What’s the best age to take your kids on a family gap year? How old should children be to travel the world? Should you take babies and toddlers travelling? Is it possible to take a gap year with your teenagers?
I’ve travelled with my kids from babies to now, teens and tweens, and this is what I think. There are benefits to the kids and to parents at just about any age. But is there a sweet spot?
It may not be what you think, that’s fine, but you came here to see what I had to say about this, so can we stay friends? Thanks
Best Age to Take Kids on a Family Gap Year
This is totally dependent on what you want the kids to get out of travelling around the world and what you, the parent, want to get out of it.
Which is more important to you, their enjoyment, family time for mutual benefit, learning experiences for them or satisfying parental wanderlust?
There are a million reasons to take a round the world trip and I doubt that any two people’s are exactly the same.
You need to honestly figure out what your reasons are. Be real. Why do you want to do this thing?
What’s the Best Age to Travel for Education?
Kids will learn more from travel if they are older, the older the better.
All kids are different but my younger son remembers very little from our travels until he was about 8. Everything before that is pretty much a blank.
My elder son has a much better early memory but little kids really don’t pick up on that much.
Now, as teens and tweens, they learn far more and in greater depth from our travels.
Also, the older they are the more interested they become. They start Googling things because they want to. Little kids just want to play.
Sure, play is learning, that’s fine. But they won’t be learning a whole bunch about the countries they’re visiting.
What’s the Cheapest Age to Travel With Kids?
Obviously the younger the better.
Kids under 2 can travel virtually free.
Toddlers to kids about age 12 will qualify for kids’ admission prices and very slightly cheaper airfares.
Past 12 it’s like travelling with adult friends, that you’re paying for.
They also start eating a lot.
So the younger the better to keep costs down.
Do Kids Get Sick Much While Travelling? How Does Age Affect That?
Babies and toddlers get every bug going, it’s a normal part of growing up and they’ll go through this stage at home or on the road.
Would I want to go through normal childhood bugs while travelling?
It’s hard enough at home where you can access clean water, fresh clothes, heating or air conditioning, hospitals and familiar drugs.
I would not want to have a sick child on a travel day, nor in a hotel room.
This is a big reason to wait ’til they are older.
Little ones may also pick up some really nasty bugs on the road, GI viruses, flu, Dengue and worse. Babies and toddlers crawl on dirty floors and put fingers in mouths. Rats are everywhere. They must be protected from sun, mosquitoes, dogs, deep water, cliffs, traffic and roads. Little ones are a big responsibility.
How Easy is it to Travel With Babies, Toddlers, Tweens and Teens?
The older they are the easier it gets.
Once you have them fully toilet trained, able to walk reasonable distances, past the picky food, naps, bath time, car seats and milk stage it’s a whole new ball game.
Absolutely 100%, it gets easier the older they get and you, as a family, have far more options.
What About Older Kids Missing Friends While Travelling?
If they’ve been in the school system or have a group of friends or family that they see day in day out, if that is their normal, they’ll most likely miss that.
Some will miss it intensely and be deeply miserable.
The only solution is obviously not to put them in the system and not have deep roots at home that need to be temporarily severed. We’re lucky to have that, we’re 100% independent, but it’s rare.
Because mine have never been in the system it’s never been a problem. They’re very self-contained and will have fun with anyone, anywhere.
I always ponder on this. Does any child prefer school to weekends and holidays? I’ve never known one that does. Maybe if the home was absolutely dreadful or abusive, but most kids prefer being out of school and being able to do what they please.
In this instance the older they get the harder it will be.
Little ones play with other little ones wherever they happen to be and language barriers don’t stop them until they get older. It’s very easy to find playmates for tiny tots anywhere that kids gather, but of course, playing with mum and dad is fine by them too. Be ready for endless tag and sand castles.
Do Kids Like Spending Time With Mum and Dad Every Day?
Yep, mine do.
Up to puberty this is a total no-brainer. After that their need to play with and be close to a parental unit or two diminishes. If you play your cards right, yes, teens can still love hanging with mum or dad.
My teen is my funny friend, my sunshine, I adore him in a whole different way to his tween brother and we share humour and interests.
If I can prize him away from his computer games.
So What’s The Best Age to Travel With Kids?
I’d say the sweet spot is 10-12, depending on how early or late puberty really gets a grip. You can still have great times, really great times and huge adventures with older teens, but the tweens win. That’s my honest answer based on my hugely scientific sample group of two. What do you think? If you want more posts along these lines, how about travel with teenagers or our family gap year ideas?