Let’s all huddle together and admit the ugly truth….even if we personally love to travel, we may find that family travel is sometimes a raging pain in the neck.
When one travels alone or with a like-minded adult, there may be problems and crises, but there are only self-reliant grownups to worry about. Children have demands and requirements that change the whole travel ballgame.
Diapers. Sippy cups. Strollers. Being small. Being a teenager. Not understanding that there’s no peanut butter in Botswana, and that the English like broiled tomatoes at breakfast.
Is it worth it, to travel with kids?
For the enjoyment of travel with kids to outweigh the aggravation, you must thrill to the demands of teaching and the delights of discovery. You must be willing to make up your own lesson plans and be able to appreciate having the entire planet as a classroom.
Finally, you have to enjoy being a teacher even when your student doesn’t grasp the lesson immediately, or even that day/month/year.
Take the long view
Let’s say you take the family to the magnificent Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. The youngest child perhaps runs around chasing French pigeons, oblivious to the grandeur, but the preteen or teen says, “Awww, do we hafta go to another dumb cathedral?”
Grit your teeth and press on with the visit. A few years later, the same child will open his or her middle school or high school geography textbook, see a picture of Notre Dame, and say, “Wow, cool, I’ve been there!”
Just two or three years to wait for the admission that Notre Dame is cool. Sigh.
Patience has never been one of my virtues, but through my travels with two very different children, I have learned that things sink in when you would least expect, and that’s why you must gently persist, sometimes even in the face of intractable opposition.
Kids learn that there is no substitute for actually being there. There’s nothing more magical than being able to say, “I’ve stood on that spot and met those people and eaten their food and learned about their history.” Every continent becomes your children’s neighborhood.
With enough travel and exploration, they are at home in the world.
As a parent, that is the finest reward.