We love traveling as a family. We realize that a lot of parents are fearful at the thought of bringing their needy baby, or rambunctious toddler along when traveling. There are definitely unique challenges when you travel with young kids.
I still remember the nightmare of having to hold my clingy baby for almost the whole of an entire 17-hour flight.
But you know what?
I would still bring her along if I had to do it again. HOWEVER. I would do it a lot differently.
Despite the extra work, there are significant mental, emotional, and other benefits for your kids, when you start taking them on family trips early, that are worth your trouble.
I want to let you in on another secret.
We now realize that there are also logistical advantages for us, parents, when we travel as a family with our young kid.
Yup, believe it or not, we often get special treatment, that we never got, before we had our kid.
So there are actually two-fold advantages when you travel as a family. For your kids, but also for you.
Advantages and Benefits of Family Travel For Kids
There are multiple benefits for your kids that come with early exposure to travel experiences. Here are the best ten:
One strong reason for why we insisted in bringing along our kid, even when she was still only a baby, along on international flights, is because we wanted her to get used to novelty.
New experiences assist in building neural pathways in the brain, and the more positive new experiences she has, the more neural links will be built.
There is research that says that travel makes your child not only happier, but also smarter. According to this research, the aspects of the brain that relate to play, and curiosity, are activated during travel. And these brain developments could later translate into other skills like entrepreneurship, and innovation.
Social skills like being friendly, showing appropriate respect for other people’s values, and communicating across language barriers, are all extremely useful skills to acquire.
For example, how comfortable would your kid be in a group of other kids that didn’t speak his or her native tongue? Could your kid speak up for himself or herself among strangers?
The more that your kid is exposed to positive interactions with new, unfamiliar people, the more comfortable your kid will be in future social situations.
Travel is one great way to facilitate this because you can be around to supervise the interactions, unlike preschool or school, where parents are often not allowed to stay in.
These social skills will help in other social situations like making friends in a new school, or as an adult later, networking with others.
The travel process inevitably evokes strong emotions. There are positive-oriented emotions like excitement, happiness and exuberance.
But when things don’t go the way we expect or want them to, they can also evoke negative-oriented emotions like anger, boredom and stress.
Situations like waiting in queues during passport checks, flight delays and catching public transportation in an unfamiliar country, all help to develop emotional control like patience, forgiveness and resilience.
All these emotional skills will also help kids deal with challenges in their daily and school life.
Exposure to Different Languages
Travel is an authentic way to expose our child to native speakers of different languages.
Believe it or not, the most critical period for language development (including foreign languages) is between 0 to 5. Because of this critical period, we want to expose our child to as many languages as possible before she turns 5.
Even if we don’t speak the language, we believe that letting her listen to the different accents, and tones of different languages will make it easier for her to pick it up later, if she chooses to learn it.
Life Skills & Coping Strategies
When you travel, you are forced to use and practice life skills and develop coping strategies.
Travel often teaches you to deal with unexpected surprises (or shocks), patience, problem-solving, clear communication, staying flexible, and adapting to new situations.
One important coping strategy is to adjust one’s perspective when stressful things happen, so that the event does not end up ruining the rest of the trip.
For example, bad weather may cause a planned hiking tour to be unexpectedly cancelled; or there may be a long queue for the bathrooms; or our bag gets stolen. These all sound negative but we have learned that we can turn them around to become positive experiences.
Travel inevitably requires some ‘street smarts’ and coping skills.
By travelling with us, we knew that our child would be developing her own life skills and coping strategies.
Exposure to Different Environments
Unlike the US, many other countries don’t tip at all and the sales tax is already automatically added into the display price of an item. This made budgeting a lot easier.
We live in a sunny place that doesn’t snow at all. So, it was such a treat when we were able to fly with our child to a place where a snowstorm had just ended. We had tons of fun playing in the snow and we got to experience a different way of life.
We also once stayed in a place where they had horses. Our child enjoyed going out every day to feed them and she developed a love for horses after that experience.
Exposure to Different Foods
For us, part of the fun in travel, is to try local cuisines.
We have tried scorpions and water cockroaches in Beijing, raw egg in Belgium and ostrich in New Zealand.
We have not enjoyed all the foods that we have tasted but we have always enjoyed the anticipation of trying something new and exotic.
More importantly, exposure to different kinds of cuisine and foods makes our child less of a picky eater at home. When we travel, she is game to try new foods too.
I believe that it’s important to be open-minded to new ideas and better ways of doing things. This is how innovation and progress come about.
My own dad believed in travel and since we were in elementary school, my dad took us on international flights all around the world. I remember him telling us that travel broadens the mind, and lets you see beyond the confines of your own current world.
This is so true. When you see how others live and how their society operates, you realize that there are many ways to live and to be.
You end up being more respectful, more understanding and less judgmental of others around you. And this makes life easier for everyone too.
Children learn a lot by modelling.
We believed early on that it was important for our child to travel with us so that she could learn from us and see how we traveled.
Travel survival skills like learning how to pack, navigate airports and taking care of oneself are all important.
We knew that by bringing her along, she would be watching us and learning valuable travel skills. This would make it easier for her in the future when she was ready to embark on her own travel adventures.
Ultimately, if you are a travel-loving family, it is never too soon to start traveling with your little one(s). The more often you do it, the more strategies you will accumulate and of course, the better you and your kid(s) will be at it.
Before our child was even two years of age, she already wanted to help with the bags and learned the importance of remaining in her car seat while on a flight.
We think that this happened naturally because of the previous travel we had done together already.
Cherished Family Memories
Travel is a great way to build cherished family moments and memories. I once read online that if you want to build a really good friendship with someone, you need to travel somewhere together.
The same can be said of building closer relationships within your family. The busyness of daily life often mean that we take each other for granted.
We are definitely closer as a family because of the travel we do together. Until today, we still enjoy reminiscing over some of the travel highlights that we have done together more than 3 years ago.
Advantages of Family Travel For Parents (Yup, You!)
We love traveling together as a family with our young child because we now often receive special perks that we didn’t used to get.
Please note that these tips will relate to flight travel by air, not car road trips but we have those too, if you want tips for family road trips.
a. Boarding Priority
For most airlines, you get boarding priority when you travel as a family with a young kid.
In American domestic airports, you will normally be able to board right after the priority classes of passengers (First Class, Business Class, passengers-who-pay-to-board-first and passengers with physical disabilities). Then, normally, families with young kids get to board next, before the general public.
For most international airports outside of the US, the boarding system is also often similar except that there is no category for passengers-who-pay-to-board-first. So you get to board even faster.
Boarding first allows us to choose better seats in domestic airlines, which often don’t have assigned seating.
So far, we have never had to sit separately, even if we are a little slow in checking in online. We also always find space for our carry-on bags in the overhead cabin right above our seats because we are on board earlier.
One reason why airlines allow families with kids to board first is because you may be bringing a car seat for your child and need the extra time to install the car seat.
Regardless of whether you are bringing a car seat or not, it is so useful to have the extra time to settle your child and retrieve your kids toys, snacks and blankets from your carry-on bags before the plane takes off.
However, do note that if you have a particularly energetic toddler, you may prefer to board last, so that your toddler spends the least amount of time on board the plane as possible.
Nevertheless, it is still good to have the option to go on board first, whether you actually wish to do so or not.
b. Skip Queues
For international airports outside of the US, we have found that having a young baby is even more advantageous. And yes, crying ones in particular. So don’t be too stressed if your baby is bawling. Sometimes this helps you get to the front of the line quicker!
We were once travelling through Auckland International Airport, New Zealand, and our baby was not having a great morning. There was a long line of passengers waiting to get their passports checked. Our child started to scream and cry, and her cries echoed through the long passageway.
Like magic, an airport security officer appeared out of nowhere and opened a separate pathway for us that skipped to the front of the queue. For once, we were thankful that our baby cried!
We experienced the same VIP star treatment when we were travelling through Hong Kong International Airport. An airport security officer spotted me babywearing my child, and immediately came to escort me to a special area to bypass the usual screening procedures. They did a quick check of our stuff but basically waved us through. We felt like movie stars.
Of course, this does not mean that you will always receive special treatment just because you have young kids with you.
But in our experience, airport security officers tend to be more sympathetic with parents dealing with upset babies.
So, the next time your baby starts bawling while you are standing in a queue at the airport, don’t stress. It may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
c. Special Areas for Families
Many international airports now have special amenities for families. Some have family rooms and restrooms, while others have breastfeeding rooms where moms are able to breastfeed their child in peace and privacy.
Some of these rooms are really comfy with soothing colors and armchairs where you can even take a quick snooze as your child feeds.
We have even been to one where there was hot water on tap for parents to make formula for their babies. I confess that I used it to make a hot drink for myself too!
Family Travel? Do It!
Why do so many people love going on vacation? There are many reasons, but some of these reasons include being able to experience new adventures, have fun and relax.
Similarly, during travel, kids also get a chance to develop their own sense of adventure and fun.
So now that we have talked about some of the benefits and advantages of family travel with kids, we hope that you are eager to start planning your next family trip and flight.
Face your fear and travel as a family anyway!
Not traveling by air?
Family travel by flying is slightly different from road trips but they can still be so much fun whether with a baby or with a toddler.
Inspire Someone Else
Need to inspire someone else to take the leap and travel as a family with their kids? Or do you need to convince a concerned grandparent or partner about the benefits of family travel? Share this with them!