It’s hard to say whether we are born with wanderlust - the need to travel and explore - or if we learn it. As an avid world traveler who has adventured independently, with friends, my spouse, my parents, and even my children, I can say that if it’s possible to pass this passion on to my little ones, I will facilitate it.
Before they were school-aged, I traveled with my children to numerous cities in 13 different countries. In destinations like London, Paris, Venice and Istanbul, my little ones encountered new languages, cuisine, culture and historic sites that even well-traveled adults dream of.
Traveling with children is not always easy, but because of the world-class education and experiences that come with the package, I prioritize travel with my family. Because I planned, budgeted, exercised patience, utilized creativity and demonstrated determination, my family has built memories across the globe. If your family travels, or you are looking to start, here are some suggestions to help ingrain the love of visiting other parts of the world with your youngest family members.
Before Your Trip
• Involve them. Make your children part of the planning process and have initial discussions about cities and sights that will be seen. Read books, visit online travel resources, and watch videos that feature your destinations. Your excitement will be contagious.
• Educate them. If you are visiting a country where English is not the primary language, teach them basic words in the native vernacular. Useful choices include: yes; no; please; thank you; hello; goodbye; and my name is.
• Create a sense of ownership. If your child doesn’t own travel gear, now is a great time to start. I highly recommend utilizing a backpack, teaching your child to pack light, and how to roll clothing. The benefit of having two free hands is priceless, and if your children are young, the last thing you want is their wheeling around a tiny suitcase into strangers’ ankles.
• Save for souvenirs. Provide your child with opportunities to earn and save money to spend on the trip. Whether they purchase a souvenir or a scoop of ice cream, earning, saving and planning are valuable lessons.
During Your Trip
• Pace yourself. Don’t overwhelm your children. Seeing one major sight per day and then balancing the remainder of your time with parks, playgrounds, or children’s activities will keep them engaged without being overloaded. Keep this in mind with photo taking too. Aim for a handful of posed photos and then sneak in candid ones while they play and explore.
• Keep it casual. Look for free, inexpensive and low-pressure fun. In the event of a meltdown, at least you know you didn’t waste a great deal of money on tickets or time in line. Some of my best memories include watching my children climb trees in Prague and feeding a baguette to pigeons in Paris.
• Treat yourself. Traveling with a family can be exhausting, so if you have the opportunity to take an evening walk alone or to crack open a bottle of wine with your spouse after the kids go to bed, do it. Happy parents make happy travelers.
In Between Travels
• Share memories. Look at photos, watch videos together, and talk to your children about your travels. “Remember when we saw the Colosseum in Rome? How about when we walked the Tower Bridge in London?” Ask what they remember most and why.
• Keep it relevant. Travel doesn’t have to be a thing of the past. Play with toys and read books that you purchased while abroad. Have visible reminders such as souvenir magnets or make a photo calendar of your travels.
• Discuss future adventures. Utilize globes and maps to explain where you are, where you’ve been and where you’d like to go next.
By making travel a part of their early experience and family dynamic, it’s possible to instill a love of exploration from a young age. With travel comes broader horizons, a better understanding of the world, confidence, and adaptability. Throughout my educational pursuits, nothing has been as enriching as experiencing the world through my very own eyes. I love offering those same opportunities to my children. By providing enthusiasm, guidance and encouragement, you too can provide this gift to your family. Happy travels!