Six Educational Benefits of Travel

I have seen first-hand the educational benefits of travel. Did you know these benefits are well documented in research? As you think about traveling, consider the educational benefits for yourself and for your children. If you have followed my blogs and podcasts, you know that I am a former teacher, principal, and school superintendent. As a traveler and as an educator, I thought it might help to summarize some of the key educational benefits of travel with some research citations, too.


Be sure to click on the audio bar at the end of this post to listen to the accompanying podcast. In the podcast, I discuss these points with my daughter, Melly, who is an educator and a traveler. In the podcast we both reflect on our personal experiences with travel and its educational benefits to us and to students of all ages.

1 – Travelers of all ages gain educational benefits from both short-term and long-term travel.

A literature review of travel benefits by Stone and Petrick in 2013 found many benefits of travel for students and adults. While the benefits of study abroad and other academic travel programs are well known, they reported on researchers who have also found significant benefits to less academically focused travel. Some researchers have found that short vacations of one to seven days had the highest impact on travelers’ knowledge and skills. Other researchers have reported on skills gained by travelers of all ages, including more knowledge and more cultural understanding.


Learn more from the research:

On a personal note:

As a young child, even though my mother had never traveled, she inspired my love for travel when she would tell me stories about famous places, monuments, and museums around the world. I wanted to visit Paris to see the famous Mona Lisa that she told about Leonardo da Vinci painting. I could imagine visiting Pisa to see the Leaning Tower and seeing Big Ben in London. She inspired me to learn about these famous places and then to visit them when I was old enough to travel.

Paris, France

Although my mom didn’t have the money to travel and didn’t feel confident enough to travel on her own, I was eventually able to take her to London, Paris and Rome with me. We learned together about the world, and it helped both of us in our lifelong love of learning. When I became a teacher and school leader, I think, in part, it was because I wanted to share the love of learning that had been inspired in me by my mom and from her inspiration to learn about the world beyond our small part of it.

2 – Exposure to second languages is beneficial for language acquisition.

Exposure to native speakers of other languages helps second language learners hear proper pronunciation and usage as they learn additional languages. This is especially important for younger learners, since most researchers agree that there is a critical period for second language acquisition. Travel to countries where children can hear speakers of other languages provides opportunities for children to be motivated to learn other languages and to hear native speakers to help their proper second language pronunciation and usage.


Learn more from the research:

On a personal note:

Both of my daughters studied foreign language before high school. I wanted to make sure they had exposure to other languages as early as possible to take advantage of the critical period for learning language. My oldest daughter started taking French from a tutor after school. She went on to participate in a short exchange with a student in France, and we had the student come and stay with us for a while. My other daughter, Melly, began studying Spanish in middle school. She was not interested in studying a foreign language initially, but she now says she is so glad she did. It not only helped her learn about another culture, but it helped her understand language root words to perform better on college admission tests like the SAT and ACT. Participation in Spanish classes led to her involvement in Spanish Club leadership in high school, and this helped her have greater success in high school and college.

Exterior and Interior Views of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

3 – Travel as a teenager is correlated to better educational attainment and earning power as an adult.

The Wagner Group, a market research firm, found that adults who had traveled as teenagers earned on average 12 percent more as adults and had higher educational levels as adults as compared to their peers. This finding held true regardless of socioeconomic level of the comparison groups.


Learn more from the research:

On a personal note:

Having worked with students of a variety of socioeconomic levels, my own reflections mirror this study. I have seen that students who seek out travel opportunities are able to find them through scholarships, and these students benefit from those experiences. When students then apply to college, the travel experiences help communicate this greater depth and breadth of learning to the colleges they are hoping to attend.

Oxford University, England, Hertford Bridge

4 – Success as a leader is associated with travel experience.

Leaders who travel have been found to be more creative and innovative than leaders who do not travel as frequently, according to an Academy of Management study of leaders in the fashion industry.


Learn more from the research:

On a personal note:

Having hired many educational leaders over the course of my career, I have found that leaders who have traveled are more aware of various teaching and learning strategies. They also are more empathetic toward students from different cultures and backgrounds. These educational leaders reflect their greater knowledge and empathy in their leadership of other educators and of students, as well. 

5 – Travel aligns with proven successful educational strategies including personalized learning, experiential learning, and student engagement in learning.

Short and long-term travel offer unique opportunities for students to engage in seeing first-hand what they are learning about in social studies and geography, to view actual historical artifacts, and to immerse themselves in other cultures. John Hattie’s “Visible Learning” research supports a high correlation between student engagementin their learning and student achievement.

Jeffrey Coker, et al, found that college students who participated in experiential learning through travel experiencesand/or other experiential learning opportunities had greater success in desired educational outcomes in college. Broom and Bai found that international experiential learning projects can nurture students’ sense of connection and care for others.

Monet’s Garden at Giverny, France

Travel offers opportunities to personalize learningto meet student interests, especially when students are able to select the place(s) they will visit. To read more about personalized learning, including questions to ask when considering schools that provide real world options for students to choose for personalizing their own learning, you may want to read this article from the

Carnegie website:


Learn more from the research:

On a personal note:

I have seen students blossom as learners when they are more engaged in their learning, have more opportunity to personalize their learning to their own unique preferences, and are able to experience the real-world applications of their education. As a learner myself, I know that I remember more about my own learning when I am able to immerse myself in the experiences of travel.

6 – Students benefit from study abroad programs in learning and earning power.

Students who have studied abroad are almost twice as likely to find meaningful employment within twelve months of graduating from college. They earn about 17 percent more than their peers when they do find employment. Students who studied abroad had greater increases in their grades after their study abroad experience as compared to similar students who did not study abroad.


Learn more from the research:

Rome Study Tour of the Colosseum

On a personal note:

My daughter, Melanie, studied abroad for six weeks in Florence, Italy. She reports that she learned more about the world, even beyond Italy, from this experience than from all of her other travels or studying. Be sure to listen to her talk about her experiences by clicking on the audio bar at the bottom of this page.

I would love to hear from you if you are enjoying these posts and podcasts and if you have ideas for future podcasts. If you are interested in hearing more from Melanie, she shares her thoughts on London, Key West, and travel in general in the posts with podcasts here:

London introductory podcast with comments from Melanie

Key West podcast with comments from Melanie

(Check out my 2018 Key West update, too.)

Switzerland podcast with comments from Melanie

Until next time, I hope all your travel days are just PERFECT!


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