What My Trip of a Lifetime Taught Me About the Importance of Travelling with Kids

What My Trip of a Lifetime Taught Me About the Importance of Travelling with Kids

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My parents gave me a wonderful childhood. I’m the oldest of four kids, and somehow there was always enough love, attention, and energy to go around.

But there’s one thing they did for us that stands out as hands-down the best experience in my entire childhood.

When I was 12, they sold everything – our house, my Dad’s business, the only car that was big enough to fit our whole family – and took us on an open-ended adventure to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. They quit their jobs, they pulled us out of school, and we spent six months travelling together as a family.

Looking back at this with the perspective of an adult, the scale of what they did is incredible. This was the pre-Internet days, and they arrived in Australia with four kids ranging in age from 6 to 12, knowing absolutely nobody, and with only two nights of accommodation planned. Not only that, they had walked away from everybody and everything that any of us had ever known. People thought they were crazy, but it ended up being the absolute best thing they could have done for our family.  Here’s how the experience benefited us – and why I think family travel is so important.

Travelling with kids is a ton of work - but absolutely worth it. Here are three reasons why travelling with your kids is so important. #travelwithkids #familytravel #familyvacation

1. We gained perspective

Before we left on our trip, I had lived in the same town my entire life, and had gone to school with the same kids since kindergarten. We had never travelled internationally, other than a few trips to the US. I was entrenched in my social group, my life revolved around my competitive gymnastics, and as a tween I was quickly becoming “too cool” for my parents.

Our trip changed all of that. Us kids realized very quickly that there was an entire world to explore. We saw how different people lived in different parts of the world. We met other kids and marvelled at each others’ accents and the similarities and differences in our lives.

Travelling at such a formative age gave me a healthy dose of perspective on teen and pre-teen social issues. On our trip, we were cut off almost entirely from our social circles. This was before the Internet, so we practised the lost art of letter-writing and sent countless letters back and forth to our friends and extended family members back home. Without regular contact, I was very much out of the loop, and realized that the issues that I thought were so important really weren’t so significant after all. 

Related: 9 Best Ways to Save Money on Family Vacations

2. We made memories 

Of all of my memories from my childhood, I’d venture to guess that close to half of them are from our trip.

We were experiencing new things and new places, and were making new memories as a family every single day. We still laugh about the rudimentary shelter we built on the deserted island, the surfboard that went through the windshield, and the debacle of my broken foot that kicked off the trip.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that my parents could tell you all about the downsides of travelling with four small kids. But having experienced our trip through a child’s eyes, and with the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, I can tell you that my memories are overwhelmingly positive – and I’m certain they’d say the same.

Related: How to Survive a Road Trip with Kids: Organization

3. We became closer as a family

Perhaps the single greatest benefit of travelling with kids, our trip brought us much closer together as a family.

Before our trip, we were like most families – pulled in a million different directions. When we travelled, all of the “noise” went away. Suddenly work, school, hobbies, sports, friends – none of that mattered. We had only each other for entertainment and company.

We bonded over new experiences and adventures. We learned to work together and get along because there was simply no other alternative.  

That closeness continued when we got back. We were used to our siblings being our only companions, and it was almost strange when we all began to build individual lives again. We were closer through our teenage years than many siblings are, and I attribute that largely to the time we spent together while travelling.

Related: Ultimate Baby & Toddler Packing Checklist

Travelling with kids is a ton of work - but absolutely worth it. Here are three reasons why travelling with your kids is so important. #travelwithkids #familytravel #familyvacation

Now, you might be thinking, “That’s wonderful, but most of us can’t escape for a months-long adventure with our families.” I get it, believe me. I’m approaching the age my parents were when we went on our trip, and although I’d love to do something similar with my kids one day, we’re nowhere near being in the financial or logistical position to do so right now.

But if you get the chance to take the trip of a lifetime with your kids – do it. If you can make the chance to take the trip of a lifetime with your kids – do it. If you need an extra push to prioritize travel, to expose your kids to different cultures and places – let this be it.

Now, I just need to work on taking my own advice.

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