Feature photo by Beard Papa / Photo above by GraceFamily

Young families everywhere take note: include your children in your travels. Explore the world together. Here’s why.

Traveling gels a family. While life, work and school can get in the way of togetherness, a family getaway makes a team of you all. You’re in the same boat, car, train, or plane and negotiating everyone’s needs at close quarters is a chance to get to know each other again in a new way.

Here are seven reasons why traveling with your kids is a smart idea:

1. They’ll see things in the real world.

Pictures on the internet can give kids an idea, but there is nothing like seeing California redwoods in person. You never understand how big the Lincoln Memorial is until you are near one of those gigantic marble hands.

Even if your children seem to sullenly miss Guitar Hero, they will retain glimpses of the places you take them when they are older and remember them fondly.

Photo by kippster

2. It will foster family love.

While home, you settle into a routine. The habits of work and school dull the senses and interactions and it’s possible to settle into a rut in which you’re not curious about yourself or your family. A National Geographic article exposed the ways that sharing novel activities keeps love alive and fresh.

The article is about romantic love, but that unsettled feeling of risk and exploration can also be shared with your children and bring you all closer together. Feed the love for your family by sharing new experiences.

3. It will offer new answers to the question, “why?”

Wouldn’t you rather find out the answer to the question of why people of the ancient Mogollon culture constructed and lived in cliff dwellings that remain in Gila National Forest, than explain why the sky is blue?

Wouldn’t sharing the history of the Eiffel Tower be preferable to explaining that of your unkempt neighbor Glenda and the reason she always seems to be chewing on her tongue? Stimulating your child’s curiosity may very well stimulate your own.

4. You’ll learn about each other.

You feel like you know your kid better than anyone, but won’t you be surprised when your son is more drawn to the trash cans in Trafalgar Square than the fountains? Will your own curiosity about your daughter be piqued when you notice that she isn’t the least bit squeamish about eating Thai cricket stir-fry?

Being open to your kids’ reactions to new stimuli might teach you a few things about their developing personalities.

5. It offers the opportunity to be unplugged.

You’re jealous of your kids. They have no idea what things used to be like. They have no concept of life without cable television, the Internet, and modern gadgetry.

Besides being rewarding, travel is often an experience in deprivation– or if not deprivation, at least a waiting game. There is no better way than being unplugged from modern conveniences to wake the old sense of fun and games that have nothing to do with a programmer’s idea of a good time.

Fan out that pack of cards or call up the old rules to Twenty Questions and I Spy.

6. You’ll waken the traveling spirit.

Travel is one of the best ways to open your kid’s mind to the reality of other ways of being. Feeding a child’s curiosity through travel opens possibilities of other languages and ways of life in a natural way that will inspire in later life and in the present.

If your child sees a practical application to those French lessons, she or he might be that much more inclined to pay attention, dreaming of the day when they will be put to use.

7. They’ll learn life skills and improvisation.

When your child sees you start a fire from wet wood on a cold night or watches you negotiate a cab ride in your crippled Spanish, you are setting a great example. Learning how adults get things done in difficult circumstances is a valuable lesson in improvisation and critical thinking often be hidden from children.

By providing an adventurous example to your kids, you increase the chances that they will admire and emulate behaviors you want to foster in them. When your kid watches you go from plan A to plan B and then plan C just to provide dinner, she is learning persistence and negotiation.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION

Not a parent? No problem! Traveling with your parents is just as important and rewarding. If you’re traveling with your kids for the first time and have some anxiety, you’re not alone. Check out these tips about what you should know before you hit the road.