Traveling as a family is a rewarding endeavor, but can be a tricky one to navigate. Whether you are heading to the Maldives, or you are visiting a semi-local historical site, there are plenty of lessons that can be learned from traveling as a family.
Traveling as a Parent
In order to successfully travel as a parent, first quantify what it is that you consider a success. Is your trip a success if your children learn new skills or are exposed to new cultures? Is it a success if you simply manage to make it back home in one piece, with little to no emotional scarring? Jokes aside, understanding your goal in taking your children on trips can help you determine the best trip for your wants and needs, and can help you return to your baseline if plans or behaviors begin to go awry—and if articles on parenting are to be believed, something is likely to awry at least once.
Preparing to Travel
As you prepare to travel with your children, make sure that you cover all eventualities. While you cannot predict the future, you can anticipate some of the most common issues parents come across while traveling with children. These include:
- Lost documentation. Whether you are going for a trip a few towns over or you are boarding an international flight, there is a possibility that you will lose documentation for yourself or your children. Familiarize yourself with the process of recovering lost documentation in your area, and prepare accordingly by making copies and keeping the numbers of local governing agencies on hand.
- Meltdowns and other emotional upsets. Travel is wonderful, but it can also be enormously stressful. Children may have meltdowns and emotional upsets while traveling in response to fatigue, routine changes, or even just not being able to do what they’d like. Create a plan with your kids (if possible) beforehand to minimize these meltdowns and the effects they may have.
- Illness and injury. It is certainly not ideal, but many people become ill in response to travel, whether that travel is via plane, train, vehicle, or ship. Preparing for illness by familiarizing yourself with local healthcare rules and availability can help ease some worry, as can having a basic first aid kit on hand at all times.
- Damaged, unavailable, or altered accommodations. It is certainly not ideal, but having a backup plan in case of lost, damaged, or altered accommodations can also help soothe some worries and can help ensure that you and your children are not left without a place to stay. Simple insurance can aid in creating a backup plan, as can researching local hostels and availabilities.
Unexpected Lessons Learned from Traveling as a Parent
After traveling with children, parents may come away with a few important life lessons and a heap of rewards. These life lessons can inform their own behaviors, or can help them come to some important realizations regarding their own parenting habits and mores. These lessons include:
- Remaining flexible. Traveling with children requires flexibility. From picky eaters to children who feel averse to certain activities, you must be able to think on your feet and adapt when you travel with children. Flexibility can also be helpful in general, day-to-day parenting, as flexible parents may be able to adapt to changes and challenges presented by illness, unexpected diagnoses, setbacks, and simple changes to likes, tastes, and personalities.
- Preparing for all eventualities. Although it is not truly possible to prepare for all eventualities, it is wise to prepare as a general rule. From having some food storage on hand in case of food shortages to knowing a back route to take to work should your usual way be compressed with traffic, being prepared can help ease anxiety and increase confidence?
- Learning through exposure. Travel in childhood has been identified by teachers as a valuable tool to increase a child’s educational experience, including test scores. This can be true in numerous situations in addition to travel. Exposure to cooking, for instance, is far more effective in developing culinary skills than merely purchasing boxed food or going out to eat. Exposure to new ideas and perspectives is unavoidable while traveling with children.
Traveling with children is certainly not as easy or seamless as traveling alone or with another adult, but there are many benefits of traveling with children—many of them unexpected. If you have not yet taken your children with you on a trip, whether that trip is international or close to home, consider exposing your family to the wonders of travel and reap the rewards.