Being a family that loves to travel means we work hard to balance and prioritize work and school commitments with our travel and leisure time. While we try to travel during school breaks or holidays, that is not always best for our work schedules, prior commitments, or financial situation. It’s almost ALWAYS cheaper to travel during “school season”.
That means that sometimes I take my daughter out of school to travel. And that’s okay with me. In fact, it’s okay for many reasons, regardless of what our school administration says. Traveling is an excellent way to teach new skills, create new experiences, and broaden my daughter’s mind. According to Byrnes (2001), “traveling is always beneficial in some way” (p. 345). Here is a breakdown of the benefits I’ve found to traveling with my child, and why I feel strongly that it’s okay for us to take her out of school (occasionally):
1. Traveling builds an adaptable child
Traveling forces us to step outside our routines and comfort zones and this is the case for children also. When we step outside of our comfort zones, we eventually acclimate and learn to adapt to change.
We’ve been traveling with our daughter since she was a baby, and she has actually become a “pro-traveler” in her own right. Not only is she an excellent travel companion (so fun!), she’s learned what is most important to her and what she can live without. She’s also learned what to expect while traveling to new places, and what behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate (and how this may change in different environments). All of these experiences have taught her how to deal with change.
2. Traveling teaches multiculturalism and diversity
Traveling exposes children to different races, religions, and cultures, and is a fundamental part of building a tolerant, well rounded child. It gives children a sense of the world, which they may otherwise be unexposed to. Exploring new languages, foods, clothing, music, art, etc. builds knowledge and awareness of our world. A multicultural education is only becoming more important to understand each other and work together in a globalized environment. Research suggests that traditional education systems still used in the 21st century are not sufficient for preparing children for today’s globalized world (Thomas & Brown, 2011). I would imagine that this may be the case in my daughter’s homogeneous elementary classroom in rural Pennsylvania, which is still operating in a building without A/C (not kidding) and a library with a card catalog. Thus building experiences composed of play, exploration, and travel is even more important for children today.
3. Traveling creates opportunities for hands on learning
It is certainly the case that traveling can help supplement classroom lessons. When we take our daughter out of school to travel, we build in opportunities to explore museums, parks, gardens, plays, aquariums, and pull out a map to show where we are and where we are going. We talk about languages and eat local foods. We take local transportation and discuss the history of the city. We pull out and count aloud local currency to pay for meals, and talk about our favorite things as we go. And of course, we also stop at most playgrounds along the way. We try to see the world as both a classroom and a playground- exactly what it is for a child. These opportunities provide excellent ways to demonstrate and build on the skills she has been taught in a classroom.
4. Traveling helps build important life skills.
Children can learn social skills, like engaging in good conversation, etiquette, cultural understandings, and just plain good manners while traveling. This is important to us, as these are values and traits that we want our daughter to grow up having.
Traveling can also teach financial literacy and decision making, something that is absolutely missing from our current K-12 education. We prioritize the places we visit, and often make decisions not to do (or buy) certain things. We talk about why don’t need everything, and how it is important to make good financial decisions.
Traveling also teaches patience. We’ve lost luggage, missed flights, and hopped on the wrong metro. We’ve walked a mile uphill to a closed restaurant (oops) and left her favorite stuffed animal in an Uber. Traveling can challenge us to face unexpected situations, and learn to deal with these things as they come. Through all this, we’ve certainly learned patience and resilience.
5. Traveling provides new memories and strengthens family bonds.
Traveling with my family has created so many new memories and strengthened our relationships. A review of academic literature shows that tourism is beneficial for children, couples, and adults, particularly because of increased career demands and changing family structures (Durko & Petrick, 2016). Family travel has been shown to improve communications within a family, lower the likelihood of divorce, and strengthen family bonds and improve well being (Durko & Petrick, 2016). For this reason and so many others, traveling is important to us.
6. School work can be made up
Of course before traveling you should consider your child, their grade level, how much school they may have already missed, and how well they are doing and make a travel decision based on your family’s situation. School work can almost always be made up IF your family plans well. It’s always best to plan ahead and inform teachers so that you doesn’t miss important school days (like standardized test or final exam days).
Traveling has instilled so many lessons for us and our daughter. I would like to contribute my daughter’s kind, empathetic personality in some ways to her travel experiences. I know that traveling with her has made for a lot of laughs and fun memories, taught her self confidence and resilience, and provided many other valuable lessons. When we have the time and opportunity, we take our daughter out of school to travel. Do you? Comment below!