My appreciation for travel wasn’t something that I “grew into” as an adult. I’ve loved traveling ever since I was a kid - it’s just the way I was raised.
My dad was a commercial pilot when I was growing up, so I was exposed to worlds outside of my comfort zone from a young age. Many of my childhood memories are of airports, though my dad didn’t like to travel for vacation (to him, that’s what he did for work) - he liked to go to the lake.
To me, travel has always meant adventure, time to spend with my family, the opportunity to learn something new, or become a better version of myself. I was thrilled to prepare for a trip, drawing grids with my outfits and packing plan. Creating my own visual list. Even now, I’m a list persona and still love planning my next adventure.
But, that’s not how it is for every child. Some kids can be nervous about travel, even avoidant of it as they get older, because they had either a bad experience with travel or had little experience with it at all. As a parent, it’s possible for you to reframe your child’s mindset and help them to appreciate travel.
Here are my go-to tips based on my life experience:
Understand that travel doesn’t have to mean getting on a plane
Though the word “travel” invokes grand, globe-trotting escapades, it can also mean taking a road trip to a state park outside of your town. It could mean hopping on public transport and taking in a new sight. My husband and I built in travel with our kids from the time they were born from road trips to flights. Today, they’re flexible and excited about any opportunity to head out of town.
Travel doesn’t have to be a large undertaking or cost a large sum of money. By teaching your children this early on, you’re showing them that beauty can be found in everyday life.
Include them in your pre-research
As you’re planning your trip, make sure that the travel you’re planning is kid friendly, even kid-centered more than fun for both of you. If you plan trips around your kids’ interests, it will be fun for the entire family without fail. My daughter Kelsey was interested in art and culture, so we visited the anthropology museum in Vancouver. We chased whales for my daughter Syd. My son Sean was in awe of boats, so we took ferries and even slept on a boat. There are so many possibilities.
On top of that, include your children in some of your research and decision-making up front. Show them the different options for accommodation, or dive into the culture of your destination (even if it’s just the culture of another state) so that they can visualize how it might be different from theirs. Keeping them invested in the process will help your children appreciate travel.
Head to a variety of places
If travel equates a beach vacation every time, your children may simply get used to the idea that travel is one thing and one thing only. While they may not be afraid to travel in general, they may not appreciate all of the beauty that travel can offer because they aren’t apt to leave their comfort zone, even in the future. Switch up your travel plans from time to time to keep things fresh.
Keep stressful travel days light using organization and a “Plan B”
“Travel trauma” is a real thing. The long lines, impossible layover times, hectic airport energy, and the litany of things that have the possibility of going wrong can accumulate and result in short tempers and a ruined travel experience. Make a concerted effort to keep calm, organize important belongings (like IDs, cash, carry-ons, etc.), and always have a Plan B to fall back on. One more pro tip: in my own experience, I’ve always made sure that my kids have their own wheeled suitcase and backpack so that they felt ownership and empowerment in the travel experience.
Have discussions about your favorite parts of travel
Finally, building appreciation for travel can be as easy as talking to your child about it. When you’re on a trip, point out the things that you’re grateful for as a part of the experience. Ask your child what their favorite part of the day was, and then ask them again a month later. Build connections between the experiences you’re having while you travel and the things you’re learning about each other and yourselves through it all. This exercise will add more meaning to travel for you and your child, taking it beyond the goal of relaxation and adding a layer of personal development into the mix.
Large-scale travel is not easily accessible to everyone, but even a quick drive to a neighboring town can be beneficial for your children. Keeping them on their toes, allowing them to explore new settings and keeping stress levels low during travel days can encourage them to broaden their horizons throughout their lifetime.