There is nothing I love more than traveling with my kids. Not only do I get to go to incredible places, but I also get to watch my daughter grow, discover and explore. I honestly believe that by learning world history, experiencing different cultures and meeting new people that kids develop a better understanding and appreciation for the world around them among the many other benefits that I outlined in this post. Not to mention, the earlier you get your little ones used to jet setting, the better little world travelers they’re going to become and the more places you get to go! Here are my tips for traveling abroad with kids
I wish I could remember who to attribute this to but I was listening to a podcast where a family travel blogger was being interviewed and she said “if they have kids there than you can bring kids there!” Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to pick the perfect location, most places will be able to accommodate your children.
There are some destinations that encourage family travel and may be a little easier to navigate for your first family adventure abroad. If you are having a hard time deciding I love Ireland as a family destination. Your kids will love the magic and lore that makes up the heart of this beautiful country, it is an easy flight from the US and the speak English (mostly.) Portugal has some beautiful properties that cater to family travelers with childproof rooms, kids menus and activities. If you want a more relaxing experience consider an all inclusive resort where everything is at your fingertips including childcare. For this you want to look at places like Puerto Rico or Cancun, Mexico. Club Med has one of the best childcare programs in the industry.
Nonstop flights are always best when traveling internationally with a family. If this is not an option for your destination, make sure you have a longer layover. I am sure you have had to do one of those crazy sprints from your flight that sat on the tarmac for an hour for no explicable reason to your connection. Imagine doing that with a stroller, carryons filled with snacks and a hungry child.
Since getting around the airport as a family takes longer than on your own make sure you have AT LEAST an hour and a half.
And if your flight involves two flights of more than six hours with a stop in between (New York to Los Angeles to Tokyo, for example), you should consider spending the night after the first leg instead of opting for a long layover. It’ll reduce meltdowns and make the trek easier on everyone.
Child airfare on most flights is free for kids under age 2. If we are going on a short trip to visit family or heading to Walt Disney World I typically opt to save the money. But for a longer voyage, I like to purchase a seat. It is important to weigh the price of buying an additional seat with the length of your flight and the idea of having your kid on your lap for a long time, then decide what works best for you. My daughter became very mobile and antsy around 9 months which is when I started purchasing tickets. I just couldn’t wrestle with her to sit still on my lap anymore. Having her own space made being cooped up a little easier for us both.
For more thoughts check out this guide to surviving baby’s first flight. It includes a Free Downloadable Carry On Diaper Bag Packing List.
If your kids are a little older and require tickets make sure you purchase a fare that allows you to select your seats. I understand it can get costly but it is unfair to expect other passengers to move to accommodate your family. It is important to understand airlines offer lower fares for travelers who do not care where they sit. They are not charging you more to be seated with your family.
Delays are an inevitable part of travel. Be it for weather, mechanical or inexplicable reasons we have all been stuck in an airport or on a tarmac wondering if you were ever going to make it to your final destination. I recommend packing diapers and snacks for the length of the flight(s) plus 24 hours. That should cover you until you reach your destination or in extreme circumstances find a place to restock. Download an extra movie or bring an extra book
And ALWAYS use the restroom right before boarding the plane.
It seems most of the stressful travel stories I hear all surround one thing… transportation. Train stations, taxi drivers, lugging suitcases, getting lost. Even when you are on a budget-conscious vacation I believe the one place to always splurge is on transportation.
Having a private transfer waiting for you at the airport takes all the stress out of figuring what to do when you get to a country where you don’t speak the language.
Some cities have wonderful public transportation but unless you are already familiar with the particular system, figuring it out with young kids in tow is not always the best idea. Spend the money on an uber or taxi to reduce the stress.
We all know kids thrive on routine. That is why we have them at home. When introducing them to a new enviornment it is important to stick to what you do at home as closely as possible. This can include breakfast, familiar snacks, mommy time and TV time. Foreign cultures operate on wildly different schedules — notably dining late. Maintaining your family’s home schedule can be difficult, but it’s worth its weight in avoided tantrums and exhaustion.
As long as you keep your children well-fed and well-rested, everything else will fall into place. Pick and choose late nights carefully. Build your agenda around your children’s nap, meal and bedtimes. Don’t be too ambitious and pack the days full. Leave lots of downtimes. And always have snacks on hand for times when the next meal is nowhere in sight.
Don’t worry about this too much. You don’t want to be lugging around more luggage than you need and you can get almost anything you need anywhere. If you run out of diapers chances are there is a store nearby where you can restock.
One area I would concentrate on is medicine. If your child needs certain prescriptions make sure you have more than you would normally need for the length of your trip. Also, pack a few common over the counter items. Children are more susceptible to colds or allergies in a new environment. While you will be able to find pharmacies wherever you are you will not be able to find the same brands as at home. If you find something similar dosages may be different. Pack some Benadryl, Tylenol, cold medicine and something to ease a troubled tummy… to be safe. Also do not discount the importance of how much having a few familiar items from home helps transition to a new environment. Pack anything you use for nighttime routine as well as some of their favorite toys. Try not to pack anything that is irreplaceable.
This is not going to be the trip of your backpacking days where you visit a different city each day and sleep on an overnight train. You are not going to be able to hit the highlights of a city in a few hours.
When traveling with kids plan on lots of downtime. This can be a long picnic in a park, running around a central plaza or playing at a local playground. Find places for them to let out some energy before a long tour or fancier meal. Always honor the naptime. If your kids will sleep in a stroller plan a long walk or museum tour for the time they would normally nap. If not you may find you gain just as much from an afternoon rest at the hotel as they do.
A great way to get buy-in for the trip is to get your kids excited BEFORE. Read books about the destination, watch movies set there. Show your kids what they are going to experience. Find out what excites them and add that to their itinerary.
Another fun way to get them involved is to teach them how to say “hello,” “goodbye” and “thank you” in the local language before arriving. They’ll love trying the new words, and it will open doors everywhere.
One of the things I love the most about travel is it is full of possibilities. You come to expect the unexpected. Add kids to the mix and ANYTHING can happen.
As a planner, this was probably the hardest lesson for me to learn, but you don’t have to be tied to the itinerary. It is always important to have a plan so you have some sort of structure and aren’t wasting time wondering what to do next but know it is a plan and not a mandate. Allow for spontaneity.
If all the interactive activities, scavenger hunts and everything else you have tried to make the museum you have wanted to visit your whole life more interesting isn’t working and your little one is starting to get antsy, be prepared to move on. Be extra attentive to their queues and make a change BEFORE they have a meltdown. Let them take the lead and you all will be happier.
If you are ready to have the family vacation you’ve been dreaming of, without spending time researching, planning and making it happen, schedule a call today. I’m here to help busy working Moms plan, organize and book the perfect family vacation. With me, all you have to worry about is enjoying your well-earned time away with your family. If you are ready to stop trying to do everything on your own and see how I can help you schedule a complimentary trip planning session now.
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