Why Traveling With Young Children Is Worth Every Meltdown

By Lauren Hall
May 29, 2024

My son was four months old the first time he flew on a plane. 

I was invited to a tech conference at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was exclusively nursing, living on a special diet of no dairy, soy, or egg, and getting four solid hours of sleep a night.

It wasn’t easy, but seeing my little boy fall asleep on the plane, ga-ga at strangers on the city sidewalks, and marvel at the curves and shapes of Pittsburgh architecture made me grateful for seizing the opportunity.

When he was two years old, we went on a family trip to Boston for a week.

My husband and I love the city, and there are so many fun activities for young ones to enjoy.

At three, my son went on his first beach vacation to Key Largo, an island off the southern coast of Florida.

It was a work trip for my husband, but it became one of our most memorable experiences.

And last week, we visited the Grand Canyon and the deserts of Arizona.

My now four-year-old continually asks if we just came back from outer space. He’s convinced we went to Mars because of Red Rock State Park in Sedona.

Why am I sharing my son’s travel history with you? Because we did it, and you can, too. 

Before moving forward, let me make one thing clear: There were plenty of blowouts, meltdowns, and tired tantrums on each of these trips.

I’m no Mary Poppins, try as I might. But the memories made, experiences had, and the personal growth my husband and I experienced was far worth the chaos.

A study released in 2022 by the Student and Youth Travel Association found that children who travel benefit in a myriad of ways, including better performance in school.

Some of the most noteworthy findings include:

  • 74% of the educators polled believe travel helps students’ personal development.
  • 56% believe travel positively impacts students’ lifetime education and career.
  • 80% of the teachers in the study said travel is an “extremely effective” teaching method.
  • Students who travel often reported having an increased desire to graduate and attend college.

Travel is a luxury not everyone can afford.

However, it’s not the distance that makes the experience beneficial to parents and children; it’s the out-of-the-box experience.

If finances are tight and resources aren’t easily accessible, consider visiting a local monument, park, or museum.

Find a nearby grocery store with culturally diverse foods, people, and languages. Spend some time reading books about places you might want to visit someday and make a tentative plan for how to get there.

If having young children is holding you back from travel, think again.

Seeing the world (no matter how close or far away from home) through the eyes of a small child may be the perspective shift you need to boost positivity and increase creativity. Plus, it can help your child develop a healthy curiosity and openness to critical thinking that will carry them through life.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First and can be contacted at [email protected].

Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash

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