Travel with young kids isn’t easy. There, I said it.
It’s funny to me when I post about traveling with our daughter Sofia, the comments that I get. When she was three years-old, we took her to South Africa. I remember getting a comment like, “Why do this now, why not go when she’s old enough to remember it.”
I responded, “Sofia remembering it, is not my priority.” Here’s why:
Basically, every expert in the world of children development agrees, the first years are the most important in life of every child as they set the basis for overall success in life.
Think about what you do/did with your little ones between ages 0-5. The play groups you put them in and all the little experiences from music class to apple picking to art. Why put them in these types of environments or experiences if they aren’t going to remember it?
Because it imprints on who they are, exposes them to new things, sets their senses on fire and is the foundation of who they become. Right?
Same for travel.
Travel with young kids improves brain development by exposing them to new and unfamiliar environments. It is an assault on all five senses. And, yes, is especially important in a child’s development (hello moms who obsess over sensory activities).
The exposure to different cultures, unique flavors, new sounds, different languages and experiences encourages flexibility, adaptability, empathy, new communication skills, social skills and cultural appreciation. It helps mold the people they grow to become and improves their life skill toolbox.
Benefits of Traveling with Young Kids
Here are 5 benefits I’ve seen in my own daughter through traveling.
Benefit 1: Travel makes kids more adaptable and flexible
Travel, by nature is an uncertain beast. Flights can be delayed, trains can be cancelled. Hotels may not meet expectations and it’s probably going to rain. By traveling with young kids, they learn (from your behavior) how to manage these expectations, problem solve and make the best of any situation.
Last week, were headed to Sicily with friends. We all met at an airport in Rome to take a flight at 8pm. That flight got cancelled and we had to re-book on another airline, and fly from a different airport. We wouldn’t arrive into Sicily until midnight and didn’t get into our hotel room until 1am. Sofia rolled with it. Was she exhausted, absolutely. But she knows that plans change and that her throwing a tantrum won’t make it better.
This type of flexibility translates outside of travel. She’s more adaptable, loves to help solve a problem and doesn’t let the changes in schedule or life throw her for a loop. Travel with young kids will inevitably make children more open to new experiences throughout their life.
Benefit 2: Travel with young kids promotes empathy and cultural awareness
In a world where the divide is often based on ignorance of other cultures or religions, I believe that raising our children to appreciate other cultures is a necessity. By exposing children to other cultures, religions and foods at a young age, it “normalizes” having experiences with people who look different, talk different, pray different etc.. It was incredibly important to my husband and I to create a Global Citizen in our daughter. We want our daughter to be curious and appreciate other cultures and communities.
Benefit 3: Travel with young kids increases communication and social skills
Do you want your kids to be able to make friends easily and have great communication skills? Toss them into a playground in Rome or onto a beach in Greece and let them figure it out. Kidding, but not really.
Since Sofia could walk, she’s wanted to make friends on every beach, in every playground and even randomly in restaurants. As we travel often, she quickly learned that she doesn’t also speak the same language as her new bestie. So, she has learned how to interpret non-verbal cues and other emotional signals. She learned that play and laughter are in fact a universal language.
When you travel with young kids, they learn how to communicate in ways other than language, they become more observant of social cues and overall develop new skills that will translate into solid life skills as they get older.
Benefit 4: Trying new foods, flavors enhances their palate
In 2019 we spent 3 months in Florence, Italy. My daughter was five at the time. It was truffle season, and as most menus are seasonal, truffles were on everything from eggs to pasta to steak. One day at a restaurant, my daughter looked at her plain pasta pomodoro and compared it to my pasta with truffle. She was curious and asked for a bite. Needless to say, she ate the rest of my pasta and I was stuck with the pasta pomodoro (which was delicious by the way).
This one experience was the tip of her journey into unique foods. Now at eight years old, she loves truffles, sushi, artichokes and even pasta with sea urchin. We get compliments on her unique palate, but really, we just exposed her to new and different foods.
TIP: Trying new foods usually starts with trying something off my plate first. This way she doesn’t commit to a full meal, not knowing if she’ll like it.
Benefit 5: Builds deeper family bonds
Travel with young kids will activate the brain differently, than when you’re in a daily routine. When families are traveling, playing and exploring new things together, it stimulates the production of oxytocin, a feel-good chemical, known to reduce stress and promote brain development.
Play-based learning during travel stimulate a children mind by boosting their creativity and imagination. Parents and children engage differently traveling vs in your daily routine at home. You’re less distracted, doing things that are new and fun together. Maybe it’s playing a game in a local park, building a sandcastle on the beach in Spain or taking a gelato making class in Italy. Activating all five senses, in a fun and interesting way together, creates deep bonds and makes a lasting imprint on their soul and the footprint on your family.
Traveling with young kids is not easy. But, the benefits are undeniable. Whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime or annual tradition, share the gift of traveling the world with your kids, you won’t regret it.
P.S. The hardest part is actually managing your own energy and expectations. Maybe I’ll do another blog on that topic!