Take Your Kids Traveling! Part 1: Their Benefits

"In America there are two classes of travel - first class, and with children." - Robert Benchley

Can you travel with kids? Yes you can! Should you travel with kids? Yes you should! Will it be first class? No it won't. But, if you develop a closer connection with your kids through education and adventures, it will be better than anything first class could ever offer you.

Shared travel with love, simplicity, education and adventure will probably be the best moments you ever have with your kids .... ever!

And yet ... parents will say that they can't wait to travel - but after their kids are out of the house. Granted, many times this comment has something to do with retirement (so a money thing - I get that), but there is also this passed around propaganda narrative that travel would be better without the kids. We hear a lot of opinions, good and bad, about traveling with kids and if it should even be done. The overwhelming sentiment is, sadly, a negative one.

We hear, it's not worth spending the time and money to travel with kids because they "won't even remember it" (side note - they will remember plenty). Some say, "My kids can't sit in the car that long" and therefore the parents "can't" travel with them. Tragically though, the most frequent comment is, "I could never spend that much time with my kids". We hear that one all the time and it always saddens us. Quality time with parents is important in childhood development and regardless of the challenges and the temper tantrums, spending "that much time" with them is worth it.

Dad and Evelyn quality time

Dad and Evelyn quality time.

We have found that our traveling experiences have been richer as we've shared and learned things together with our children. We have grown closer to our children by traveling with them. Yes, it can be a challenge and traveling with kids might require an adjustment period, but so did my mattress (it's a Purple --- Purple in a 5th wheel).

So - If you can't tell, we want to be an advocate for traveling with kids. Someone has to stand up for the children in a world when so many behave as if they are a burden or pariah. They are not. Taking them with you on your trips instead of leaving them behind will build treasured memories for both of you. When they are grown and gone you will have plenty of opportunities to travel without the kids - don't long for that now.

So - This post will be at least two parts. Part 1, Why travel is good for kids; and Part 2, why travling with kids is good for parents.

Part 1 - Benefits of travel for kids.

Simpler Living

  • Impromptu Swimming in a mountain lake
    No suburbs, just nature.
  • Impromptu Swimming At Lake In New Hampshire

    Impromptu Swimming At Lake In New Hampshire.

  • Learn new games
    Necessity is the mother of invention. Road/campground/(and I assume boat) boredom can result in great simple games.
  • Learning that they can't have everything they want
    You can't carry a lot of "stuff" if you are traveling a lot. This is a great lesson for children in simpler living.
  • Learning that "things" are not experiences and that no toy can compete with a good day at the beach
  • Learning to appreciate and live closer to the weather
  • Become more in tuned to the changes in seasons
  • Closer Family

  • Visiting (geographically) distant relatives
    Seeing cousins on the other side of the country teaches kids that close families are a good thing.
  • Oliver Playing KanJam With Cousin Sean And Friends

    Oliver Playing KanJam With Cousin Sean And Friends

  • Learning to value family time
    Like time around a campfire. You know, the moments that bring us closer.
  • Kids helping with menial tasks
    Makes them feel like a useful member of the family
  • Kids helping with the larger tasks
    Being involved with planning where to go helps kids feel like their opinion in the family is valued. There are also always repairs to be done.
  • Gavin Helping Dad Replace Cracked Skylight

    Gavin Helping Dad Replace Cracked Skylight.

  • Kids helping with dirty jobs
    Kids like learning from their parents ... so teach them how to dump the sewer tank .... they will feel important, and soon you won't have to do that.
  • Learning things together
    When all members of the family are learning the same thing (like at a visitor center or on a guided tour), it brings the family closer.
  • Taking family photos at memorable spots
    They will remember it, and they will remember who they were with.
  • Experiencing any uncommon adventure together will bring the family closer
    Swimming, throwing rocks, climbing mountains, walking on trails, spotting wildlife, etc.
  • Richer Education

  • They get to see history in it's proper context
    Reading about it is not the same as being there. And seeing something in a museum also not the same. Being on site where history happened makes the story come to life. If you've actually been "there" and then see something in a Smithsonian museum, then the child can put the puzzle together in their head. What an education!
  • Colonial Williamsburg

    Visiting Colonial Williamsburg

    Archaeological Dig At Historic Jamestown

    Archaeological Dig At Historic Jamestown.

  • There is no substitute for outdoor learning than being outdoors
  • Learning life skills
    Building fires, filling fuel, changing alternators, taking photos, navigating, writing about what they see (think journalism), making friends, talking to adults, learn the importance of reservations, how electricity benefits our life, how plumbing benefits our life, how important clean water is.
  • Experiencing different Eco Systems
  • Problem Solving
    Everything is a problem to be solved when traveling.
  • Seeing big cities, small towns, rural lifestyles
  • Get a deep feel for "you can do anything"
  • Get exposure to the "things" from "you can do anything"
    Everything from: working for NASA, to being a farmer, to being a writer, entertainer, forest ranger, doctor, anything. Get outside of your current bubble and your kids will meet people who live very different lives from the ones they have already seen.
  • Trying different foods
    Did you know that in certain places in the south that Honey Bunches of Oats has a cereal that's flavored Chicken and Waffles? We tried it. It's yuck.
  • Learn good social skills for meeting new people
    We are always meeting new people.
  • Learn to adapt to changes
    Things are ALWAYS changing. Traveling kids learn skills of adaptation. They also learn of different kinds of dangers in different areas and how to adapt (Gators in the south, Lyme disease from ticks in the north, and the miserable sweltering heat of Arizona .... an Arizona winter .... heaven help those that are there in the summer).
  • Traveling kids learn geography and mileage
    What do all the symbols and numbers on a map mean? Traveling kids know.
  • Learn the limits of their own body
    How far can they jump, how fast can they run, how long can their bladder last. Traveling kids learn these things.
  • Seeing other cultures and hearing other accents
    Better than TV. We met a 96 year old man on the Mississippi River who has memories from childhood of his great grand parents talking about when they were slaves before the Civil War. He knew them and we heard their stories through him. You can't replicate that conversation with a smartphone app.
  • Uncommon Adventures

  • Everything is an uncommon adventure
    Catching frogs, fireflies, and lizards. Playing on the banks of waterfalls, scrambling through rock formations, finding a great playground that is not the same pre-manufactured junk you see everywhere, adventures are everywhere. If you are really lucky, your name is Oliver and you have an uncle in Illinois with a riding mower and a dad who finally allowed his turn to be over for a moment.
  • Dad Teaching Oliver To Use Uncle Nicholas' Riding Mower - Thanks Nicholas, It Was AWESOME

    Dad Teaching Oliver To Use Uncle Nicholas' Riding Mower - Thanks Nicholas, It Was AWESOME.

    Education and Uncommon Adventures go hand in hand - and kids learn and grow so much from the exposure to things that travel affords.

    So, suffer the children. Let them travel with you. They will love you for it.

    - Matt
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    … on the next Ditching Suburbia blog post: The second half of this topic on how traveling with kids is good for parents. - Hey, what about the kids shuttle I mentioned before .... yeah, that's going to happen when the site moves to WordPress. I'm hiring someone to do the transition.