Traveling with your children can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Traveling allows your children to see more of the world and become more socially conscious, exposes them to diverse languages and cultures, builds their independence, increases their confidence, and can make it easier for them to tolerate discomfort in new things, people, and places.
Still, despite all of these benefits, research has shown that there’s a decline in the amount of parents taking their children along for travel adventures. In 2012, 26% of adults went on domestic trips with children, compared to 31% four years prior—and the numbers for international travel are much lower.
If you plan on traveling with your kids soon—and you should—one of the most important areas to focus on is mental and physical health. Here are a few tips for instilling healthy habits when traveling with children:
Stimulate Their Navigational Skills
Mental health is a priority, too. Stimulate your children’s navigational skills by allowing them to analyze maps of the places you visit. This can be a map of a zoo, museum, or even a public transportation system. Really, anything with a map will do. Take a look at this post about my trip to Maris Farms, where you can see Anthony holding up a map of the grounds.
Allowing your children to navigate a map is even more important in today’s tech-forward landscape. We live in a world where, no matter where we go, a GPS is constantly telling us where to turn and how far to move in a certain direction. Unlike when we were young, if children can’t work out a map on their own, they’ll grow up lacking these skills and depend too much on smart technology to help them make basic directional decisions.
According to Dr. Julie Dillemuth, allowing your children to handle the map gives increases spatial reasoning, which is important for healthy mental growth. “When you look at maps, you are building a mental map,” she said in an interview. “Mental maps are really important because it gives you freedom to navigate where you want to go — for example, how to take a shortcut, or where to go if your road is blocked.”
Maintain the Same Healthy Habits
Being on the road—whether for a day or on a weeklong vacation—can easily make children feel as though they can abandon some of their usual routines. But you should ensure that they maintain the same healthy habits. This means they should still be doing things like brushing their teeth in the morning and before bed, and avoid foods that are too sugary.
According to Winning Smiles from Fontana, CA “Not only do soft drinks and energy drinks contain sugar which is metabolized by bacteria in the mouth into erosive acids, but also they may contain direct acids.” Make healthy eating a priority very early on by bringing healthy snacks for the journey to your destination.
Prepare Their Immune Systems
As you get ready to hit the road, you should also prepare your children’s immune systems. There are several reasons for this. For starters, you’re exposing your kids to new germs—especially when you’re traveling to another state or country, and their bodies might not be equipped to handle those germs.
Differences in temperature, altered activity levels, and changing sleep patterns can all make your kid a little sick. Therefore, you should make sure your children are hydrated and getting enough water, and pack vitamins that will give their systems a boost, like Vitamin C. And, of course, when traveling to certain countries, you want to make sure your children have the proper immunizations done.
Keep Them Active
As previously mentioned, kids have a huge reliance on technology today, and when you’re traveling, you want to make sure they have less screen time and more active hours. In many cases, different ways to keep your kids active are much more obvious than others, especially if you’re visiting a place like a national park or a theme park. However, even if you’re headed to a neighboring state just to visit relatives, there are many ways to keep them active. For example, you might take them to a local park, explore a nearby town, let them ride a bike, swim at the hotel pool, or play tag outside.
Lead By Example
During your travels, it’s crucial that you lead by example. If you want your kids to stay healthy and active, it wouldn’t make sense to stand by on your phone while your kids are running around, exploring their surroundings, just as it wouldn’t make sense to eat bad food while feeding them healthy food. Always be mindful about your own behavior when in a new setting.