Does the thought of traveling with your little ones cause you to lock up your luggage and throw away the key? Here are the top 10 reasons to rethink your reluctance and take them with you.
(1) Children create an opening to meet and interact with locals.
You know your kids are cute, but local people will also tell you so. They will offer help when you need it and advice when you don’t need it. I haven’t done any official sociological research or anything, but I believe that a love of children is an inherent part of every culture. As a result, your kids have a limited-time ability to transcend barriers caused by language differences, unfamiliar customs or other awkwardness. Take advantage of it.
(2) It gives you an excuse to slow down.
You know the cliche about needing a vacation to recover from your vacation? Forget about it. When you travel with your kids, you go at their pace. You won’t see everything or do everything; but that’s impossible anyway, even if you didn’t have kids with you. What you see, you’ll see up close (because you have to get down on your hands and knees to show the kiddos). What you do, you’ll do completely (and multiple times, if you have toddlers). And everything else… you can save for the next time around.
(3) Most kids are surprisingly adaptable.
I’m not saying you should disrupt their schedule. They still need to eat and sleep just as much as they do at home, and I wouldn’t dare to deny anyone that. (Nap time is king!) But it doesn’t take long for children to settle into a new environment – whether it’s a new bed, a new apartment, a new time zone, a new food, whatever. They can probably handle it. AND – again I haven’t done any official developmental psychology research or anything – but it stands to reason that this kind of exposure will make it easier for them to adapt to new situations as they get older.
(4) There is gear available to make your life easier.
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(5) Every destination has something to entertain your kids.
In my experience, it doesn’t take much. I have fond memories from our travels in Spain (pre-kids), where we spent many happy hours on pigeon-filled plazas, drinking coffee and watching little ones chase the birds. At the time I didn’t think much of it, because they were not my kids. Now I realize the brilliance of this activity. Two cups of coffee and couple of pigeons and the whole family is having a ball!
(6) Every destination has something to educate your kids.
Museums are great educational tools. Even better are real live interactions – first-hand exposure to people, places, food, music, languages, animals, activities… You get the point.
(7) Traveling creates amazing memories for your children and you.
You are sharing a unique, challenging, potentially transforming experience. Together, you will create stories that you can share for years to come. Traveling creates memories even if your children are too young to remember. As your kids get older, they will look at the pictures and hear the stories and incorporate these images and experiences into their memories. Again, this is not really based on actual neurological research, but I’m pretty sure that’s the way it works. My 2-year-old can tell you a lot about their first trip to Belize, which they took at the age of 7 months. Maybe they don’t remember it, but they have seen so many pictures and heard so many stories that they know it.
(8) Kids offer their parents a special perspective on the destination.
If you take your kids, I promise that you will see something new or do something different, that you would have missed if you left them at home. Refer back to number 1 and 2 on this list. Even Boston – the city that I have been inhabiting and writing about for nearly a decade – I am now re-discovering with my children.
(9) Childcare is available if you want a break.
I am a big fan of traveling with grandparents. We have also had great experiences with local babysitters. High-end hotels and resorts offer babysitting services and referral programs. Use them. Just because you are traveling with your kids doesn’t mean you need to be with them all the time.
(10) Once you do it once, you’ll realize it’s not as hard as it seems.