The Benefits of Family Travel

Family travel can help kids grow up to become well-rounded adults By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West

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I’ve written a lot about how influential the boomer generation has been to today’s travel industry. In fact, the unique qualities of that generation — wealthier, curious about the world, healthier, open-minded, valuing experiences over objects, to name some common characteristics — are responsible for more changes in the travel industry than just about any other factor.

But another major influence on travel has come from the other end of the demographic range.

To begin with, today’s kids are far more well-traveled than previous generations. The first time my father left the U.S. was as a soldier in World War II. I took my first international trip when I was in middle school, and my children took theirs in diapers. But in addition to having seen more of the world at an earlier age, many kids have also participated in more adventurous activities.

It’s a contradiction that parents these days are notoriously overprotective of their kids, while also putting a premium on the value of life experience. Kids might not have the everyday freedom of my generation, but there was no way that I would have learned how to scuba dive in Mexico, worked with wildlife in Africa or ziplined in Costa Rica when I was still in grade school.

Parents see the value in this kind of life experience for good reason. A recent press release revealed that kids who travel do better in reading and math than their peers who don’t travel. Also, the U.S. Travel Association found that adults who took educational trips in their youth make 12 percent more income per year and were significantly more likely to graduate from college. I don’t know if these claims are entirely accurate, but it does seem clear that the life experience gained during travel gives kids a larger universal world view and ultimately makes them more well-rounded adults.

So encourage those families you work with to step out of their comfort zone from time to time and try travel that is more adventurous or exotic. After all, they can always go back to being helicopter parents when they return home.