"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.
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.
No suburbs, just nature.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Road/campground/(and I assume boat) boredom can result in great simple games.
You can't carry a lot of "stuff" if you are traveling a lot. This is a great lesson for children in simpler living.
Seeing cousins on the other side of the country teaches kids that close families are a good thing.
Like time around a campfire. You know, the moments that bring us closer.
Makes them feel like a useful member of the family
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.
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.
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.
They will remember it, and they will remember who they were with.
Swimming, throwing rocks, climbing mountains, walking on trails, spotting wildlife, etc.
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!
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.
Everything is a problem to be solved when traveling.
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.
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.
We are always meeting new people.
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).
What do all the symbols and numbers on a map mean? Traveling kids know.
How far can they jump, how fast can they run, how long can their bladder last. Traveling kids learn these things.
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.
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.
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.
… 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.