Wondering what the benefits are of travelling with family? Is it really worth all the hassle and expense?
It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that we’re hugely passionate about family travel and the benefits it can bring to the whole family. Our lives before children revolved heavily around travel and we enjoyed fourteen years of adventures as a couple before our eldest son Arthur arrived in 2013.
In fact, it was in Kruger National Park in 2013 that we took the home-pregnancy test to confirm Arthur was on the way. We had a good idea our lives were about to change (and of course they have) but we didn’t see why travelling couldn’t still be a big part of our lives.
Family travel is full of amazing moments and some really difficult ones. Some incredibly exciting times and some slightly more mundane. But best of all are the memories we make together, things that in years to come we’ll be able to say, ‘Ah, do you remember when we took that boat to…’.
We have made family travel work for us. Read on for our 10 benefits of family travel.
1. A more open travel experience
We’d be the first to admit that it’s not always easy to maintain that ‘first-day-of-trip’ feeling of openness as you get older. As the days and weeks of a trip pass by, you’re perhaps less inclined to say hello to everyone and often other people you encounter aren’t always friendly and open.
When travelling with kids though, we’ve noticed that almost everyone’s guard comes down when they see your family and even the toughest of hagglers will soon be smiling at you.
It’s also easy, as adult travellers, to fall into the ‘apathy-trap’ where you’re so used to travelling that you lose that sense of excitement at seeing new things. Travelling with kids is a sure-fire way to avoid that trap as their sense of wonderment is infectious, often giving you a whole new perspective on a place or situation.
2. Improves communication and social skills
It goes without saying that travel isn’t the only time kids improve their communication skills; in their home country, they’re still learning social skills and communication at school. But there’s something unique about being thrust into a new country or culture where people are different to you and communication isn’t the same.
Whilst kids do get to speak to lots of different people, there is often a language barrier in place so they learn the power of a smile, wave or high-five. It’s also a great lesson in today’s world that people are generally friendly and have more in common with each other than we all might realise.
Who knows, they’ve potentially got friends in different parts of the world they can stay in touch with after the trip, it just needs a smile or wave to get started.
If they’re of school age and are starting to learn a new language, it’s an ideal time to try out a few phrases with native speakers, even if it’s just something as simple as asking for an ice-cream.
3. It’s a sensory playground
It’s no secret that kids are fascinated by the world and everything in it.
Travelling with kids exposes them to so many new sights, sounds, smells and experiences, from a camel ride in the desert, a spicy Thai salad, the cacophony of a religious festival, or the calming sound of the ocean waves splashing on a deserted beach, they’re sure to find new things to occupy them each day.
And when they get back home, all those sights and experiences they’d started to take for granted, like the smell of freshly-cut grass or the smell of a home-cooked roast will suddenly feel new and exciting again.
4. Travel is the best education
In today’s inter-connected world, it’s ever-important to understand the people, languages and cultures which will influence your kids for the rest of their lives. There’s no better Geography, History or Religious Studies lesson than seeing an active volcano in New Zealand, a POW camp in Borneo, or a temple, church and mosque on the same street in Penang.
Kids learn so much from direct experience, which is the perfect compliment for the more textbook-based learning they’ll get back home in the classroom.
Worldschooling is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice for many families who manage to combine travel and education. From our experience of four months in Morocco and ten weeks in Southeast Asia, worldschooling was a fantastic option for our family, complimented by the brilliant Amy at TuitionUp providing fun and challenging one-on-one online lessons for the boys via Zoom for maths and English as well as the Doodle learning app.
5. Travel teaches them to be adaptable
An important lesson for any kid (and adult!) is to go with the flow and be adaptable when things don’t go to plan. Anyone who’s been overseas travelling will know how often the best laid plans change whether that’s a cancelled bus, or your favourite restaurant has closed early, all the way up to a global pandemic.
Different countries and cultures approach time-keeping in different ways so kids have to learn that four o’clock doesn’t always mean four o’clock, or that a bus might sometimes take a detour if the driver needs to see his friend.
It’s a great lesson that, when things go wrong or take a different track, you’re able to change your plans to fit around it. Who knows, the new plan might even be better than the original one.
We try so hard as parents to plan our kids lives around clubs, schools and friends. It’s easy to forget how often we succeed and everything goes to plan back at home. A little bit of chaos and last-minute change of plans isn’t always a bad thing.
6. It’s actually a lot easier than you think
Travelling as a young family might sound difficult, or even scary, but the reality is that in a lot of ways, the same survival techniques you employ at home still work in another country. Life on the road has its challenges but then so does being at home 365 days a year.
Kids are surprisingly adept at adapting to their new surroundings and finding their own routine when travelling. It helps to allow them some of the creature comforts they’re used to at home, whether that’s Zoom calls with friends, gaming time, or lunch at McDonalds.
As parents you might find it easier too; there’ll be a constantly revolving set of activities to choose from (no more repeat visits to the same soft-play centre or playground) and you’ll be (somewhat) freed from the daily grind of school drop-offs, work and chores. If you’re lucky enough to be able to take some time off from work, there’ll be more time to spend with the kids and your days will feel longer.
7. It helps them appreciate home
Just because we travel, doesn’t mean we dislike our home life and country. It doesn’t have to be a binary choice of rejecting one place to enjoy another.
The kids will gain a whole new perspective on their life at home and the people waiting there for them. Visits to friend’s houses become special again, the countryside walks take on a new life because the landscape is now so different, and they realise how much their old friends mean to them.
The whole family will get a boost from a change of routine and a reminder of what’s special about home.
8. It can be cheaper than living at home
Family life at home can be expensive. As the kids get older, the amount of money you spend each month on clubs, clothes, activities and entertainment continues to rise. And that’s on top of the usual living expenses of mortgages, rents and household bills.
Travelling to some destinations around the world can be so much cheaper than your home country, especially when accommodation can be les than $20 per night, and a tasty meal only a few dollars for the whole family. Read our post here on how we budget for long-term travel.
Try to also remember how much you actually spend at home just living day-to-day. Hypothetically, if you went travelling for two months and spent £6,000, that might sound like a lot of money. But if you were living at home, how much less would you actually spend over the course of two months when you factor in mortgages, energy bills, outings, clubs and entertainment?
If you’re interested in longer term travel, there’s the option to rent out your home or leave your rented accommodation, and reduce your monthly outgoings dramatically. This way, any savings or income from remote working will go so much further.
9. Quality family time and creating memories
Perhaps the most important reason of all is the opportunity to spend quality time together as a family. Our time together as a young family is only short and it won’t be long before the kids want more time with their friends, and that’s exactly as it should be.
For now though, we want to make memories together as a family and use this precious time as wisely as we can. Life at home is all well and good, but there’s something exciting and exhilarating about seeing the world together, experiencing the good parts as well as the bad, but experiencing them together.
10. Parents will experience things they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise
Travelling as a young family isn’t without its challenges and we’ve certainly had to change the way we travel. But we love it. Our travel experiences are all the more enriching with our boys.
As parents, it’s given us a whole new perspective on travel and has enabled/forced us to do things we’d never considered before. From water-parks to zip-lines, LEGOLAND to Icelandic horse-rides, travel with kids certainly broadens your horizons. Yet we’re still able to do the things we used to do, from sunbathing to a cold beer at sunset.
Family travel, like everything, is all about teamwork and compromise; what better lessons to teach your kids.
If you’re thinking about it, do it. You won’t regret it.