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Why Travel Makes Kids Smarter
By Shannon Kenny

Author Shannon Kenny is the Founding Editor of, Director of the Arte al Sole children's arts and cultural programs in Italy, and Founding Partner of Elaia Travel, a boutique travel concierge specializing in custom travel to Italy and Europe.

As a mom in the travel industry with two daughters who have had to pull along their own suitcases from early childhood upon arrival to the chaos of some international destinations, I have often weighed in on the debate among parents over whether or not to postpone more adventurous or extensive travel for a later age when the children will “benefit more.” In fact, the opposite seems to be true, just as with learning a language, children benefit from travel as young as possible, in any capacity possible, and recent statistics show that consistent travel has significant lifelong benefits for children.  My personal family travels and tales from all the families we have crossed paths with over the year furthers validate current research indicating that experiencing travel in childhood makes children smarter and more successful.

A recent survey of over 2500 adults and 1200 youth by the Travel Effect project revealed that adults who traveled regularly as children had above average grades, higher educational attainment, and 12% higher than average incomes. Survey respondents also indicated that their most vivid memories from age 5 to 10 were from family trips.

In this global age, it is even further encouraging to know that the specific reasons WHY travel makes children smarter encompass some of the hottest buzz words in education in the world today.

Problem Solving, Creativity, and Analytical Thinking

Travel boosts higher level thinking. In effect, travel keeps us on our toes in terms of learning how to think, a fact supported by recent studies in brain science. Cognitively, the brain is constantly filtering and organizing every bit of information we are exposed to. When we are in familiar territory, our analytical capabilities are on cruise control, we filter and process essential information from concrete, relatively simplistic contexts. Yet travel promotes the phenomenon in psychology known as the “distant condition,” which is proven to increase creativity, more complex analysis, and, in turn, advanced problem solving. In a recent study by Indiana University, spatial distance, being in a foreign physical environment, significantly increased participants’ capacity for creative problem solving. When we travel, our brain is cued to interpret the world, both near and at home, from a more open-minded and varied perspective.

Social and Emotional Intelligence

When children travel, they deepen their awareness and understanding of people, which increases empathy and social connectedness. Educators in today’s global world acknowledge the fundamental importance of social intelligence to a student’s success both in school and in life. Perhaps most significant for raising children, interpersonal skills and social awareness are also hallmarks of effective leadership. In communicating and understanding the unfamiliar human environment they are exposed to in travel, children learn more profoundly how to interpret emotional and representational cues that cultivate empathy, trust, and a richer human understanding.

Builds Character

Paul Tough’s 2012 book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character brought a spotlight to the greater movement in alternative education to highlight and quantify how crucial character development is to students’ ability to learn and ultimately live a fulfilling life. Defined as persistence, resilience, and determination, grit is now acknowledged by educators as an essential component of successful growth for children, coming full circle to embrace the need to learn by trial and error that the current generation of helicopter parents seems to have forgotten. Travel takes a lot of effort, it is challenging, things will always go wrong, but in the end, it is eminently rewarding, precisely because of these difficulties. For children, experiencing the pitfalls of travel—watching their parents get lost and then find their way, ordering the wrong thing at a restaurant, or missing home—builds the character attributes of grit with the added boost of trust and self-assurance that comes along with it, and, finally, courage.

It goes without saying, that as parents, we grow together with our children as we travel. So let’s all get out there and hit the road with our little geniuses, and bring our knowledge and insights back with us to further cultivate these worthwhile benefits here at home.


Italy with Children: Where to Stay?
Researching and booking a hotel or vacation rental can be a daunting task for every traveller, but the stakes are especially high when travelling abroad with children. We hope these carefully selected suggestions for lodging help you to find the perfect situation for your family holiday in Italy. Meanwhile, I'm dreaming of spending a week with the family in Florence at the Palazzo Belfiore, a 14th-century palazzo recently refurbished into spacious holiday apartments in the characteristic Oltrarno neighborhood, our favorite area to stay in the city.  Family run, Palazzo Belfiore offers the benefits of self-catering lodging plus helpful owner proprietors who can offer assistance with dining, local events, or activities, and is host to the Arte al Sole children's art and cultural program during the Easter holiday.

Family-friendly hotels & holiday rentals in other regions:

Rome and Lazio
   Florence and Tuscany   Milan and Lombardy  Turin and Piedmont
Genoa and Liguria   Perugia and Umbria   Naples and Campania  Venice and Veneto         

Featured Sponsor
Arte al Sole: An Italian Cultural Adventure for International Children
is an English-language day camp with programs offered in Rome; Panicale, Umbria; and Lucca, Tuscany,  offering children an opportunity to explore the art, science, history and culture of these regions through a fun, engaging curriculum in English.

Dates for summer 2015 are now available, with new locations on the Amalfi Coast and in Florence.



In Search of Floating Fire Lanterns, Music, and Dancing: Summer Festivals on the Amalfi Coasts 

By Shannon Kenny










While you are bound to find fireworks in Italy during your summer visit somewhere or another, timing your visit to the Amalfi Coast to catch one of several must-see festivals during the summer months will greatly enrich your family’s experience, creating timeless memories for the kids and immersing them even deeper in the area’s history and culture as it comes to life during these annual celebrations commemorating local miracles and legends. Below are a few of our favorites:

Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics (Amalfi)

Each year the four most powerful maritime republics of medieval Italy—Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa, and Venice, rotate by city to host a historical regatta in early June. Boats reconstructed exactly as they would have been built around the 12th century are manned by 8 oarsmen dressed in historical dress. In Amalfi, boats race a distance of 2 kilometers, beginning in Capo Grande and ending dramatically in Marina Grande. Read More...


A Few New Family-Friendly Holiday Apartments in our Favorite Rome Neighborhoods
By Shannon Kenny

This summer season we were pleasantly surprised to discover some jewels among Rome’s thousands of holiday apartment rentals. The below options represent unique value in terms of very reasonable rates with high-level amenities, quality, and location for families in the city.

Hotel Apollo Annex Apartments in Monti
Via dei Serpenti 109-110
Rione Monti, Rome

The neighborhood of Rione Monti is a top pick for us when staying in Rome, a locals enclave just a stone’s throw from the Coliseum that offers a haven from the crowds. The streets of Via dei Serpenti and Via del Boschetto have many simple take out dining options, small local markets, a Conad supermarket (on Via del Boschetto), the infamous Fatamorgana gelateria, and poignant piazzas to enjoy it all. We had a pleasant, and very restful, quiet (!) stay at the annex apartments of the Hotel Apollo. The hotel itself is on Via dei Serpenti, were a few blocks away on Via Urbana. Convenient to the Cavour metro stop, the ever useful Bus 117 small electric bus that winds through the historical center, a 10 minute walk to Via Nazionale or the Coliseum, the list goes on. Read more...


Elaia Travel's Tips for Family Dining on Ischia

It is quite a travel feat to be able to say that every single dining experience we have had in Ischia has been a memorable one. The sapori Ischitani, enchanting flavors of the island, enliven every dish, as does the pride and craft of the cooks serving perfectly composed meals. Day to day we enjoyed simple dinners at our hotel, the Albergo da Maria, overlooking the cove and Aragonese castle from Cartaromana beach. The freshness of the vegetables and simplicity of the seafood were a hit with kids and parents. Read more...


 How to Pack for Your Family Holiday in Italy: A Photo Essay

We feel that photos illustrate more powerfully than words the need to pack light for your family holiday in Italy. Ground transportation is never simple, and chances are, kids however young will need to be able to manage being responsible for at least one bag, if not all of their bags. We suggest that families pack no more than one carry-on or similar size suitcase, with very sturdy handles and wheels due to cobblestone streets and such, and one backpack per person, or if possible less. Definitely not one thing more... The payoff of minimizing your stress carting excess luggage around is well worth the sacrifice of not bringing certain items.

In a boat:



We Can Plan Your Stay in Italy for You!

Please visit our sister site Elaia Travel for details about our full-service trip and event planning services