Why It’s Important You Travel With Your Children

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Photo: Nathan Glenn

We traveled quite a bit before we had kids and now three kids later we haven’t really slowed down much. We just took my oldest daughter at age 8 to her 18th state and our five-year-old to her 17th. My husband and I are only on #25 and #23 so we’re not too far ahead of them. I always say my goal is to hit the main 48 states with them before they grow up. I can already see the love for travel and meet different people and see and trying different things taking shape in my daughters. I tell them after traveling the country in their childhood years they’ll be more than ready for the adventure of traveling the world as young adults.

I will often hear people say how they’d love to take their children “there” or wish they had more time or more money. Or that when their kids are older they’ll go. Trust me, I get all the reasons to not go. Let me evaluate and validate some of those reasons for you.

1. It is hard to make the time. Between the kids’ school and activity schedules and work it can be hard to find a time when everyone’s schedule is free. Even on a teacher’s schedule I occasionally think how it’d be nice to spend a week at home rather than on the road and out of a suitcase.

2. I totally get the money reason. I’m sure some that listen to me complain about money with the grocery budget or hear me starting to freak out that we’re getting into our August living savings (as teachers we have no pay for two months) wonder how I afford all this traveling. Everything is budgeted in my life. My husband sometimes hates this  but all tha travel expense is a top priority in that budget. Some people like to shop a lot, or get manis and pedis, or have their girls nights at the bar, but my money necessity is this. The travel budget gets saved and not touched. I’ll forego the kids’ college savings deposit for the month or cut corners on our grocery budget but the travel budget never gets cut or borrowed from. Everyone has their priorities; this has just always been mine. If you’re worried you’ll overspend your budget you probably will! That’s not what you’ll remember years later down the road though.

3. You’re worried the kids will be off their schedule? Totally! Will they be a hot mess in some moments? Oh my God yes!

4. Do you dread the work of preparing for a trip with kids. Oh, yeah it’s  work. The packing for a family is just ridiculous. The kids think they have to bring every damn lovie they own. They all need their own suitcase. Then when you stop for just one night it looks and feels like you’re moving in, and the thought of just sleeping in the car passes your mind.

5. Are there going to be annoyances of all of you spending so much time together in such close quarters? You will now know how long it takes for everyone to poop. And when you each poop at the same time of the day and there’s only  one bathroom just plan on being late.

6. Are you worried your car will be trashed like never before? Oh, yeah, it will without a doubt so as much as you want to get that newer, bigger reliable car for the next family vacation kiss it’s shiny newness and new car spell good bye. It will now smell like old spoiled milk, stale French fries, forgotten diapers, and maybe BO depending if you started skipping showers or not because the wait for the bathroom is just too long.

7. Are you thinking you couldn’t handle that much time packed in a small space with your fussy baby or fighting children. You’ll contemplate strangling them or leaving them on the side of the road with a “free to a good home” sign a few times but you’ll find you have amazing strength because somehow you’ll resist.

So I totally get all the reasons to not go, to just stay home. But if you really want to go quit waiting, just pack everyone up and just go. Take the days off, use your long anticipated long weekend, take the kids out of school, skip a game, and just go!

You’ll get more money later, but not this time with your children. Your kids will gain experiences they can’t in their norm. They will learn flexibility and tolerance. They will discover different parts of the world and history. They’ll gain geographical knowledge and cultural awareness. They’ll question the new things and adventures around them as they discover new places. And don’t forget to bring Siri along. She’ll know all the answers to their questions about history and places when you don’t. They will laugh and smile and you will stare in awe again at their childlike wonder.

When your children are sleeping peacefully in the backseat or when they’re not fighting and you all decide to turn the music up and just jam down the road you will rediscover yourself again in the journey.  Your worries and stress will drift out those open windows and scatter to the wind. Your hope and happiness will be reborn again with the beautiful scenery and the moments of joy with your family. The hours of music and self-reflection as you drift down the highway will reignite your purpose and dreams again.

Life is short; our kids’ childhoods are short. Traveling isn’t for everybody, and I get that. But even if it’s just one little trip you always wanted to take just go. Tell those difficult reasons of why you shouldn’t go now to take a hike and start planning that trip to wherever your heart has desired to go. Even though you may want to kill me for talking you into this at one point you’ll also have moments you’ll want to thank me. Happy travel season, my friends!

I am a teacher, wife, and mom to two daughters and a son. You can find more of my writing in Chicken Soup for the Soul's Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide and Curvy and Confident, on my blog Stepping into Motherhood, or in my book Moms, Monsters, Media, and Margaritas.

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