why It is iMportant To take EVEN small children on trips
To be completely honest: The selfish, independent me does not enjoy traveling with kids, especially small children. It’s not as relaxed as traveling alone. However, I’ve been wrapping my first daughter in a moby wrap to board a plane since she was 3 months and taken her on 15 hour plane rides and car rides that were looooong. I have traveled with my kids and always will.
So, why do I do it? Why have I committed to taking even young children on trips, to new places?
The last trip we took 2 of my three kids got the stomach flu. My mom used to tell me why would I do all this traveling? Your little ones will be just as happy spending the summer in the backyard digging in dirt, splashing with water and drinking lemonade. I agree. To a certain degree. There are season. There are limits and there are capacities. But the more I look back at our numerous travels abroad (often caused first due to weddings, sickness and funerals) the more I realize it actually IS important to travel even with little ones. We just came back from a 10 day across country trip yesterday. Each time after we travel I feel... exhausted. AND grateful. My kids and I come back spent but fuller. Richer. Images that they have seen, taste, smells conversations are precious. Here are ten reasons why it’s important for children to travel even when young.
1.) It exposes them to new people and ideas. When traveling be intentional to visit places such as museums and restaurants highlighting people of differnt ethnicities and countries. You can read a million books on China but nothing beats biting into a soft yummy pork bun and listening to the voices in Chinatown as we did last week. Next time you read about delicates they KNOW what you are talking about. Once they get continually exposed to new travels it will create a mind set in them that traveling is indeed part of life. Learning new things, eating new things in new places is part of who they will become. It broadens their understanding and installs in them a love for learning and certain humility that they don’t know it all and that there are so many more wonderful things to be discovered beyond the walls of their city or town. By traveling you help to raise people who are enthusiastic about learning new things. Well that is if you model it on your trip and become excited yourself about new things that you guys encounter! Even if it means faking the excitement a bit (: “oh wow, guys! Look at the Liberty Bell! And all these cobble stone streets! Let’s run on them real quick. Look at the beautiful golden statues in China town and the delicious dumplings!” Your kids will catch on when you allow yourself to be excited about learning about new cultures and people. Your interest, openness and enthusiasm will spark theirs really quickly.
2.) They experience themselves and you being out of their comfort zone and how to behave.
They experience being guests. As you study other cultures and themes such as immigration, your child gets a glimpse of what it means to leave home. A glimpse of the joy of being back home in the comforts of their familiarity.
3.) It fosters relationship between you and your child. They may not be able to articulate it yet but they sense that you invest time, money and energy (!!!) into them being able to experience and see new things. You are investing unselfish love into your child and will receive the payout one day. Plus, you are making memories with them that will be special and help bond for years to come. No matter of you strebten parent or grandparent, don’t underestimate your investment.
4.) They learn practical traveling skills. During last week‘s trip my elementary age girls looked over my shoulder as I checked us in at the self check in kiosk at the airport. Explain what you are doing to them. This will make it more natural when they travel by themselves one day. Also, on the way back we missed our flight because despite being 2 hours early we went to the wrong gate! Lesson on how to read a boarding card right, truly „distressed travelers“ hotel room rates and hotel toothbrushes that come in a kit with toothpaste already on them!
Here a few practical tips on HOW to travel with banales and elementary age children and make it an educational experience:
Easier said than done. I know. Keep it simple and fun but have a plan, do tell them WHERE you will travel (Name all the differnt places, cities) and let them read about that state and maybe a historical person who lived there. Read a book on that state. There’s a great book on differnt states that we read. It has lots of interesting facts. Also, on your part prepare at least one intentional educational visit to a historical site or museum. I like to have s few options. So for example when the Liberty Bell in Philly had a million people long line and my toddler was cranky we headed to the museum of civil war and talked to a shoemaker and other actors there.
Also, a visit to a museum, even if really short, sets a mindset in them to enjoy museums. BUT before you go in prepare them, even better get them excited about one or more things that you will be able to see there! For example we studied several differnt artists in depth before we went to HU and even my three and five year olds were able to excitedly identify a work by John Biggers and Jacob Lawrence when they saw it. (See my post on African American Artists for more info.) In short, studying great artists’ life and art will keep your little ones engaged and excited.
So, even if you go to visit grandma for thanksgiving two towns over, be intentional about the trip, find a new place, a historic site, something that sets that town apart and shows diversity of this town. Let them appreciate something about the people in that town that’s differnt from what they already know.
2.) Yes, bring special snacks and toys on the trip and an infant wrap if you have a little one. I really like the moby wrap for younger ones (see bellow) and the ergo for older kids up to 3 depending (see bellow)! These tow have been life savers for me on my trip and the dark color was so forgiving of the many spills and spit ups that happen during a trip(:
With my three kids I've tried (and bought) so many different carriers and these two are hands down the ones that I wish I had with baby #1. My life as new mom would have been so much easier. The Moby wrap is wonderful for the very little ones (0-1). The cloth feels so soft and if you were literally wearing your baby in a t-shirt. Both my daughter and son loved hanging kangaroo style in the Moby and it turned fuzzy situations into a breeze. I also really liked my Ergo that I bought in Germany. It made traveling (and hiking) with an over 6 month old (can be used up to 2-3yrs depending on your child's size) so much more relaxed and comfortable! In the world of so many recalled carriers these are gems. Both carriers come in so many fun colors and artsy designs these days. So go with what brings you joy! (For you will be looking at it a lot:). Strollers are good too but I find the waiting for them to arrive can add extra stress. Plus you can move around easier and babies usually feel calmer when you wear them close to you during a trip. So carriers are a win-win during travel. (Plus you have gained some muscle structure aftrrbthe trip:)
3.) Keep a positive and upbeat attitude no matter how exhausted you really feel. Yes after and during traveling we do feel exhausted but what’s the use of showing it. Making missing our second plane an adventure and opportunity to teach mature response to unexpected events really helped my kids to enjoy the traveling part. What’s the use of us ALL falling apart? As adults we can model self control, sacrifice (of reading yet another story instead on switching the tv on in the plane) and choosing to have fun!
4.) That said, be realistic and know when you reached your personal limit. After not sleeping more than 4 hours a night, it actually is ok to let your toddler watch an educational cartoon while you dose off in the plane for 20 minutes. It’s ok to treat yourself to an overpriced cold pressed juice at the third airport stop to replenish your physical energy. (And tip: drink FAST so that 80% of the juice will have entered your body before 6 little hands reach for the straw:)
5.) Let them keep a travel journal. My 8 year old daughter loves writing down all the details, new impressions and mom fails in her journal. And I love seeing her sit down at the end of the day and develop this great habit. It will foster in them the habit to later on as well process new experiences, emotions, obstacles and achievements in a journal which is psychologically very healthy. We have the one bellow and it gives lots of fun suggestions and writing prompts to express how they felt about differnt parts of the day!
6.) Enjoy!!! Remember that yes they will only be small once and one day you will miss those days of cuddling, holding them close and giving them snacks for their ears to pop as the plane takes off.
7.) Take lots of pictures. That way you can print them out in the next few weeks and allow them to relive and remember (!) the trip and special experiences in years to come.
8.) Unpack right away! (: That helps them and you to adjust back quickly and keep traveling a fun memory rather than something that’s disturbing and causing chaos!
Ps: And yes, we are already planing our next trip abroad and are super excited! Especially, because we found a ridiculously cheap flight paying whooping 300 Euros! Who wouldn't go to Europe if you end up paying less for a round trip from L.A. to Germany than you would have paid for a domestic flight to the East Coast (: Check out tickets at CHEAP AIR:
I think the secret is to snatch up those deals quick because those sales are sometimes mistakes airlines have made and won't last more than 48 hours!! And you never regret a travel! Memories will be with your kids (and you) for a lifetime...
California based Ghanaian-German educator, writer, bookworm and mama of three. A lover of all things nature, diversity & healthy.
"Education is nothing else than discovery.
And discovery full of diversity is beautiful."
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About the author
My name is Nancy. I'm a teacher, home educator, wife, mother, writer and accidental German-Ghanaian transplant to the U.S., in love with California and all things diversity.