How to Explain Travel to a Five-Year-Old

I’ve been a traveler my whole life — and was lucky enough to have a family that prioritized experiencing new destinations throughout my childhood. Now, it’s my nephew’s turn. At two years old, with seven countries down, he’s on his way to becoming a citizen of the world.

While traveling with a child at any age may seem like a daunting prospect, experts claim that it can significantly boost development. They say travel can expand a kid’s world, making them more empathetic toward cultural differences and helping them adapt to changing situations. It can even shape their linguistic development as babies.

“They’re going to start learning the tools for developing meaningful relationships, especially across differences, from an early age,” Dr. Robin Hancock, a global education specialist with Bank Street College, told Travel + Leisure. “Travel has the potential to create a new narrative that teaches children about the similarities with others [and] lays a strong foundation, especially in the early years…We have the potential to raise a generation that knows how to live and coexist with each other.”

Family at airport

I’ve watched my nephew try beans for the first time at La Guarida in Havana, picking up and considering each individual one, almost as if testing it. I’ve seen him stick his feet in the Dead Sea (and then quickly pull them back out again), as well as try gelato under the shadow of the Duomo in Florence.

He may not remember these adventures, but they will impact his development, according to Hancock. The most rapid brain development occurs in the first five years of a child’s life, and especially in the first three, she said. Surrounding kids from birth to about three years old with people who are different than them “normalizes” that experience.

“Travel and educating children about their roles as citizens of the world when they’re young ensures they will retain that message into their adult years,” she said. “When somebody begins a habit or a tradition… early in life, that becomes the foundation through which they view the world for the rest of their life.”

Traveling with young children – even as young as six months old — can also help them with linguistic development, said Erika Levy, an associate professor in communication sciences and disorders at Teachers College at Columbia University.

“We know that in terms of language, babies perceive sounds differently from adults. As they get older… they lose the ability to distinguish many of the other speech sounds,” said Levy. “If we surround them with speech sounds from all around the world… then we are keeping those categories going, which helps later on in life with their language.”

And when they return home from a trip, their experiences can actually help them in school, according to Hancock.

“It makes them more open to try new things [and] less cautious of people and scenarios that are not familiar to them,” she said. “It will inevitably make children more open and remove bias.”

Here are a few tips on how to maximize your child’s experience while traveling.

Take a stroll in a local neighborhood.

While it’s great to see the major attractions in a destination, walking around a local neighborhood can be one of the most impactful moments for children, said Hancock. A child’s brain tends to make connections based on what is familiar to them. “If you’re in Venice, spend time on the Grand Canal, and if you’re in Paris, spend time by the Eiffel Tower, but the pieces that really resonate with children are the experiences they can relate to,” she said. “It’s going to be meaningful for your child if you just find a quiet neighborhood and go forwalk…Inevitably, you’re going to see people sweeping out their front yard and local vendors. And that’s much more meaningful — you’re going to get a better slice of what everyday life is like and your child will, too.”

Create a tradition while on vacation.

Traditions can help kids connect to a trip. For example, as children, my sister and I collected soda bottles in every country we visited. “Traditions are meaningful for kids,” said Hancock. “Anything that you can relate back to the child’s world is going to be a meaningful experience to them.”

Have your kids play with other children.

Grouping kids with other children around their age will help their development, even if they don’t speak the same language, according to Levy. “Have them meet other children — they will play, learn, and find ways to communicate,” she said. “And they’ll learn that not everybody speaks English.”

Turn your trip into a game.

Asking children to point out things that are new to them, Levy recommended “Have them show you three things they’ve never seen before at home.” She said, “You can do a treasure hunt for them.”

Prepare your children in advance.

Preparing children for what they’re about to experience can go a long way, according to Levy. For example, tell them in advance about jet lag, or if they’re nervous traveling, bring a special toy on the plane. But ultimately, you shouldn’t be too worried: Levy said that children tend to be “more adaptable than we are in new situations.”

All Aboard the Rocky Mountaineer Five-Year-Old

In this interview, correspondent Polly Nash talks to fire fighter Cami Schafer about one of the many frightening effects of climate change; the ever-growing threat of wildfires around the world. Last year California was hit by the Dixie Fire, the largest single forest fire in the state’s history. Burning for four months, the Dixie Fire destroyed over a thousand buildings and devastated entire towns. Cami Schafer, who was fighting this fire alongside her colleagues, gives insights into her daily work, her struggles and most importantly, what kept her sane and motivated during the demanding operation.

“You try not to be emotionally attached but you can’t really help it. Those are people’s houses, people’s livelihood, that’s all they have. But then we have to hustle and keep going the next day.”

The Castle on the Cliff: Majestic, Magic, Manoir

Thousands of migrants – of whom, many are children – suffer from deadly heat conditions at the US-Mexico border. As the effects of climate change worsen day by day, extreme weather conditions are causing a high risk of dehydration and death amongst migrants who try to enter the States through the Sonoran Desert.

In order to calculate the deadliest areas in the U.S. – Mexico Border, scientists and researchers used a biophysical model of human dehydration. According to the report made by this model, it was found that most of the deaths were caused primarily by severe dehydration. After organizing the dataset in the regions with the casualties, severe dehydration that leads to death, water loss, organ failure, disorientation and physiological challenges in animal species were linked together for the report.

“We provide the first empirical evidence that the physiological stresses experienced by humans attempting to cross the Sonoran Desert into the U.S. are sufficient to cause severe dehydration and associated conditions that can lead to death. A disproportionately large percentage of migrant deaths occur in areas where the predicted rates of water loss are highest,” says Ryan Long, an associate professor of wildlife sciences at the University of Idaho. Long also underlines the importance of access to drinking water supplies for preventing the risks at the highest rates of water loss during migration across the borders in the region.

Models developed for fighting against climate change and water scarcity unfortunately show us that these type of border crossings will only become more dangerous over time, increasing the already large number of people who do not make it across. Measures must be taken immediately to mitigate this crisis.

Tiptoe through the Tulips of Washington

2021 will be a Different Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. We know there will be restrictions on the number of people who can visit our fields and gardens (and other retail establishments/restaurants/venues) based on COVID guidelines established by the state and county governments. We will be following those guidelines, but still be working to welcome you and help you with your visit. Tulip Town has set its ticketing policy; you can find out more at RoozenGaarde has done so as well; find out more at

This is event is geared towards visitors of all ages but if you happen to be traveling with a tot, here are some tips from a local mom on how best to prepare for and execute your adventure.

Seattle Southside mom, Meilee, bundled up her four year old and hit the road and this is what she learned:

The drive is easy freeway driving for approx. 90 minutes each way (from Seattle Southside). For lightest traffic plan on arriving at the fields early in the day on the weekends or travel during non-rush hours mid-week.
Stop at the Tulip Festival Administration office 311 W. Kincaid St. Mount Vernon, WA 98273 for free maps, advice on where to start/stop your excursion and special event info.
With maps and “Tulip Route” signage the fields are easy to find.
Wear practical shoes. There aren’t sidewalks in the fields; be prepared for dusty to muddy conditions. My daughter wore her pink polka dot rain boots for fashion and the practicality purposes.
Walking paths are made out of firmly packed gravel or dirt. Check weather forecasts to get an idea on stroller friendly conditions.
There are multiple tulip farms to see and each is immense. For families with young children I recommend pacing yourself and expect to visit one farm maybe two. We spent two hours at one field, had dinner then drove back. It was a long five hour outing for a four year old but days later she’s still talking about the “bee-you-tee-ful flowers” and I’m still admiring a collection of charming photos.
The RoozenGaarde field has food vendors. (fair food cuisine and prices) There’s a grassy area with a few tables and room to have a picnic.
Bring cash. Some vendors accept cash and plastic – others take cash only.
There are plenty of facilities (porta-potties) at the farms. For families with babies or young toddlers, bring a blanket in the diaper bag because I didn’t see any changing areas.
No pets allowed in the tulip fields. Leave Fluffy or Fido at home.
*Bonus tip – make sure your camera has plenty of battery life you’ll have a “bazillion” photo opportunities.