Sunday is Mother’s Day here in the United States and in honor of the day, I asked some of the mothers at Ker & Downey to share what being a mom has taught them about traveling, what they hope their children get out of traveling the world, and some tips from their firsthand experience.
What Being a Mom Has Taught Us About Travel
Children teach us all kinds of things each and every day. When you travel with them to other parts of the world, you hope they learn to appreciate the world around them. But do you anticipate how your own eyes will be opened? Traveling with children teaches us to see the world through their eyes. It’s a world that knows no definition of race or economic status and hears no language barriers. It’s a world that is always exciting and new. What could we learn if we began to see the world as children see it?
Being a mom teaches patience and flexibility, which both are important traits to carry with you while traveling. As a mom, you learn to tap into extra reserves of patience with your children on days that are too hard to handle. Similarly, some travel days require extreme levels of patience. Delayed flights, missed flights, and long layovers can all test our patience and make us cranky. As much as we plan and prepare, sometimes things just happen that are out of our control. With kids you have to be prepared to scrap the day’s schedule, especially when you’re traveling with them. A nap might get missed or you might have to postpone a tour. Either way, a little bit of patience and flexibility can go a long way when days inevitably veer from the plan.
What We Hope Our Children Learn From Travel
Traveling educates children in ways we can’t even imagine. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Their little minds are always processing and taking in new information. We travel with our children because we hope that out of it, they will gain an appreciation for their own world, learn about new cultures, and maybe even get them out of their comfort zone a little bit.
Traveling shapes the person our children become. It teaches them how to be flexible and have an outward focus. It teaches them to be adventurous as they encounter new cultures, try new foods, and learn that their way isn’t the only way of doing things. It also teaches them empathy and compassion as they encounter those new cultures. They’ll see poverty and wealth, injustice and benevolence. It will all shape and form them into the person they will become.
Finally, we hope that our children learn that the world is theirs for the taking. Whatever they want to do, wherever they want to live, it is available to them. My parents started showing us the world at a young age and it had a profound impact on how I live my life. I can’t wait to share the same big world with my daughter one day.
And although traveling with little ones may seem intimidating, it is nothing to be feared! Our experts at Ker & Downey shared a few tips on how to make the experience enjoyable for everyone.
The number one thing you can do as a parent when traveling with your children is to stay calm. Kids pick up on your energy and anxiety. If anyone has traveled with children before, they know the boat you are in. While travel brings so much joy, it can also be stressful, especially on transit days. So if anyone offers you help, take it. If they offer you their seat, ask to help you with a bag, or help you get your child settled, take them up on their offer and enjoy the kindness.
The thought of imminent meltdowns in quiet, historic cathedrals with domes that project sound can be worrisome. But everyone was a baby once and babies live all over the world. You’ll find that people, especially outside the United States, are pretty understanding when your kids are squirmy, fussy, or messy.
Don’t forget to live in and enjoy the moment. Getting out to see the world will impact your kids in more ways than you know. They’ll learn new things by being exposed to new cultures and surroundings – not just about the world, but about themselves.
Tips for traveling with kids:
- Make it fun and experiential. They’ll learn if they are having fun.
- Go slow. Pick places that can be seen in small doses.
- Overestimate your time! Everything takes longer than expected with kids.
- Read books about the places you are traveling to ahead of time.
- Pack snacks.
- Load up an electronic device with new games or movies as a special treat to help keep them occupied in the airport or on long international flights. But don’t forget the headphones.
- If you’re traveling with infants, bring more diapers than you think you need.
- Pack your own first aid kit.
- Many airports have play areas for kids. Study the airport before heading there so you know where they are. It’s a great way for little ones to get out extra energy and kill time on a layover.
- Give infants something to suck on (a bottle, a pacifier, nurse them) during takeoff and landing to help their ears adjust to the pressure changes.
- Let the properties you are visiting ahead of time know the age of your children and if they like particular foods. (Our Ker & Downey experts can help you with this.)
- Don’t forget to pack a camera to catch those magical moments of your children discovering a new part of the world.
To see more packing tips, check out Christina Valhouli’s recent article “Pack Like a Pro: Family Edition.” For more tips on traveling with babies, check out Bekah’s article that she wrote after returning from Argentina with her six month old daughter.
To all the moms at Ker & Downey, thank you for contributing your thoughts for this article. We wish all moms a Happy Mother’s Day and many happy days of travel with your children.
Ready to plan your next family trip? Take a look at some of our suggested family-friendly itineraries or contact a Travel Professional. To stay up to date on all of our online content, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.