Travel builds confidence, teaches us to be better environmental stewards, and shows us how to deal with things that don’t go exactly as planned
There is something about getting out of your familiar home environment that teaches all sorts of lessons, especially for kids. Road trips can show us the importance of planning ahead, while trips to foreign countries can help us tap into skills like negotiation and problem-solving. Traveling with kids at any age is super important as it lets them see the differences in the world outside of their home as well as how people are similar, even a continent away.
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There’s so much about travel that requires patience, from both adults and kids alike. The whole airport experience involves so much waiting in line that you are often drained before you even take off. Learning that often things are out of our control and we need to be patient is a skill we could all use a little more practice with.
Even from a young age, kids can have fun helping you navigate. You can draw up a rudimentary map that has major landmarks on it for little ones, or give older kids an actual map with the destination marked to see if they can follow along. For tweens and teens, learning to navigate a subway system without an app is a skill that will serve them well.
3. How to make friends
Little kids have the amazing ability to make friends at the playground in two seconds and that can be true even when you are in another country. Seeking out playgrounds when you travel is a great way for kids to gain confidence in themselves when meeting kids they don’t know. You can search on your map app for playgrounds nearby or use an app like Playground Buddy that maps them all out for you.
Related: Life Skills! Here’s How to Teach Kids to Read a MapKate Loweth
4. Trying new foods
If you have kids who are die-hard members of the chicken nuggets club, you might think that a trip to somewhere that (gasp!) might not offer chicken nuggets is a pretty terrifying thought. It’s often when we are faced with no other choice than to try something new that we find a new favorite. (But we support you if you need to keep those favorite snacks in the backpack, in case of emergency!)
From packing your suitcase to determining what train you need to get on, there are so many opportunities to develop your problem-solving skills while traveling. You can even take it a step further by asking kids, “what would you do in this situation?” when you are faced with a tough question so that they can really think it through themselves before you take over. It’s also good to rehash a stressful situation after it is over and everyone has calmed down: “Well, that didn’t go as planned! What could we have done differently?” You are out of the stress of the moment but everyone learns from it.
6. There’s a world beyond our neighborhood
There’s so much learning that can be done when we leave the confines of our familiar neighborhood and visit somewhere else. Kids can be astounded by things as simple as how to people deal with snow on a daily basis (when coming from a warm climate) or why some countries don’t refrigerate their eggs in the grocery store.
7. Communication skills
It’s important when you visit another country to learn how to say simple phrases like, “please,” “thank you,” “how much does this cost,” “excuse me,” and “hello.” It demonstrates that you value the other culture and aren’t just “lazy Americans.” We can use apps like Google Translate as a crutch but often the gist of what you need to communicate can be provided even when you don’t share a common language.
8. Physical skills
A family vacation may push you to try activities beyond your comfort zones like ziplining, hiking, snorkeling, and mountain biking. These might not be activities you pursue in your everyday life, but just the experience of trying new things makes you more willing to try more new things in the future.
9. Memories above things
Suitcases have a limited size and you can’t bring home every trinket or stuffie you come across on your family vacation. But you know what can definitely be taken home with you? Memories of your time together. Memories of the night you stayed up late playing in a city fountain. Memories of when mom almost got left behind on the subway. These are what will last long after the stuffie has been donated.
10. How to protect our planet
Something like seeing the impact of sunscreen on our delicate coral reefs or learning about how species have become endangered due to the carelessness of humans can create a passion in kids to become better environmental stewards. Ultimately, travel can turn us away from the “me-me-me” attitude to a more external view.
Related: 50 Ways Families Can Help Save the Planet
Taking care of their luggage, managing spending money, and not leaving possessions behind in hotel rooms are just a few of the ways that kids can practice responsibility while traveling.
Probably our favorite skill that kids learn while traveling is gaining confidence in themselves. Travel teaches you whether you like quiet, small towns or large, bustling cities. Are you more of a relaxing beach person, or an on-the-go history buff? The opportunities for self-discovery while traveling are endless!