Our world has become smaller and smaller, in part, because today’s technology helps us communicate in ways we never dreamed possible. On the other hand, there is still a big, wonderful world out there beyond our smartphones and tablets, filled with learning opportunities and exciting adventures. When we travel with our children, we provide them with experiences and lessons they’ll take with them all of their lives.
So if you’re eager to start the next journey with your kids, here are a few ways that you can make it crazy fun while also empowering them with important life lessons. (How’s that for a win-win?)
- They can lead. As parents, we often get so caught up in the fear of something going wrong that we ruin the traveling experience for kids. However, when you realize that you’re not giving up total control – your kids will still be safe, and they’ll learn valuable lessons – it gets easier! On your next trip, teach your kids how to navigate and lead the way by having them read the signs at the airport, or the car rental lot, or the tram station at a resort. If they run into trouble, remind them they can ask for help from you or the airport/parking lot/park personnel. At the airport, let them go through security first – proudly explaining that they are the family leader for the day. When you do, you teach kids that it’s important to look for signs, check their surroundings, and ask for help. You also teach them that it’s OK to make mistakes, get turned around, re-navigate, and be a leader.
- Memories are gifts. Because kids, unlike most adults, live fully in the present, they don’t worry so much about what could happen, or what did happen – they are focused on what is happening right here and now (and that’s a life lesson they can teach us!). In return, we can teach them about making memories through travel and documenting them with photos, or in a scrapbook so you can look back later at all the silly and amazing adventures. Sharing this time with your kids – opening their eyes to new things, places, and people – is a gift they receive from you. Unlike most gifts in life, though, these memories are gifts they’ll open over and over throughout their lives.
- Less is more. When children learn how to pack for vacation (and be responsible for their own belongings), they quickly discover that if they bring “everything and the kitchen sink”, they will be the ones to carry the load. This lesson can go far beyond how many shoes they pack. Eventually children learn that all baggage (both physical and emotional) gets heavy after a while. Sometimes the best course is to unpack, let go, and scale back.
- Diversity is awesome. While technology makes it feel like the world is getting smaller, the fact is that the world is filled with people of every color, religion, and culture imaginable. As parents, we can either teach our kids to be tolerant and excited to learn about how other people live, work, and navigate their world, or we can stay stuck in our own little cliques and communities. My advice? Share the world’s diversity with your kids. Let them explore and celebrate the commonalities and the differences. This lesson will not only serve them well in life, but it will make them more compassionate people. And in the end, isn’t that what we really want for our kids?
- Flexibility can be fun. When everything is set in stone and change seems like the big bad wolf, you lose the ability to teach children to adapt. What better way to teach flexibility than to travel with kids? You know the saying… “When life isn’t going your way, yell ‘PLOT TWIST’ and keep going”. That’s a fun mindset to adopt. There will always be something that changes, shifts, or throws our schedules for a loop. If we can teach our kids to be comfortable with the “plot twists” and to find the alternative routes, rules, and mindsets, they’ll grow up less anxious and more resilient.
- It’s OK to get lost sometimes. While we all want to help our kids get on the right path in life, some of the most important lessons can be learned by taking the road less traveled – especially on vacation. Teach your kids that it’s ok to venture off the course a little and find new paths. If we can teach our children now to venture beyond their comfort zones (under our watchful eye), they will take that perspective into adulthood. They won’t be afraid to try or head off for new adventures, travel to new destinations, or even create new friendships. What a gift!
Every day and every journey with our kids offers us a chance to teach and learn. Make the most of each moment, because it truly does go by in the blink of an eye.
When you’re ready to book your next flight or cruise, bus trip or rental car – or even explore your own backyard – keep these life lessons in mind throughout the journey. And always remember to have fun along the way!