Raising Good Travelers

Taking kids out of their routine and comfort zone to experience new things can be challenging. The inevitable tantrums and arguments that take place in airports, on planes, or at world renowned heritage sites can leave you wondering: why bother at all?

There are many reasons why people choose to prioritize travel. Perhaps you were an avid traveler in your pre-kid days, or perhaps you want to make memories with relatives that live far away. Whatever your motivation, there are many benefits to raising global citizens of the world.

Traveling can teach kids important life skills like resiliency, flexibility and leadership. Exposing them to new experiences can allow their personalities to flourish in ways it may not at home. The hands-on learning that traveling promotes through local cuisine and iconic landmarks cannot be replicated in a classroom setting. Showing kids that the world is big and diverse offers invaluable lessons in tolerance, sparks curiosity and cultivates an appreciation for different cultures and beliefs. Ultimately, traveling can shape who your kids become and how they relate to the world around them.

Here are some tips to help encourage your kids to become good travelers, excited and eager to explore new places and enjoy new experiences:

Set expectations.
Have a little pep talk before your trip. Let them know what to expect and play out some possible scenarios so you can prepare for the unexpected and avoid uncomfortable surprises. Discuss cultural norms and behavior expectations, go over your trip itinerary and travel logistics or talk about what to do in case of emergencies.

Prepare for the Unexpected.
Pack a medical bag containing all the medicines (over-the-counter and prescribed) your family might need. Simple things like TUMS, Tylenol and anti-diarrhea medication may not be available at your destination. Make certain you take all prescribed medications (insulin, asthma inhaler, allergy pills) in your carry-on bag in case your luggage gets lost or delayed. And, plan to get any travel vaccinations early to protect your family from illnesses that are usually travel-related. Taking a proactive approach to travel health and planning can help ensure you have access to quality care when you need it most.

Plan ahead.
To ensure things run smoothly during transit, pre-book car services or arrange for someone to meet you at baggage claim. Pro-tip: Don't forget to order car seats if you have little ones.

Tantrums can often be avoided by preventing hunger, fatigue or boredom. If you have time, sit for a meal before your flight and always make sure you pack snacks for the plane and a last resort surprise (that “special” treat they never get to have). Take nap times and time changes into consideration when scheduling flights (overnights where they can sleep are better for international, first thing in the morning when they are fresh and rested are better for domestic, added bonus: morning flights tend to experience less delays). Bring plenty of entertainment options, like books, toys and iPads. Pro-tip: Make sure the iPad is loaded with new movies, games and charged so it will last the whole flight.

Invest in small comforts.
Airports have become crowded and difficult to navigate, but there are certain things you can do to make them more bearable:

  • Skip the lines with TSA PreCheck for a quick and hassle-free security process
  • Take advantage of airport lounges where you can enjoy more comfortable facilities, smaller crowds for seating and restrooms, and usually some sort of entertainment. Many lounges even feature kids areas where they can stretch their little legs and tire themselves out before a long flight.

Don't underestimate the little things.
Less is more when it comes to scheduling your itinerary. Don't overcrowd your days with things to do, and remember to plan plenty of downtime to reboot.

Apartments, houses or family suites are preferable given the separate sleeping areas. The option of having a kitchen area is great in case you need to prepare a quick meal or store some snacks, milk or formula. Pro-tip: Make sure you tell your travel agent you will need a pack and play or crib. Most hotels are happy to offer those at no extra cost.

Get your kids involved in planning.
Look at a map or a globe and talk about what they want to see or experience. Consider giving the trip a purpose beside a family vacation...Is there a family history or connection you can explore? Have they been studying about a place that interests them in school? Can you give back and volunteer as a family with a local organization?

Leading up to your trip, research things to do and learn about your destination together. Buy guidebooks, look at pictures and blogs, cook the local food, watch movies about your destination, or study a few key phrases in the local language.

Encourage full immersion.
Once there, have your kids keep a travel journal to reflect on their trip or have them research a landmark before arriving. Reach out to their school to see if they can somehow connect their travel with school work (e.g. extra credit for giving a presentation upon their return).

If traveling with older kids, give them the freedom to take some time to explore on their own. Let them pick a destination on a map and agree on a meeting point and time. Enjoy sharing the different things you did once you meet up at the end of the day. Pro-tip: You can save an area from Google Maps to your phone and use it when you're offline.

If you plan on staying somewhere for a long time, consider diving into the culture and participating in local experiences. Take a traditional dance class, enroll in an art history class at the local university, join a running or cycling club, volunteer with a local organization or enroll the kids in language classes. Hearing and practicing a new language daily will have them speaking fluently in no time.

Start them young.
Similar to muscle memory, the more they do it, the easier it becomes. Kids become accustomed to breaking routine, sleeping in different places, meeting new people and trying new foods. Practice makes perfect.

Instilling a sense of gratitude in them for the privilege and opportunity to travel around the world from the start will give them perspective and create a mindset of appreciation. When possible, make travel about giving back to help them acknowledge their fortune and not take things for granted.


This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It does not provide individually tailored advice.

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