Is it a good idea to bring your child for overseas trips?
The holiday season is fast approaching, and many families are once again making vacation plans and jetting overseas for a well deserved break. If this is the first time in a long while that your family is considering visiting another country, you’ll likely hesitate about going somewhere far from home with your children in tow.
Hence, you might be wondering whether it is worth the stress of taking your children on overseas trips. The answer is yes! Not only will you be investing in invaluable and memorable experiences for your family, your child will also stand to benefit from being exposed to other peoples and cultures, too.
Learning outside the classroom
Education isn’t just about getting top marks in school exams; it’s about making sure our children grow up to become successful, independent adults later in life. And there’s no better place to learn that than on an overseas trip.
It’s probably easier if you were to plan and prepare everything for the family trip, but you’d be missing out on a golden opportunity to teach your child some much-needed life skills. Here’s a few ideas to get them involved with the trip while learning the basics of responsibility and self-care:
Before the trip
Packing: by far the easiest way to get them invested in the trip and learning how to look after themselves. Simply assign them a personal suitcase or duffel bag and have them pack their own essentials, such as clothing and toiletries, along with anything else they need (for example, devices to keep up with their Geniebook activities).
If the prospect of them not packing enough suitable clothes makes you nervous, just go through them when they’re done packing and suggest changes or additions where needed. Above all else, try to be forgiving and accommodate their desired list of items as much as possible.
Being responsible for their own luggage: just before the trip to the airport, impress upon them that they are solely responsible for their assigned luggage and its contents. Of course, you’ll likely be keeping an eye on it as well just in case, but the point is to start delegating responsibilities to them to help them get used to the idea of true ownership.
The boarding procedure: Getting on a plane involves several steps that can wear out even the most seasoned traveller. If your child is at least primary school-going age, they should be allowed the chance to go through the process by themselves as much as possible, both for your sake (less stress) and theirs (gaining vital experience).
Hand them their passport and let them get through the immigration counter by themselves alone as you stay close by (you may retrieve it later if you wish). Even though they’re never truly alone this time around, simply learning how to go through the processes by themselves is great training for the future when they’re ready to fly solo.
During the trip
Planning the itinerary: Much of what the family does on the trip will be up to you as parents of course, but there’s value in asking your child about their opinions on what to do as well. Maybe they’ve already researched about activities in the area (good for them), or they just feel like visiting a particular location that they’ve read or heard about. In any case, try to involve them in planning your family’s itinerary, as doing so will make them feel more valued and confident about themselves as a result.
Navigation: Even parents don’t always have all the answers, especially when it’s about getting directions to a new location in an unfamiliar country. You’ll still need to figure out how to make your way to the hotel from the airport once your family lands, but when you’re all properly set up in your rooms and preparing to venture out for sightseeing, try giving your child the occasional task of helping to navigate to the next location.
Be prepared to be patient. As children, they’ll likely take a while to understand how to use maps or even make mistakes, so it’s probably best to get them started with destinations no further than a stone’s throw away. Again, it’s all about teaching them the basics and empowering them to make choices.
Keeping the hotel room tidy: If getting them to clean up their room at home is too hard, the hotel room is the perfect place to get them started on maintaining cleanliness, just because of the relative ease. Simple things like storing their clothes from the luggage bag in the wardrobe, making sure the towels are draped properly after use, or just helping to make sure the shower area isn’t a complete mess once they’re done with it. As with all things, don’t worry about achieving perfection, but do heap praises whenever they do something right.
Be punctual: Catching the flight home is always stressful, and there’s little room for error or delays. If there’s ever a time where punctuality should be taught to your child, this is it. On the day of departure, have them prepare to check out of their hotel room early and cooperate with the family as you head towards the airport, while impressing upon them the reasons for doing so. They might not always understand nor finish their preparations on time, but it’s a learning process, and they’re attempting to learn at least.
Be part of a team: Things can be hectic right up to the moment the family boards the plane and straps in, so it’s important for each family member to look out for one another. You might be used to taking care of everything, but don’t forget that your child is there to help as well. Have them aid you in minor tasks - they’ll usually be happy to help, and it trains them to be responsible individuals as well.
Be aware of transport arrangements: Sometimes, it may be useful to let your child know about the specifics behind the trip to the airport; even information such as the mode of transport (by train or private hire cars), flight departure times and airport gate numbers can help. There might just be an occasion where your child remembers a crucial bit of info that could save your family time, or from missing the flight home altogether.
Bringing your child along for overseas trips may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With some guidance and planning, they just might become dependable enough to help make it a trip to remember, while teaching them important life skills that will stay with them long into adulthood.