Should You Travel Overseas with Small Kids?

By Talia Klein Perez
 Getty Images: Win McNamee
An opportunity to spend quality time with the kids and create life-lasting memories, family vacations are one of the fastest growing segments of the US tourism industry. But they can also be demanding, draining, and costly, leading some families to forego overseas travel until their kids have passed toddlerhood and elementary-school age and are older and more mature – in their teens.
Here are three reasons to seize the moment and travel overseas with your kids and three reasons to wait until they’re older.


Three reasons overseas travel with kids is great


It shows your children how much you value them

Oversea travel shows your children how important they are to you. When you take your kids with you on a trip abroad, it is a direct way of communicating your desire to spend time with them. And when children feel valued, it fosters a great opportunity to bond as a family. Involving your children in trip planning and introducing new and exciting travel experiences into their lives will not only help develop their sense of self-worth but will also help them practice decision-making. Not to mention that overseas trips together are a great way to reduce the sensed void that kids feel when their parents travel without them.


A truly educational experience

Eighty five percent of brain development occurs in the first three years of life. But even long after toddlerhood, kids’ brains are like sponges in these formative years. Everything a child thinks, sees, hears and touches transfers into an electrical activity. The minds of well-traveled children are broadened through learning about different cultures, topologies and cuisines firsthand. When children travel overseas, the world becomes their school.  For example, they can learn the local alphabet or basic phrases that they can practice on the spot. They can also learn about history where it happened.


Boosts awareness for self and the world

Overseas travel can thrust little kids out of their comfort zones. True, this can lead to meltdowns, but those moments do not represent the entirety of the children’s experiences. Spending time in different cultures lays the groundwork for teaching children through example how to adapt to various situations and people. It also enables them to develop patience as well as a greater appreciation for what the larger world outside their own has to offer. Additionally, it instills in them the value of experience over material possessions. They will learn that there exists a world beyond their screens.


Overseas travel is not for young children


Traveling with little ones is costly

Thirty-five percent of American families planned to take a vacation of 50 miles or more away from home in 2017. But the sad reality is that most families cannot afford to travel internationally. Traveling with kids means you’re paying for more seats on modes of transportation, more beds in hotels and more mouths at restaurants. Why spend money on a vacation that young children will likely not remember, as permanent memories tend to not be stored in a child’s long-term memory before the age of three or four?

Meanwhile, parents can and should find the time to take trips as a couple and enjoy a brief break from the demands of raising small children. This way, they can return home more rested with renewed strength to deal with the challenges of parenthood – which is better for the family as a whole in the long run.


Travel and jet lag will be easier on the whole family

Traveling with young kids overseas is physically difficult. Between schlepping them through crowded airports, having to keep them quiet during long flights, and getting them regulated to new time zones and cuisines, find overseas travel can be exhausting and demanding. Plus, younger kids come with a lot of paraphernalia – from carry cots to booster seats, it’s a lot to pack up and carry.

The younger the kids, the less mature and therefore less capable they will be of acclimating to new situations – and more likely to throw an overtired tantrum in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. While they may still feel the affects of jet lag, older children will better be able to handle its effects compared to his or her younger self. Not to mention, when older kids can’t sleep due to jetlag, they can at least entertain themselves; with young children, parents also have to endure sleepless nights.


Your kids will appreciate the trip more when they’re older

When kids are young, the destination they travel to matters much less than the fact that they are going on a family outing. However, once they are tweens and teens, your children will begin to understand what a privilege overseas travel is and will become excited by the sights and cultures they encounter. This means that choices of destination can be more varied and exotic with older kids, as they’ll be more physically able to handle hiking to the top of volcanoes or scuba-diving with dolphins.


Bottom line: Traveling overseas with children of any age is a personal decision that depends on parental interests, budget and your kid’s temperament. So, do you prefer international travel with little ones or to wait until they’re older?


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