My wife and I have been traveling across the USA and Europe with our kids since they were babies. We've enjoyed so many fun times and wonderful moments that we still refer back to now that the kids are 10 and 12. It's fun to hear them talk about what they love and the memories they have. It's never too early to travel with your kids and you'll be impressed by what they learn.
Here are 5 life skills that your kids will learn by exposing them to traveling to new places.
1. Navigating new places
Exploring new cities can be daunting but it's a great life skill to have. When traveling, walk to as many places as you can. This will give your kids a feel for the city, show them how to navigate the streets, and help them learn how to stay safe while having a fun time. Take out a map and show your kids where you plan on going that day. If you need to take public transportation, explain to them how the train, subway or bus system works. These are very valuable skills to have and the earlier they can begin to develop them the more open they'll become to exploration.
2. Trip planning
Involve your kids in the trip planning process. You'll probably get a lot of ideas for places they want to go. Some of these may not be realistic but write them down. You might not have enough time to visit Australia on your 5 day trip but now you know what interests your kids. You can explain how long flights can take to different locations. You'll find out what interests them about the world. Be sure to read a few travel books together. This will help you find destinations all of you will enjoy. It will also help with the next life skill.
3. Planning your day
Let your child have some input on what they want to do and integrate it into your daily plan. Maybe they want to go to the park, the beach, or just need an ice cream. Listen to what they're asking and work with them to add these activities into the day. Maybe there were sites they showed interest in when you were planning your trip. Be sure to include these activities in your day. Show them that you listened to them. Discuss over dinner what they enjoyed about their day and then talk about the plan for the next day.
Vacations are expensive. Your kids don't need to know how much they cost but it is helpful for them to know that they require budget planning. One way to help them understand this is to have them save for the trip at the same time. Maybe there are souvenirs they want to buy on the trip. When they earn or receive money, have them set a little bit aside for your vacation. Now they'll have some money to spend on a treat or t-shirt that they see along the way.
5. Explore new customs
This is one of the best life skills your child can learn. When you're traveling, take in as much of the local culture as you can. Stay in an Airbnb away from the hotels to see how the locals live. Go to local restaurants. Visit non-touristy stores. Go to grocery stores or local markets. Experience local events, parades, shows, and gatherings. If you just go to tourist hotspots with other tourists, you're missing a huge opportunity to really see what makes each place special. Show your kids the diversity that each city/state/country has to offer. It will help them be more open minded. It will help them see that the world is an amazing place to explore.
Now start planning your next vacation. The years you have with your kids go by way too fast. Get out and experience new places and cultures with them. Help them build life skills they can take with them forever.
Chris Wills, founder and developer of the Duckwyn Project, a Travel Passport app for parents and kids to explore and document the world.