friendly and family focused. We found, especially in Mexico and the Philippines, that our children were warmly welcomed everywhere from restaurants to stores. Little old ladies gave them candies, and people walked up to us on the street to strike up a conversation. With kids, we were approachable. When we traveled alone, we were just tourists passing through.
Quality and quantity time with your family. Time together is one thing that’s missing from most of our daily lives. When you travel, you’ll share unique experiences that will bond your family. Sure, it can sometimes be a bit tough, but there are some moments so magical that you’ll never want to go back home. You’ll always have those special memories that bond your family together.
Kids slow you down. And yes, this is a good thing. As adults, we’re often tempted to try to see it all, and in doing so, we miss a lot. Having kids forces you to slow down and really enjoy where you are, and what you’re doing.
Kids help you grow. Kids constantly challenge your assumptions, and make you face some tough realities. Kids see so many things that parents miss. Ever tried explaining to a three year old why there’s a family sleeping on a cardboard sheet in front of a convenience store in the Philippines? I have, and it made me realize I hadn’t faced some ugly facts about poverty and inequality in a while.
You’re more prepared. Hitting the road with kids forces you to be more prepared. We now hit the road with a traveling pharmacy, stocked with a first aid kit, kids’ Tylenol, Gravol, Pepto Bismal, rehydration salts, cough drops, and on and on. Not only is it essential for the kiddos, but it’s sure nice to have the supplies for us adults.
Creature comforts. As single backpackers, Charles and I stayed in some truly skeevy hostels in the name of saving money. As a family, we want more space (and sanitation), so we’ve started renting houses and apartments for a month or so at at time. While this costs us a bit more money, it’s wonderful to stay in places that are roomier and cleaner. On top of this, we tend to eat better and more regularly with the kiddos around.
You might just become a better parent. Being on the road has forced us to rely less on toys and electronics for amusement. Instead, we’ve had to make our own toys as we go (not surprisingly, sticks and rocks are always a hit) and (the horror!) play with our kids.
Joy! Unlike most adults, kids wholeheartedly embrace the fun in life. Kids make you do goofy things that you never would have tried as an adult. It’s fun to let our hair down once in a while, and having kids is the perfect excuse. I’ve played on playgrounds across the world, thanks to my kids. When’s the last time you played on a swing?
You’ll give your kids some amazing gifts, too.
Life becomes an amazing field trip. Instead of learning about the world in textbooks and through lectures, they’ll be learning live and in person. The whole world will be their classroom, and you’ll be learning with them. We could have taught our kids about endangered leatherback turtles. Instead, they watched a leatherback lay her eggs and make her way back to the ocean. To this day, Cole talks about how people shouldn’t throw garbage into the ocean because it hurts the turtles. He never would have learned such a deep and lasting lesson in school.
The big picture. You’re giving your kids a great gift by letting them develop a perspective that the world extends beyond their own friends, family and neighborhood. Our kids know that children who speak a different language can make great playmates, and that the strange looking food can be surprisingly good!
You’ll open up a world of possibilities. Your children will see and try things they’ve never done before. Cole, then five, learned to boogie board and zip line Costa Rica. I’m not sure I’ll ever get a better gift than the look of accomplishment and pride in his eyes.
Far from being the terrible experience that we were warned about, traveling with our kids has been a wonderful way to explore our world.
What do you think about traveling with kids? Let us know – we’d love to hear from you!