Does the thought of globe-trotting with a toddler bring on a parental panic attack? Travel Without Tears founder Sally Webb says it’s time we changed our mindset about travelling with kids. It doesn’t have to be challenging and exhausting. Bringing your kids along for the ride can actually make a holiday more rewarding. So whether your trip’s great or small, here’s ten reasons you should take that family trip:
“Shared memories are so important for families. They are ultimately the bond that unites you forever. And we tend to remember extraordinary things - like seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise - somewhat better than things that happen during a regular day at home. What I’ve noticed with shared travel experiences is that the disasters often end up being the thing you remember and laugh about for years afterwards.”
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“Children have active memories from around the age of three, and there are plenty of wonderful tools – photographs and videos for a start – which can keep precious memories alive. My favourite travel photo is of my son Archie in Rome. He’s almost two, and he’s touching a famous statue of the emperor Constantine’s hand. For me, that image of his tiny, pudgy finger and that enormous hand sums up the wonder and joy of travel. Sure, he was too young to have a clear memory of it, but through the photo that moment has become a precious part of our family folklore, and he loves that picture as much as I do.”
We’re all in this together
“I love travelling with my kids because it means we’re stepping out of the everyday together. I'm completely present with them and not trying to juggle a million things (work deadlines, getting the dinner on the table, supervising homework) at the same time. I want to make the most of these family years that are rushing by, as I know they won’t be travelling with us forever.”
Kids have the weirdest ideas
“Spread the load when you’re researching a holiday and get the kids involved in the planning. Whatever destination you pick, say to your kids “Okay, you give me your perfect day.” Ask them what they’d like to do and you’ll be surprised what a five-year-old can come up with. I did this with my kids when we were going to Rome. I let my kids play tour guide for a day and we ended up at some quirky cat sanctuary surrounded by Roman ruins and then a church where they had the bones of dead monks stuck into the walls. The kids thought it sounded fantastic.”
Keep feeling fascination
“As a travel writer I was always told by my editor, “You only ever get first impressions once.” But that’s actually not true. When you travel with kids you get first impressions twice because you get the whole thing all over again through their eyes. And I can tell you twelve times out of ten, it’s better because kids have an increased level of excitement about things that we, as jaded adults, have lost. They’re like ‘Wow! Look at the size of that spire!’ and ‘Listen to that bell!’”
“When kids are expecting to see something very famous like the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Taj Mahal there is an added excitement for them because they’re seeing in real life something they’ve only seen in a photo up to that point.”
:: Listen to Sally Webb’s tips on prepping kids for a big holiday
State of independence
“In middle class Australia children’s lives are very regulated and protected, revolving around home, school, play and sport – all very familiar things. Travel can take kids out of their comfort zone and challenge them, in a good way. It might be packing their own suitcase, working out where to check in at an airport, or finding the right platform for the train.”
Travel is the best teacher
“We recently did a trip to South Africa and were lucky enough to do two amazing, luxurious wildlife safaris. But we also wanted to make sure the kids understood the other side of South Africa, its complex history, the terrible things that apartheid did to the people, and the things that Mandela and many others fought for. We visited townships in the city and a Zulu village in the countryside as well as the Slave Lodge and Robben Island in Cape Town. It was fascinating and humbling at the same time and I was so proud of my kids for grasping the inequities of a system that was so wrong.”
Taste for the new
“My son will try anything, my daughter’s a bit more wary. In Hong Kong my kids loved eating noodle soups for breakfast in dai pai dong street stalls and having satay at hawker’s markets in Singapore. They tucked into deep fried pakoras on a railway platform in Rajasthan. And couldn’t get enough churros and hot chocolate in Spain. Doughnuts for breakfast condoned by mum and dad, in the name of cultural immersion. What could be better than that?”
Get hands on
“In any trip I plan, I try really hard to include some sort of hands on activity for the whole family that provides cultural immersion in the place. It could be a cooking class where you learn to make something particular to the destination or perhaps something arty. In Hong Kong, we did a dumpling making class together. In Barcelona, we made mosaics in the same way that architect and artist Antoni Gaudi did when decorating so much of the city. When we later saw his handiwork in Parc Guell, we realized just how long it must have taken the craftsmen to complete the task.”
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