Why do I travel with my kids? Like many traveling parents, I believe that travel is educational. I believe it broadens my children’s horizons and exposes them to new cultures and life experiences that they can’t otherwise experience at home. I believe it teaches kids about resiliency and flexibility and understanding and patience.
My children’s generation is over-scheduled and micro-managed. Many think that the world revolves around their needs and wants. I don’t want my kids to fall into that kind of self-centered stupor. Travel shakes things up.
But these are all answers you’ve probably heard before.
What is less often discussed is what traveling with kids does for parents. As parents, we are half of the family travel equation. There is so much for us to learn from the experience of traveling with kids.
What has travel with kids done for me? Without a doubt, it has made me a better parent. It has taught me resiliency and flexibility and understanding and patience. It has taught me not to over-schedule and micromanage. It was taught me that the world doesn’t revolve around my needs and wants.
Here are the most important parenting lessons I’ve learned from travel with kids, whether it be at 36,000 feet or with two feet on solid ground.
If you don’t bend, you’ll break. Travel can throw some big curveballs in your direction as a parent. A canceled flight or an injury or illness far from home in a strange land are all chances for things to go dreadfully off the rails. Flexibility is key to surviving those tough times. My Type-A personality has had to learn to take a back seat in these situations (well, sometimes).
Small children (like dogs) smell fear. Let on that you are stressed about something and children can sense it. They are masters at exploiting those situations too. Don’t let them see you sweat.
Perfect parenting shouldn’t be your goal. You can’t be perfect when you travel. Give yourself a break. Giving kids a little screen time on a cross-country flight or a day at Disney where meals consist entirely of churros and Mickey ice cream bars is fine. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent. And having a few days like that back home doesn’t mean you’ve failed either.
It isn’t about you. When you travel with kids, gone are the days where you can do and see exactly what you want to see in your travels like you did backpacking Europe the summer after you finished college. Travel with kids is sometimes going to mean missing a museum in favor of a playground. Roll with it. And remember — do you really want to be that self-centered person you were at 22?
Conversely, it isn’t about them. We sometimes think our goal as parents is to make our kids feel special and have their needs and wants met at every moment. Sometimes we need to teach them that the needs of others come first. If that means occasionally missing a nap so mom and dad can see that museum, so be it.
Experiences are more important than things. Go ahead and buy yourself that souvenir, but the memories you bring home from travel have a more lasting effect on your family. Even if the memories you are creating are ones your kids are too young to remember. You will remember.
You really get to know your kids. At home, it’s all about school and soccer practice and routines. Travel allows families to spend a very different kind of time together. As a parent, you get to see sides of your children that you might not otherwise knew existed. Take full advantage. The time that you can do this is remarkably fleeting.
What have you learned from traveling with kids? Share your wise words in the comments!