We all know the difficulties of traveling with children, from infants to teenagers. They can be troublesome, hard to pack for, and require a lot of attention (especially when they are kicking and screaming on the airplane). But it doesn't have to be a hassle and, frankly, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives when it comes to traveling with your children. Although you may have wished you got that babysitter while you're carrying a squirming two year old through the zoo, you'll be glad in the long run when that toddler turns out to be a successful veterinarian.
In all seriousness, travel has a lot of benefits for everyone but the pros are exaggerated during a child's formative, influential years. What I remember most growing up is the few vacations we took as a whole family, and those were some good times. Whether you are staying in the States or hopping the ocean, your children will be experiencing new things, growing as a human being, and surprising you at every turn.
First off, travel can be extremely educational even if you never set foot in a museum, although that helps. Exposure to new elements tends to generate interests, curiosity, and inspire lifelong passions that maybe you hadn't foreseen. A young boy may visit the science museum and become enamored with a dinosaur exhibit and then *boom* for weeks, months, years afterwards he obsesses on prehistoric reptiles. While it may not always be as dramatic as that, travel masks education in excitement and adventure. All parents want their children to be intelligent, successful, happy adults one day and cultivating an enjoyment in learning is a huge step in the right direction.
Travel also helps children to realize that the world is bigger than their backyard. Perspective, their mental view or state of their ideas, is expanded in seeing different, bigger or smaller "backyards." When children are young, chances are they have had a small range of varied experiences. Social and cultural interactions build a great foundation for discussions with your children - and you can bet they will have questions. This curiosity and open dialogue creates new avenues for, yet again, learning experiences. They adapt to new surroundings, eat new foods, meet new people, and interact in an environment wholly different than the one they are used to. As parents, you can witness a personal growth in your children which is special to say the least.
Character building blends into all of this beautifully. Building off of what I said earlier about personal growth, new experiences leads to adaptability which in turn leads to more independent, responsible, and social attitudes. Empathy and sympathy with individuals is generated by social interactions and travel is full of those. Creativity and curiosity, inspiration and education and more are all qualities parents strive to encourage in their children. In small, localized communities it can be difficult to light a proverbial fire under them for learning when their little eyes are glued to the iPad. While traveling, they grow without knowing it and you can help them along by prodding questions from them, freely granting explanations, and lending a comfortable guiding hand.
The last two benefits go hand in hand. As parents, travel gives you excellent opportunities for making memories and doing some hardcore quality family bonding. Sure those game nights you schedule every Thursday are great, and they'll probably remember those fondly when they're grown up, but a trip to Los Angeles or Hawaii is going to stick in their memories like a big neon sign. Experiencing new destinations and attractions together as a family binds you all like superglue and, because of that, memories are more prevalent and positive. Children are bound to remember going to Disney World and seeing dad wearing Mickey ears with a goofy smile on his face or watching little sister step into the ocean for the first time. Memories are irreplaceable, as is childhood. You can't go back and redo either so it's prudent to make both as joyful as possible.
Take them camping, tour an interactive museum (the Smithsonian Natural History Museum is recommended), or if all else fails, take them to a zoo. I have never met a child who doesn't enjoy seeing a hippo snort against the glass or hear a tiger roar. If you have the chance and the means to take them on vacation, don't pass that up out of a fear that they'll be difficult. Believe me and the thousands of people who traveled as children, they will thank you for those vacations and the memories when they're older. It's definitely worth it.