I’m due to have my second child any day now. Baby Number one is 3-years-old today. My husband had some JetBlue credit from last year that we had to use to book a trip by this weekend, which is when my due date falls.
After some talking about the trip we wanted to have, destinations and research, we decided to head to San Diego over Thanksgiving break, with the intention to take a drive across the border into Mexico. It’s a longer flight, for sure, but with decent weather, plenty to do as a family and only $45 in out-of-pocket flight costs, it seemed like a good choice. Plus, neither my husband or I have been to this part of California, so it’s something new for all of us.
One thing we never considered in all this planning: leaving our kids at home. There’s an article on Australia’s News.com.au today about the very topic. The story quotes parenting expert Dr. Rosina McAlpine who recommends jaunts away for parents to “to rest and rejuvenate, and to reflect on what is working and not working in life and make the changes needed.” I see her point. I won’t lie, a week away with my husband sounds wonderful and is something we haven’t done since before we had kids. I’m sure we’ll do it at one point. And I don’t judge anyone who does it now. I am just not at the point of wanting to leave my kids home. And it’s for a few reasons:
Traveling with young kids is tough
Shouldn’t that be the reason I want to leave them at grandma’s? Well, no. Because I know too many people who have never taken their child—even at older ages like 9 or 10—on a plane. And I think that part of the reason is the longer you go without doing it, the more fearful you get about the experience. My approach to travel with young children is to just rip off the Band-Aid®. We took my son on his first trip, to the Caribbean, at the same age my daughter will be when we take her on her inaugural plane trip. And guess what? Traveling with him got more manageable from there on out because we knew, to some degree, what to expect.
Also, it’s in our blood. My mother traveled solo with me from New Jersey to Florida when I was just a year old. My husband grew up taking annual trips to Ireland, where his mother was born, and moving around the country from a young age. The more our parents traveled with us, the easier it got—and the more likely they were to expand our horizons with trips to new places.
They might not remember, but they will benefit developmentally
A common argument I hear from parents who don’t want to or aren’t ready to travel with their kids is that they won’t remember the trip. Fair enough. My husband and I stopped ourselves from traveling to Australia, where we met and still have residency, with our son because we figured a destination so far and incredible and a flight that long and expensive should come with at least a few memories he can hold on to. But, in general, research has shown that even small children can benefit from travel experiences.
In a February 2017 article in The Telegraph, Dr. Margot Sunderland, a child psychotherapist and Director of Education and Training at The Centre for Child Mental Health in the United Kingdom, lists several ways holidays can help kids in the long-run. For one, they can activate the brain’s “play” and “seeking” systems, which often get drowned out in the humdrum of weekly routines when we don’t have as much time to play with our kids. When these systems are activated for both kids and parents on vacation, they stimulate neurochemicals associated with well-being and reduced stress such as dopamine.
It teaches the whole brood how to think creatively
Neuroscientist Erin Clabough, Ph.D., wrote in a June 2016 article that part of the reason she takes her kids back to the same Central American village on a regular basis is because it stimulates creativity. Why? Because research supports the theory that being exposed to two cultures arms children with tools to cultivate creativity. They see people doing things differently, including problem-solving. Idea generation and association skills are two of the measures of creativity fostered through regular multicultural experiences, according to Dr. Clabough.
Traveling across the country with two young kids might not sound like a vacation for most, but I look forward to a week where we can be a family, without work and other commitments. The potential benefits to my kids in the long-run are an added bonus.
Why do you travel with your kids?