5 bad excuses for not travelling with kids

Melanie Gow rubbishes the five most common excuses people use for not taking the family travelling

8 mins

1. It costs a lot of money

If I had a pound for every time I heard this I could buy a flight around the world, in first class. The interesting answer is yes, it can, but so can buying a car, gadget, or any number of must haves that we don’t really need. All of which drop in value the minute you purchase them, when experiences actually expand accumulatively.

Travel is an investment, and the best one you can make in your kids. Yes, a good education, good shoes and good nutrition are very valuable, but life without travel is just one colour; it’s what I call “living yellow.”

When you travel you get to brush up against something blue, and for the rest of your life you know blue exists; and you know it comes in shades, like Aegean, arctic, peacock, Persian and ocean blues. You, also, now know how to make green.

Flights can be expensive, but that’s an excuse not a reason not to go; consider getting there overland, or think of creative ways to enjoy domestic travel. Make it a priority, and travel less frequently in order to go big, Consider renting out your own home while travelling, it can be a simple way to make your adventure pay.

We let out our house to travel across America from LA to New York, over seven weeks and through 11 states, the rent was our weekly budget and arguably we spent less each week than the cost of staying at home.

There are ways to circumnavigate costs, staying with friends and family, house lets or swaps and camping, lower accommodation costs; traveling overnight, kids go free options, air miles, and getting around the way families in the host country do, all considerably cut costs.

The day we were in New York to fly home from that road trip across America we wanted to go into the city from the airport hotel. All the transport links on offer were too expensive for us. But we knew the people working in the hotel couldn’t possibly afford to get to work by those routes, so we found a porter and asked his advice. We got the MTA Q8 bus and the city subway (kids go free) return trip for $8.60, for all three of us.

Kids watching snake charmer (Melanie Gow)

2. It’s dangerous

The statistics just aren’t on your side in this argument. Also, wherever you go people, with families, live where you’re going and it is only as dangerous for you as it is for them. They may have a local knowledge you don’t but they are willing to share it, I promise you. You can get sick or injured staying at home, and if you go abroad you reduce your chances of having an accident at home.

I have travelled with an asthmatic and allergic child abroad precisely because a doctor said a change in air could have benefits, because where we lived was making my son sick.

Break the fear of danger down, cross out all those places you really think are dangerous and them pick one of the hundreds of places still open to you. Fear is a primal instinct that kicks in as a warning of potential danger, which can be useful used judiciously, harnessed by the rational. Otherwise it just messes up our lives, distorting the way we look at ourselves, and the people around us. See beyond the danger, after all we are grown ups and strong enough to manage all the problems that may crop up.

At the end of the Camino de Santiago (Melanie Gow)

3. It’s not a holiday

What do you need a holiday from? Children are a lifestyle, not an accessory. You can’t travel the way you did before kids, life is different now but changing expectations is how we thrive on the journey.

If you stay home you’ll still have to do many of the same things, at least while traveling the naturally curious side of children has so much to interest them in new places and doing new things.

Travel is about pushing our limits and becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. We never know we will succeed unless we actually try, both by example and in practice that is worth teaching our kids.

All of the work will be forgotten when your comfort zone expands, you no longer sweat the small stuff and your acuity increases exponentially.

Besides, I find that going to the beach for a weekend an hour away or leaving for three weeks traveling half way across the world to Australia almost requires the same logistics. If you’re going to put the effort in, might as well get more out.

Kids watching parade in US (Melanie Gow)

4. We don’t have the time

Yes, you’re right. You have roughly 18 summers and that’s all. Before you know it your babies will become awkward teenagers that don’t want to spend time with you. You’ve got a window, and it’s closing; from the moment they’re born it’s closing.

Traveling with your kids is something you have to do now. There’s no other time than right now to experience the world together, as a family. That’s the time they have to give you, after that they will spend it elsewhere, out there in the world, without you.

Babe watching elephants (Melanie Gow)

5. They won’t remember it

This excuse annoys me the most. Really? If we think that showing children ‘Flash Cards” at two years old and enrolling them in spurious extra-curricular activities forever afterwards impacts them, then we must accept that travel has intrinsic value; whether a child remember minutiae or not. 

You don't need your children to remember details for travel to make a lasting impression.

I would argue that travel has a greater impact, because the best learning opportunities happen when the brain is in a new environment; growth happens somewhere just past the edge of our normal.

My youngest was asked the other day if he remembered India at four years old,  he said; “Not really but I do know I have been to India.” The wildly different culture, the sights, sounds and smells, and the extreme experiences cannot help but make an impact.

It’s not a landmark that lingers but the lesson in the experience that integrates inside us, The child they met in a tribal village in Africa who was as concerned about getting an education as we are taught them connectedness. That has stayed with them all through growing up. So has respect, after seeing that child strive for their education when it wasn’t readily available and hard to sustain.

Seeing people just like them in different economic situations has taught them compassion. The help we’ve received from complete strangers showed them the power of co-operation, and caring, and appreciation.

The challenges we’ve had travelling 96 hours on trains north to south down India, the 45 hours flying to Australia and back, the 10 hour stretches on the highways of America, has taught them resilience and patience.

Walking 33 days across Spain with no more than a change of clothes, a selection of first aid and washing essentials, and a sleeping bag, taught them sacrifice, determination, commitment and gratitude.

Do they remember exactly how they learnt them? I would argue that anything we discover about ourselves is recognition of something we knew all the time but didn’t know we knew.

Teaching them values for life hasn’t been a case of handing them down like an idea, they have experienced them.

Nobody is born wise, lessons are better understood when they are lived; and kids who travel are thrust into a rainbow world of other colours. How they mix in all the different palettes shows them who they are, and how much more they can be.

Melanie Gow (Melanie Gow)Melanie Gow is a writer, speaker and photographic artist who believes life is a brief shot at something incredible. Her book, Walking With Angels, is the inspirational story of walking the Camino de Santiago with her sons, aged 12 and 16, and is available on Amazon. For more details about Melanie and her book, visit her website, myofficetoday.co.uk.

Main image: Silhouette of family at airport (Shutterstock.com)

Related Articles