Why Travelling with Children is AMAZING! Even long haul. Promise!
Travelling with children. Enough to strike fear into the hearts of the hardiest of parents - particularly long haul, to destinations like the United States or Canada.
But whilst it can be a little daunting for the faint-hearted (ie. almost everyone), it can be an enriching and educational experience for the child, and - shock horror - fun for all of you!
Here's what we love about taking our kids on the road / cloud-surfing...
First of all, what exactly are the benefits of travel for kids?
- Exposure to new cultures and ways of life
Travel allows children to learn about and experience different cultures, traditions, and ways of life firsthand, which broadens their perspective and understanding of the world.
You don't have to take your kids to the ends of the earth or to a less developed nation to reap this benefit!
You may feel more comfortable visiting a somewhat familiar environment, like the United States, Canada or Western Europe, which still pushes them out of their comfort zone whilst feeling a little less intimidating.
That said, the US is a melting pot of cultures, and traveling there with children can be an amazing way to expose them to different ways of life and traditions.
From trying new foods and visiting cultural landmarks to participating in local festivals and events, there are countless opportunities for children to learn about and appreciate different cultures in America.
- Language development
Traveling to a country where a different language is spoken can be an awesome way for kids to learn or improve their language skills.
Again, you can actually feel this in an English-speaking country - our kids love spotting different cultures and listening to a huge variety of languages in places like DisneyWorld!
Our eldest came home from his first Florida trip with a keen interest in learning Spanish, which has been wonderful, and something now picked up by his younger brother.
- Social skills
Traveling with children can help them develop social skills, including communication, collaboration and problem-solving, as they interact with new people and adapt to unfamiliar situations.
Family always comment when we return home from every US trip how much more grown up our boys seem, and how their confidence has soared from their new experiences and discoveries.
We love it!
- Educational opportunities
Many long haul destinations offer educational and cultural attractions, such as museums, historical sites, and natural wonders, which can be a fun and engaging way for children to learn.
And again, don't miss the educational opportunities offered by the less obvious destinations not typically considered a cultural experience!
The US is home to a wide variety of world-class national parks, science parks, and other educational attractions that can help children learn about history, science, and the natural world. Visiting interesting new places can be an exciting and interactive way for children to expand their horizons.
EPCOT in Walt Disney World, Orlando for example is an amazing place for kids to discover new cultures and have history brought to life in ways they haven't dreamed of.
Our boys found the Japan pavilion in the World Showcase absolutely fascinating in 2020, and learned something new in each of the different country pavilions as we walked 'around the world'.
- Personal growth
Traveling can really help children develop independence, self-confidence, and adaptability as they navigate new environments and challenges.
We've seen this for ourselves both during and following every single overseas trip the boys have taken - from Northern Ireland to Spain to the USA. It's so noticeable - from marching up to hotel reception staff with questions to ordering their own restaurant food and confidently navigating new locales.
- Outdoor adventures
The US is home to some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the world, from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone National Park.
Being able to give your children the opportunity to explore these incredible places and participate in outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and nature walk is a real privilege, and might just awaken a love for extreme outdoors.
- Family bonding
Traveling with children can be a great way for families to bond and create lasting memories together.
From planning the trip to exploring new destinations and trying new activities, traveling allows families to spend quality time together and create lasting memories.
But...isn't it hard work?
I know some of you will be thinking "this all sounds well and good, but some days it's stressful enough taking the kids to the supermarket, never mind on a plane for 8 hours to another country!", and I get it.
I can't even promise that there won't be moments where you're wishing you'd never even met the little chaos-causers and truly regretting that rainy afternoon you wandered into the travel agents...
However, I can promise you that it's worth it!
The moment your child runs onto a giant plane for the first time and marvels at having his own seatback TV and games console for the next however many hours, his eyes wide during takeoff...
Her face when deplaning and she's hit with that blast of Florida air or New York chill, or sees the bright lights of Vegas, soaring skyscrapers in Chicago or the movie set good looks of Los Angeles..
And don't get me started on watching your child experience the magical playground of Disney World or its cooler cousin, Universal Studios!
It simply does not get old - well, until they become teenagers who would prefer to do quite literally anything in the world instead of travel with their parents...
I've shared our top tips for potential airport delays before, but here are some general tips for making travelling with your children as smooth as possible, to help you get over there and experience these magical moments...
Top Tips for travelling with children
Traveling long haul with children can be a daunting task, but with a little preparation and planning, it can also be a rewarding and memorable experience for the whole family.
Here are some tips to help make your long haul trip with children go smoothly:
- Pack light
Children have a tendency to accumulate a lot of stuff, but it's helpful to pack as light as you can when traveling long haul. Try to bring only the essentials and consider leaving behind any unnecessary items.
This will make it easier to move around the airport and on the plane, with lighter bags - and less of them!
- Plan for entertainment
A long haul flight can be boring for many adults, let alone children. Make sure to pack a variety of activities to keep your child occupied, such as books, colouring supplies and small toys.
For the youngest children it can be fun to bring a bundle of small gifts in a bag, so that the child can pick a new one ever hour to play with. Just remember if they're wrapped, you may be made to open them at security!
Even if the plane typically offers in flight entertainment (IFE), this can be out of order on a whole plane or not functional in a few seats, and you may get unlucky! So it's a great idea to travel with portable electronic devices like tablets and phones pre-loaded with games and movies.
- Consider the seating arrangement
If you have young children, it may be more comfortable for them to sit in a bassinet or have an extra seat to stretch out in.
If this is not an option, try to book seats with more legroom or an empty seat next to you.
- Bring snacks
Children can get hungry at any time, so it's important to pack some snacks in your carry-on luggage.
Choose healthy options such as fruits, vegetables, and protein-rich snacks to keep their energy levels up, or decide 'what the hell, we're on holiday', and fill them full of sugar to keep them happy'1
- Take breaks
If you're traveling with a layover, use the opportunity to stretch your legs and let your child run around and burn off some energy.
If you are on a non-stop flight, try to take a walk up and down the aisle with your child every couple of hours.
- Stay hydrated
It's important for everyone to stay hydrated during long haul travel, but it's especially important for children. Make sure to bring a water bottle and encourage your child to drink water throughout the flight.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help: If you're struggling to juggle your luggage and keep your child entertained, don't be afraid to ask for help from flight attendants or, shock horror, even other passengers - particularly if they have kids with them too.
Most people are understanding and willing to lend a helping hand.
Traveling long haul with children can be a challenging but rewarding experience.
With a little preparation and planning, you can make the journey enjoyable for the whole family.