The Developmental Benefits of Travel for Children


By: Renee Kakareka

Reading to children is important and can influence many facets of development. Even though a child may not understand each word, the process sparks their curiosity. The same can be said for travel. Experiencing new places, cultures, foods, languages, all have numerous benefits for kids. Even if they won’t remember all the details, travel promotes development in important ways.

According to Dr. Margot Sunderland, a leading child psychologist, travel stimulates two systems in the brain; “play” and “seeking” which are often under exercised at home due to daily routines (source). As the name implies, “play” is activated when families play together. On the other hand, exploring new things together strengthens the seeking system. When these areas of the brain are activated, they trigger the release of neurochemicals that reduce stress, and promote a sense of wellbeing.

Even further, when families, parents and siblings, engage with each other on their vacations, they interact in new ways, deepening their bonds. When families engage in activities - whether reading together, playing volleyball on the beach, or building a sand castle, they are not only building relationships, but also improving self-esteem and even physical health (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015).

Travel also promotes empathy in children. When kids travel and learn about new cultures, they are developing an understanding that others around the world that may act, look, or speak differently. This encourages an appreciation of diversity, fostering an open mind about similarities and differences. In a recent survey, many of the approximately 1,500 teachers polled, agreed that children who experienced cultures other than their own through travel have increased tolerance and respectfulness, as well as a willingness to learn and try new things.

As more and more families travel together, hotels and the broader hospitality industry can help meet their needs. From thoughtful welcome amenities to child-centric activities to creative events, brands can provide memorable experiences and promote the growth of their young guests. Incorporating elements of kindness, empathy and helping children connect with the local community can take it up a notch. All in all, given the myriad benefits of travel, these efforts have the potential to have a significant impact on children and families.