Many of my friends can’t wait to leave the kids with grandma and go on vacation. But that’s not how my wife and I like to do it. So I wondered what some of the benefits are for families that travel together.
Here’s what we’ve learned in taking our kids across the world:
Families that travel together experience a unique bonding, an expanded understanding of our world, experiencing other cultures, languages, and peoples. But family travel also enhances our sense of curiosity and wonder as we parents begin to see the world through the eyes of our children.
But there’s a lot more to say about family travel and some of the pros and cons are. So let’s dive in!
There is so much more than taking pictures and posting social media updates when traveling. Yes, beautiful sunsets and various landmarks are wonderful to enjoy.
And seeing the how and what of the past, and how it affects the world today. Just seeing the world is one of the biggest benefits of all.
However, the ultimate benefit of traveling as a family is how it can enrich a child’s life and your family.
It may be a fun-filled trip with amusement parks or campgrounds involved. But simply just being together as a family, enjoying each other, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life is worth its weight in gold.
Check out all my best travel resources and recommendations which can save you time and money on your next vacation!
Why should families travel?
It allows you the opportunity to introduce your children to the world outside of your normal lives. It’s adventurous, educational, exciting, and yet peaceful.
There are opportunities to cry together, laugh together, and learn together. Most of all, you slow down and enjoy the moment you’re in together. You can step outside of the daily routine and let inspiration take over.
My wife and I have traveled all over the place with our kids;
- Costa Rica (a few times)
- New York
- San Diego
- Santa Fe
- Disney parks
And we have current travel plans for London, Paris, and Canada next summer.
Together as a family, you learn to admire, adore, support, and trust each other as individuals and as a family unit. You will each have a focus on family and leave behind daily life’s distractions.
You’ll discover the freedom to be open with each other as humans, not just the parent-child relationship that daily life demands and expects.
You can take advantage of uninterrupted time away from life, let it broaden your minds, watch your children grow and, in some ways, grow with them.
As the adult, you’re able to take a deep breath and see things through your child’s eyes and mind. Even if you have seen it before, traveling with your family allows you to see things differently.
The world becomes the teacher as you explore and learn things about the world together.
As the family discovers the world together with undivided attention, you can enjoy a sense of adventure and whatever thrills that come with exploring the world together.
Wondering how often families take a vacation each year?
In a recent article, I did the research and found that 40% of Americans take at least 1 vacation per year. But 28% of people take 3 or more. What really surprised me was that people living in a certain area of the US were twice as likely as the rest of the country to go on vacation!
Just click that link to see it on my site.
How do you travel with a family?
The first thing you need to expect if for things to go wrong.
You’ll get lost, things will get lost, you will miss a bus, a train, or other modes of transportation, only to get to your destination and it is closed.
By understanding this and the fact that you cannot control all things will make traveling with a family go easier and smoother.
We make plans, life changes them.
So, you simply must smile and accept these things and make it an adventure.
This will be a great philosophy to teach your children and show them that even when life throws a curveball your way, you can still enjoy the experience and be enlightened by it.
Other tips that can help you travel with the family are:
- Pack light
- Stay in central locations where walking is possible
- Get lost and stop for Gelato or ice cream
- Ask the locals for recommendations and avoid tourist traps
- Regardless their age, have something to entertain the kids while traveling
- Schedule time for naps and rest for everyone
- Make each stop fun but an interesting learning experience too
- Buy groceries ahead of time for “normal” family meals
- Enjoy one meal out a day to taste the local tastes
Of course, the ages of your children have a lot to do with where you travel to.
And if you’re like me with a teen, a tween, and a toddler, you have some unique travel challenges! But honestly, Layla, our toddler, is happy going almost anywhere. The moody tween & teen, not so much.
So in a recent article, I break down some of the best vacation spots for tweens and teens that they might actually not complain about! Just click that link to read it on my site.
How much do families spend on vacations per year?
Of course, income and travel expenses can vary wildly across the country and globe.
According to the U.S. Family Travel Survey, the #1 motivator for parents to travel with their kids was “To have my children discover new places and have new experiences”.
And they go on to point out that “the average annual spending on family travel during that time was $3,835” with “a median of $2,435.”
But that survey also pointed out that 1 in 5 families struggle to pay for vacations, and that shorter vacations are becoming more popular due to the decreased cost.
Here’s an interesting chart showing vacation spending by income level:
Ultimately, the benefits of traveling together with your kids aren’t linked to how much money you spend. And you can create amazing memories on a shoestring budget.
A decade ago when my wife and I lived in Dallas with 2 young kids we were deep in debt and living with a mortgage payment we couldn’t afford. We could not afford to travel the way we do now being debt-free with a great side-hustle like this blog.
So what we did was when we did have a little money, we’d buy annual memberships to places like:
- 6 Flags
- Children’s or science museums
The beauty of those memberships is 2 things. One you can hit up those places locally on weeks when cash is low.
But, all of those memberships have affiliations not only across the country but sometimes across the globe. For example, there are 25 locations of 6 Flags. With a membership, you can get into ANY of them.
But beyond that, almost all zoos and museums are part of groups where you can get into other locations either for free or at a big discount. We’re traveling to Banff, Canada next summer and there’s a museum there that would normally cost us $100.
But with the local museum membership we have, we get in for free!
What age is best to travel with a baby?
First, your traveling days as a couple aren’t over – not by any means – once you have a baby.
Second, if you already have a child and then number 2 comes along, your traveling days as a family of three isn’t over, you’ve just added another one to the fun!
The 3 most popular methods of traveling are by car, plane, or train.
So, if you’re planning a family trip, ask your pediatrician the best method for the age of your baby to make this trip. Best for the baby and best for you.
But as a father of 3, including a toddler, here are my age recommendations for each type of travel:
1. By Car
Your newborn has already traveled by car, from birth to home (unless you did a home birth like we did last time). So there really aren’t any restrictions with the exception state law for car seats.
I would not do a long road trip, however, with a baby under 6 months. That’s such a special physical bonding time, and just sitting for hours in a car seat would interfere with that.
That being said, my wife and I did rent an RV once and trek to Yellowstone when our oldest daughter Astrid was just under 6 months.
But RV laws are totally different than cars. So my wife could take her out of her seat while I drove to change or nurse her. Other times they played on the bed. Slightly risky perhaps, but not illegal. And it made traveling much more fun.
But for car road-trips, I would say 1 year old or above is ideal.
Remember to take frequent breaks every hour to 90 minutes. Change them, feed them, get some cuddling and playtime in, and stretch your legs.
2. By Plane
Flying with a baby is safer after their immune system has developed, which is usually after one month for a full-term baby.
Most pediatricians will advise after 3 months of age, some will say wait till 6 months, so always check with your doctor. Then check the airline’s policies.
Delta requires an infant to be 7 days old unless you have a written note from your pediatrician.
Flying JetBlue, infants can fly as young as 3 days and on United, babies younger than 7 days old are not permitted, regardless of the circumstances or incubated infants.
In my case, my wife and I did fly with our oldest daughter when she was about 4 months old and it was just fine. They don’t need their own seat at that age. And she slept or nursed most of the time on the plane.
3. By Train
Again, always check with your pediatrician, but the same policies for flying hold true for traveling by train too.
Once you have the advice and an okay from your pediatrician, check with the train line for any special guidelines or requirements for the trip you’re planning.
So now, let’s review the . . .
13 Proven Benefits for families that travel together
Many people think traveling with children of any age is a waste of effort, money, and time.
They support this by stating if they’re too young, they won’t remember it and if they’re in that tween to teenage years, they won’t enjoy it.
To that, I say why bother going to the playground and pushing them in a swing?
Why bother reading a book, the same book, over and over? Why bother going to the mall to shop for clothes, when they’re just going to pout, sulk, and not like anything you find?
Because it is an experience for you and them.
It is a chance to make memories that you may have otherwise missed out on.
There are other reasons too such as the following benefits:
1. Enhanced their developmental milestones
From the moment a baby is born, they learn, and they continue to learn from the world around them. The more they are exposed to, the more they learn.
Traveling allows children to experience a wide range of things with you. From colors and sights to smells and sounds, different languages, sensations, and different lifestyles.
2. They learn to adapt and be flexible
Traveling exposes children to different and new ‘normal’, and the family learns to adapt to changing situations and learn to be flexible with their habits and routines.
You’ll try new foods together, teaching your children not to be a picky eater and to sleep anywhere, regardless of the commotion or the quietness.
3. They learn Multilingualism
If you’re fortunate enough to travel to other countries with your children, you can learn different languages together and even become excited to learn a new language.
If you only travel in the continental U.S., you’ll learn different dialects between the north and the south, or the east and the west, and anywhere in between.
4. Travel allows them to see different is still the same
Traveling offers the family the opportunity to learn about diversity between cities, states, and countries, but that we’re all human.
Teach your children about color, culture, and religious diversity in the world. You can make friends as a family and forge pen-pal relationships.
5. Learn To be Understanding & Tolerant
Whether you’re traveling abroad or cross-country, your family will become exposed to other cultures. Some may be very different than your own with unfamiliar customs.
Teach your children to be understanding and tolerant of any culture different from yours.
6. Traveling Encourages Adventure & Curiosity
Traveling as a family, you can encourage your children to be adventurous and curious about their surroundings, using caution, and join in creative play based on where you’re at.
They’ll develop skills that will take them into adulthood, and you’ll remember being a kid.
7. Trying New Things
Traveling with the family allows and encourages your kids to try new things.
Maybe it is riding a camel or elephant, camping in the forest or zip lining in the mountains. My middle daughter, Jolie, and I went zip lining in Costa Rica in 2015. We’d never done it before, and the thrill of soaring hundreds of feet above the trees among the monkeys and iguanas was unimaginable!
The possibilities are endless as you travel.
If you’ve never been to Costa Rica, it’s our family’s favorite place in the world. And before you question safety, water quality, or other concerns people sometimes have, check out my recent article where I break down all the ways Costa Rica is amazingly kid-friendly!
My wife and I took our oldest daughter there for the 1st time when she was 1 year old.
8. Learn Geography, History & Science
As you travel with your children, you can expose them to education without it feeling like they’re in school.
Everywhere you go, there is an opportunity to share and teach them geography, history and/or science. Learn the capital of the states you go travel through, how far it is from Point A to Point B and how long it will take to get there.
On our upcoming trip to Paris, for example, we’ll be staying quite close to the Louvre Museum. So instead of reading about the Mona Lisa, my daughters will be able to see the real thing up close and personal!
9. A Healthier Family!
Traveling has its own stress, but it also takes the family away from daily stress.
Because you’re walking instead of the kids sitting at the game box and you sitting at your desk, traveling is often a great way to stay physically active.
Traveling can also help boost our mood; especially if we’re out somewhere in a beautiful setting breathing lots of fresh air.
10. Disconnect from The Daily Life Routines
Related to earlier statements, but every day that we’re caught up in the “must-do” things of life, it’s easy to lose that connection as a family.
That’s especially true as more and more families these days just sit around the couch on their phones and tablets. Connected to wi-fi, perhaps. But not truly connected.
By getting away from the daily grind as a family, you can reconnect as a family. Take that step back from the daily circus of life and take a breather – together.
11. You Become More Interesting
As a family and individually, traveling will make you more interesting.
You’ll have tales to tell and experiences to share. Our upcoming trip to London, for example, includes a tour of the actual sets from the Harry Potter films. I’m sure Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter is awesome.
But you know what’s more awesome? Getting to see the real thing!
When you can talk about something that isn’t common for others, you automatically become an interesting conversationalist.
12. Expand Your Social Network with Real People
Once upon a time, in a land where there were no computers or internet, the was real-life socializing between humans.
Traveling to different parts of the state, country, or other countries will allow the family to meet others, establish a connection, and build a network that includes real-life people.
They may not be long-lasting relationships, but they’ll be real people.
13. Making Memories
What more can we say on this topic?
Traveling with the family can be tiring, but even those not-so-perfect times will make some of the best memories to share later down the road with each other.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are going to the beach in New Jersey when we lived in nearby Philadelphia. Kids won’t always remember everything you do. But by traveling together as a family, and forging memories, you are building their personality and style.
And that will forever be part of who they are.
Did I cover all the benefits families see when they travel together?
In this article, we took a deep dive into the world of family travel.
We explored the best ages to travel with, particularly babies. But we also looked at some of the unique challenges that different types of travel bring; by car, plane, or train.
Specifically, though, we looked at the benefits that come when families travel together.
By always looking at traveling as a family to be a fun adventure, a learning opportunity, remember it will always be making memories for them and you. Let go of the perfect trip ideal and you’ll enjoy it more. Your kids will enjoy it more.
Remember your first trip to a new city, a new state, or a new country when you were a kid?
Check out all my best travel resources and recommendations which can save you time and money on your next vacation!