Many teachers refer to students as “my kids” because of the heart and soul that goes into helping them grow inside and outside of the classroom.

We hear this a lot when we’re on student tours with teachers who want to provide new experiences for “their kids.” They realize that student travel is different from a family vacation because it offers new opportunities for social and emotional growth.

Sometimes parents have to find a level of comfort with a child’s newly-found independence or school administration may not realize the full range of benefits these experiences provide. Here are a few ways to explain how educational travel helps students grow during their tween and teen years.

1. Traveling helps build confidence in their knowledge and abilities.

When a tour guide asks a question and a student knows the answer – boom – a boost of confidence. Working through a lab at Franklin Institute using an equation learned in class – an “ah-ha” moment!

In another post about 3 Unexpected Things “Your Kids” Learn on a School-Sponsored Trip, I also mentioned that kids learn through an organic process when they go beyond the lesson plan and they gain confidence when they realize there is not just one way to learn or a right way to apply their knowledge.

It also takes courage for kids to go away from home and outside of their comfort zone. When they return from their trip, students have a rush of confidence that will carry over the next time they find themselves in a new situation.

2. Shared experiences build life-long memories and bonds.

One of the greatest benefits of an educational trip is that students get to travel together.

Liberty Bells

According to Meliksah Demir, Ph.D., a professor at Northern Arizona University, it is companionship – simply doing things together – that makes kids happy in their friendships.

The reason? Friends make them feel that they matter.

They also associate that feeling with what they are doing, which will help them take lessons that they learn on tour to heart.

Friendships also build confidence, and they thrive on consideration of others and compromise at times.

These relationship skills are strengthened when students spend time with their friends or meet new people on an educational trip. In fact, research from the Student Youth Travel Association highlights at least ten social effects that travel has on student travelers.

3. Experiencing new people and places helps increase empathy.

Teens and tweens spend a lot of time with their clique of friends which is usually made up of people who share common characteristics. Kids do this to help identify who they are and to build their confidence, which is understandable.

When students are on an educational trip, possibly without their clique of friends at their side, they begin to branch out and bond with others based on the new, shared experience. This helps students develop a sense of identity at a deeper level and to grow in understanding, empathy, and compassion for others who don’t necessarily share the same characteristics.

What emotional benefits have your students gained from traveling? Leave a comment and let me know. 

There are many other ways student travel benefits tweens and teens. Check out a listing of our blogs about the Benefits of Student Travel, Educational Benefits of Student Travel, and the Emotional and Social Benefits of Student Travel.

Originally published January 2017, updated July 2021.