My children are too young. It is too hard to travel with little ones. It’s such a hassel. I will wait until they are older because now they are too young and they will forget everything anyway!
These are just a few of the sentences I keep hearing people say when they talk about traveling with children. And, even though as a mother of two young children I have to agree to some extent, my humble opinion is to just go for it no matter how expensive or how much of a ‘hassel’ it is to organize and carry it through. Now, I am not talking about a package-deal-family-trip to Disney, I am talking about a trip with culturel significance.
Well, traveling, meeting new people, being exposed to other ways of living, other languages, different scenery, and much much more will make a tremendous impact in your children’s life. A positive impact that will last a lifetime.
It has been almost two years since I traveled with my children overseas. We spent three weeks visiting my childhood friends and immediate family in Chile. At the time, my daughter was only four years old and my son has just turned two. Due to various reasons, my husband was unable to join us for this trip, therefore I was fully responsible for my kiddos during a 24 hour trip from point A to point B. And guess what? It was smoothly and it was fun!
TIP – Expect the unexpected and se prepared for everything! - As an adult, I just carried the ‘essentials,’ these included cell phone, extra top -if kids spilled something on me,- and my wallet. The two carry-ons I had with me contained everything I could possibly need for my children, including favorite toys, healthy and unhealthy snacks, books and electronics, arts and crafts, and more.
My trip to Chile was everything I hoped for and more! In less than a day, my children were able to point out the “differences” between Chile and our home town in United States. Mentioning things such as ‘big mountains’, ‘silly-loud music’, ‘snacks are different,’ and other aspects of the Chilean culture -and my family habits- that I never really noticed before. But most importantly, within two days, by children had completely ‘switch’ languages, from English to Spanish -talking and speaking!-
Finally, even though it has been almost two years since we took this trip together, my daughter still says random comments like: “Remember mami, in Chile, we…, when…” and sometimes she will ask if we can go to Chile just for the day.
Planning ahead, readjusting your routine and schedule, and sacrificing all you got in order to travel as a family -nationally or internationally- no matter how old your children are is a must!
Tips for Traveling as a Family
If you need more advice and ideas on how to travel successfully as a family, I would recommend visiting this site. This blog is just wonderful, easy to navigate and full of fun and unique ideas. My two favorite posts related to traveling with children and making it culturally significant are 25 Tips for Travel with Kids and 32 Travel Tips for a Cheaper and Deeper Traveling Experience.
A simple search such as ‘traveling with children’ on amazon can supply you with great tools including books, travel activity kits for children, and even folding potty seats – which I never used, but you may want.-
5 Benefits of Traveling as a Family
The more I travel with my own children, the more a realize of the importance, impact, and value that each trip has on each one of my kids.
1 – Embrace new cultures – A picture is worth a thousand words…
“Children don’t see divides, they don’t see hatred, and they don’t see why you are better or less than me.They just see love and joy and wonder… What sort of world will we have when those children bring with them a world that accepts the differences as something to be celebrated and learned from, not feared?” – Caz
2 – Pick up/Apply a new language – No matter where you go, children are always listening and ready to learn. Nationally, if you take a family trip to another part of this beautiful country, you will most likely run into someone that speaks another language. It is up to you, as a parent and caregiver of a bilingual child, to take advantage of the situation. In many occasions, I have introduced myself and carried on a full conversation with an individual -in a safe and friendly manner, in front of my children- so that we can get to know a little bit more about that person, his language, and his history. Traveling abroad as a family is a wonderful opportunity. Immersion travel is an effective way to expose your children to the target language and culture. Recently, Spanglish Baby wrote a blog post on How to Plan a Summer Abroad with Your Bilingual Kids. Great content and ideas to get you going!
3 – Bring it to life & a whole new perspective – Seeing an image on a book, on a computer, or on TV, is very different when compared to seeing it and experiencing it in real life.
Some of us shiver, some of us smile and admire quietly, and some of us may jump up-and-down and squeal of pure happiness and wonder. No matter how you react, the moment you walk through an old monument, or witness a beautiful scenery, or analyze a master piece, the feeling of that one particular moment is almost unexplainable. Children feel and experience the same emotions as we do. It is up to us to make it meaningful and put those feelings and thoughts into perspective.
Seeing my children’s reaction when we saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time was priceless. They kept referring to the book we had read the previous week -all about NY,- and their eyes twinkle as they stared at the iconic sculpture.
4 – Motivated to accept: Including alternative forms of entertainment & new cuisine – Like it of not, you are a role model to your children and for the most part, whatever you do they will soon follow. What do I mean by this? For example, children are more likely to try new cuisine with a positive attitude if you show excitement and willingness to try these new types of foods. No “forcing” required. At first, various types of foods and other forms of entertainment may look weird, funny, and odd to your children, but little by little, they will observe others -you and peers- engaging in these new activities and trying unique types of foods. And soon, they will slowly want to try it themselves.
5 – Sense of adventure & inspiration - Once you start traveling the world, you cannot stop. The curiosity and the sense of adventure never dies. Different people, culture, and languages ‘plant a seed’ in you that inspires you to create and achieve the unexpected.
Once we had returned from our trip to NY, I found my children playing in our living room with building blocks. They had recreated the United Nations. Yes, this trip had its challenges, but all the sacrifices we made were well worth it. No doubt about it! Seeing Alex and Contessa interact with each other talking about all the different flags, countries, and languages of the world… Oh my! I am not sure how to describe how I felt on that moment.
Now, my daughter’s interest about other cultures and languages is part of who she is. She is already planning our next trip. Destination: Italy. She hopes that this trip will be a mami-daughter date so we can visit The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
My son loves to pretend play; one minute he is ‘Toothless, the dragon’ – from the movie How to Train Your Dragon,- and the next, he is ‘Harold’ – from the book Harold and the Purple Crayon.- Every time he pretends to travel, he always chooses two destination: New York and Chile. Why? Because those two destinations have made the most impact in his three year old mind. Imagine what will happen once we start traveling more often. I can hardly wait!
What about you? Have you traveled as a family? Where? What are some of the benefits of traveling as a family that you can think of?