We’re about to embark on a long-term round the world trip with our almost three-year old son. This is a very exciting idea to me but…

I’m reluctant to divulge much information about it to people in my “real world” because I just don’t think they’d get it. You know the people – your hairdresser, your mum’s second cousin, your real estate agent. My line, as of late, has been “Oh, we’re moving to Australia.” That’s something people can understand but “Oh, we’re going to Australia for a few months and then after that we’re just going to kind of go where the wind takes us, you know?” That is way to foreign a concept for people who don’t know you to understand.

When I have tried, in the past, to explain the kind of life we’re choosing to live to people the most common response is:

 “You’re going to do what?? Is travelling with young children worth it? You son is two, he’s not going to remember any of it. What’s the point? You’d be better off just staying home. Young children need routine and structure, not travel.”

 

Is travelling with young children worth it?

Emphatically, yes. Travelling with young children isn’t about them remembering the things that you’ve seen and done on your travels. It’s about creating shared experiences as a family – learning and growing together. It’s about understanding other cultures and seeing the world from a first-hand perspective. It’s about showing your children that they can do things that are a bit scary and outside their comfort zone and come out the other side in one piece. I can give you an endless number of examples of why travelling with young children is definitely worth it but perhaps the best is to see the evidence. Young children grow up to be older children who grow up to be adults. The people I’ve met who have travelled as young children turn into remarkable teens and adults. Case in point – the Miller family from The Edventure Project, a family of six who have been on the road for five years and have produced four wonderful, wordly children.

 

Is Reuben going to remember any of it?

At two-years old, Reuben is already well travelled having been to six countries, four states in the US and three states in Australia. Whether he remembers any of it isn’t the point. The point is we did it as a family and we remember it through the experiences we had together. As a family unit we have a closeness that you get from spending every waking minute of the day together. I especially see the difference in the father-son relationship that Lee and Reuben have. That extra time together on a regular basis is priceless.

 

You’d be better off just staying at home.

I can see how outsiders looking in might think that our family has the perfect life at home in Christchurch. As a whole, it doesn’t work for us though. We’re over it. It’s almost impossible to explain, so I won’t. All I can say is I know that – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, on every single level… our family is not better off staying at home.

 

Young children need routine and structure, not travel.

I know that extended travel with small children is not easy. I’ve been there, done that and bought the ice-cream splattered t-shirt. From our experience melting down mentally as a family in Thailand last year, I know that our family has a limit on how much quick travel we can do… about two weeks.

We will travel but it will be slowly. We’ve found that the actual travel itself isn’t hard. What’s hard is the requirement to always be out and doing things, trying to behave well enough to eat in a restaurant three times a day and overstimulation in general. How can we get around this? That’s where slow travel comes in. Having a home base really takes the pressure off all the little things that are hard about travelling with children. We’ll rent apartments, housesit for someone, visit relatives and friends. We’ll base ourselves somewhere for a few months at a time, join a preschool and make friends.

Routine and structure don’t have to be based around home, school and playgroups. We’ll focus on keeping the same morning and evening routine that we do at home. The same bedtime stories can be read, the same songs can be sung, the same blankies can be cuddled. We’ll sandwich all the sightseeing, exploring and adventuring with routine and structure everyday.

 

For more information about travel with young kids:

Check out my toddler travel tips series for specific tips on managing young kids on your travels.

Read up on other posts I have about family travel.

 

What do you think? Is travelling with young children worth it?

Of course all this is merely my opinion. Different strokes for different folks. What is a priority for my family might not necessarily be the same for yours.

I’m not the only parent out there who thinks that travel isn’t wasted on children. Here are several more posts on the topic from my travelling family friends:

 

 

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Showing 42 comments
  • Melissa
    Reply

    YES, I agree that travel is important not only for the memories, but because of the experiences… Sounds like the relationship your son and husband are forming is worth a million memories!

  • Heidi Wagoner
    Reply

    You bet it is worth it. Just ask the kids! We will see later in life, but after just 9 months they are full of confidence and adapting to change. 🙂 We love it!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Confident, adaptable and brave. That’s exactly what I’m hoping for!

  • Annie André
    Reply

    Oh yeah, I know what you mean about not telling people in the real world.
    And yeah I can see how people might think it’s not worth travelling with kids because they won,t remember but really? if that’s the only excuse then they just don’t get the point of travelling. It’s not about memories, it’s about the experiences as you stated especially doing it together as a family.

    Now that my oldest is almost 17, i am just starting to see how the travel and being exposed to other cultures and even from local road trips have touched them and are shaping him into a young adults. He has an interest in politics and world affairs. Can’t wait to see how it affects my now five year old.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      The great thing is that it will affect them all differently Annie. I’m sure living and schooling in France will have a big impact on your daughter.

  • Jennifer Miller
    Reply

    Oh my goodness!! I’m so surprised (honored, humbled!) to be referenced in your post! I’m so thankful that you see shadows in my teens of what you’re hoping for with your sweet Reuben… we’re just doing our best, like everyone else! We all mess things up and regret things in life, but you will NEVER regret taking the plunge and doing some big time travel with your kid. Truly, it changes their whole world… and yours too! You’re a great mama, keep going!!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Thanks Jenn! Even my Mum who only met your kids for a few minutes commented on what a wonderful troop they are. Definitely a credit to your efforts as parents and to your lifestyle. 🙂

  • Reply

    I couldn’t agree more!!

    Other people’s reactions can really annoy me. Like there is just one right way to bring up kids anyway!!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Exactly! I think the worst thing for a child would be unhappy stressed parents!!

  • Mary
    Reply

    I agree especially with the point that staying “home” is not what everyone needs. We are notbetter as a unit or individually by staying home. Maybe it is because we know what else is out there and staying home feels like missing out but either way it is just different for everyone.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Totally. I would never tell a non-traveller that they are better off travelling so don’t tell me I’m better off staying home!! 😉

  • Alana - Paper Planes
    Reply

    I’m far off from having kids but love it when I see young families traveling – it all depends on your priorities and being flexible about doing things a little differently. Knowing that people are doing it, short-term/long-term/whatever is very encouraging!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Thanks Alana! I feel like travelling with a child is MORE fun than solo travel. You get to do all the things you loved as a kid over again and see joy in your child’s eyes. It’s magic!

  • TammyOnTheMove
    Reply

    Great post! I don’t have any children, but if I did I would want to travel with them too. On one hand it would be for a selfish reason as I wouldn’t want to give up travel, but on the other hand I think it is hugely educational for children to travel, especially to developing countries. They will learn that they are lucky having that many toys, or so many pairs of designer jeans, as the majority of children in the world aren’t that lucky. I think it will open children’s horizons massively. So you go ahead and don’t listen to any of those doeubters (in secret they are all just jealous anyway! :-0 )

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      I think they are all secretly jealous too Tammy. If we weren’t already travellers ourselves I doubt we’d think of doing this and it is because we enjoy travelling that we want to do it with Reuben. Like any family, I want us to do the things we enjoy together as a unit and create special memories as a family.

  • Kate
    Reply

    I traveled to the US as a 1 year old and then not again until I was 23. Even though I don’t remember any of the trip from when I was a baby it still gave me a sense of myself as being someone who had traveled. I still count those states visited as a baby in my count of how any US states I’ve been to!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      That’s interesting Kate! I hope Reuben has that “sense of travel”.

  • Charli l Wanderlusters
    Reply

    I have to say I admire families who make the move to rid themselves of the constraints we so readily wrap around ourselves. I did very little traveling as a child and I know it’s something my parents regret. As a teen I was very insular and unable to connect with a lot of people, looking back after two years of full time travel I can’t believe I was that shy girl. Travel teaches us so many wonderful things. Everyone has their own idea of life and you shouldn’t be put off by those who are content with their daily routine. All the best for your adventures!

  • Reply

    What is routine and structure supposed to offer kids, anyways? It’s supposed to give them assurance that they have a loving family that cares for them…and can’t that be offered anywhere in the world? Most certainly! “Routine and structure” can be found in a loving mother and father who are there for a child—whether they are in Australia, Thailand, or China! The extra time together is possibly the best part of traveling with small children! Great post!

  • Jenni
    Reply

    “Young children grow up to be older children who grow up to be adults.” Yes! And this is exactly why traveling with young children is so worth it! Traveling at any age is great but traveling with young children helps create a certain family culture and lifestyle that leads to adaptability, inclusiveness, understanding, and adventure. Love the post! Thanks 🙂

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Absolutely Jenni! It’s all about creating the best children possible.

  • Freya
    Reply

    There are lots of good resources that you listed here regarding traveling with children. I completely agree, slow travel is the best when it comes to traveling with a family. Or even traveling on your own. When people are rushing to cover places, the burnout is much quicker. Reuben may not remember all your travels, but I’m pretty sure he will grow up to be a well-adjusted child because of it.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Thanks Freya. I think so too. A life of slow travel is definitely a winner.

  • Lillie - @WorldLillie
    Reply

    This is VERY comforting and useful to read, as a travel blogger who’s now pregnant! 🙂

  • Larissa
    Reply

    I have not traveled with a young child, so I cannot comment on that aspect. But even without 2-year-old Reuben we encountered our fair share of perplexed individuals when we told them of our open-ended RTW plans.

    I think the people who “get” travel understand what you’re doing, regardless of whether it’s with a child, a puppy or a guppy. Those who don’t “get it” will never understand and will always throw up objections. I call them the people who are living either “here” or “there”, and I wrote a post about it before we left. . . let me know if you think it applies to you!
    http://wp.me/p1DSu5-4h 🙂

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Thank you Larissa. I think you’re right – people either get it or they won’t. I’ve had people tell me they couldn’t bear to spend that amount of time with their partner or children or who couldn’t be bothered with all that travelling. It feels like it’s just second nature to us and not even that big a deal. To them I guess I sound a bit mad!

  • Kathryn
    Reply

    Thanks for your insights Bethaney. I’m sure Reuben will benefit so much from all the wonderful experiences you will have on your slow travels.

  • Reply

    While I have no experience raising young children, I do have experience being a child. I believe that if a child has happy parents, then they will in turn be better parents and the child will be happy.

  • Catherine Forest
    Reply

    Great post, Bethaney! I can’t wait to read more about your upcoming adventures (and really appreciated reading about your Thailand trip and how hard it was… and how honest you were about it.).

  • Reply

    is it worth it to travel with the kids? great question bethaney and amazing answer. i think so. 🙂 gabi

  • Dale
    Reply

    This question is something myself and Franca have gone over a few times over the past 12 months and we’ve still not come to a decision for ourselves, but I’m personally really happy and extremely excited for you and wish you the best of luck for what has surely be the experience of a lifetime.

  • KRis
    Reply

    So excited for you and your family! You guys have a great approach and it will be a great experience for the whole family. We just finished only 4 months with a 2.5 y/o, and you would be amazed at how you can establish routine and structure. I couldn’t believe how smoothly it worked! Good luck on your travels and ENJOY!!

  • Reply

    Although we are currently not nomads ourselves, I do intend on doing a lot of international travel when its just me and the Happy Meal together.

    It’s something I’ve always wanted to do – being a inadequately earning single mom makes it hard, but being indifferent to budget constraints makes it irrelevant. for the mean time, we will satisfy ourselves with weekend trips and semestral and christmas break trips. 🙂

  • Kirsty
    Reply

    How can spending some great time with his family ever be anything but a fantastic childhood for your little one! Regardless of the travel specific benefits, that one there is pretty good too! Great post Bethaney!

  • Amy Simpkins
    Reply

    Hi Bethaney –

    Currently we are a frequent-travel family, with dreams of launching into a more nomadic lifestyle. We have a 2.5 year old and a 16 month old, and it’s amazing how much people question us with “why are you doing this?” and “how can it possibly be worth it?”

    I’m looking forward to following your family and connecting with you – it sounds like your family is very similar to ours, and I love the “flashpacking” description, because that’s SO US.

  • Sharon Gormley
    Reply

    I can’t agree with you more regarding travel with small children. We have visited about 13 different countries (some multiple times-different areas etc) with our soon to be 4 year old and are currently putting together our next “big” trip to China & Malaysia. While our family career commitments do not allow anything but snatched weeks and the occasional month-long trip, I feel so strongly about the value of travel with kids that I opened my own travel consultancy service! “Travel” means different things to different families and any type of travel that removes you from the day to day of your “normal” life and lets you create meaningful, shared experiences as a family is awesome regardless of what age those members are.

  • Kate and Mike
    Reply

    Wonderful post! We just discovered your blog and see we are on the same page even though we are thousands of miles away. Our blog and book are new and focused on providing practical ideas that can inspire parents to travel with their kids. It’s nice to know after reading your blog that we are not alone in this! Looking forward to sharing ideas.

  • Monika @family{m}adventures
    Reply

    I’ve just stumbled on your site and this post and was smiling all the way through reading it. It reflects what I wrote in my first post on our travel blog: travel with kids is worth it! I know that because I travelled a lot as a child and now hope to rev travel up with my own kids.

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