Planning a trip can be so much work. How will you get from the airport to the hotel? What crazy hour do you need to wake up? What adapter do you need for your devices?
The kids complain. They don’t want to pack. They don’t want to get up early, stay up late, eat new food. It can really make you wonder: is travel even worth it?
Yes. Yes! A thousand times yes! Though it may not feel like it when your pizza unexpectedly comes with corn in Tokyo, or your train to Rome doesn’t have a bathroom when you’re potty training twins, travel will give your family so much.
As adults, we can feel a little jaded. But you’ll see things anew through your children’s eyes. Rollercoasters: new! Hotel ice machines: new! Sleeping on a train, seeing a kangaroo, drinking coffee with cardamom in it — all these things are novel and thrilling. Even teens will find surprises and thrills in the newness of travel.
Travel gives you time together, but not just any time. It’s time away from work, dishes, laundry, homework, piano lessons, and everything that keeps you from just hanging out and experiencing life together. There are no distractions. It’s just your family against the world.
The worst travel experiences make for the best family stories. Remember that time in Mexico when your bags arrived three days after you did? Or when Mom leaned too far off the whale-watching boat and dropped her phone in the water? In the middle of a bad travel moment, it’s good to remember: you wouldn’t have this story to laugh about if you’d just stayed home, comfy on the couch.
Sharing experiences and spending time brings people together. No matter where, if you go there with family, you’ll be more tightly bonded when you come home. With unstructured time, you can learn who your kids are at this specific moment in time. They will get to know you better, too. Sometimes the best parts of your family vacation will be the moments in between, on the train or plane, when there’s nothing to do but talk. Sharing extreme moments of joy and adversity, too, will bring you closer.
Want your kids to be grateful, informed, open-minded? Opening the door to new places is better than a million lectures from you. If you want your children to have empathy for all kinds of people, introduce them to the world outside the doors. Spark their curiosity and reap the rewards of children who want to find out more about the world. There’s no place like home is the refrain of grateful children, home from a long and rewarding adventure.
The world is full of beautiful and amazing things. Show them to your children, and experience the thrill as their new excitement ignites your own. Mountain views, famous buildings, world-class sports teams, immortal art, bustling cities — find out what your children long to see, then go find it. Fill your cameras with photographs and your minds with memories of all the places you’ve been and seen together.
Travel is the perfect opportunity for kids to step up their independence, helping you solve the inevitable problems that arise. Maybe they will try ordering from the waiter in Spanish. Maybe they’ll help you figure out how to plug in your electric rental car. Or, just wander down to the lobby of the hotel to get some hot cocoa on their own. New, challenging experiences will give your child the opportunity to show you what they’re capable of.