Every year when I return from an international trip with kids, I feel charged up. I love showing them faraway places. To be able to say we’re in a place with thousands of years of history is energizing. To be able to show them castles, cathedrals and synagogues from the 19th century is quite a thrill for me. My husband and refuse to give up our love for travel because we have kids. Rather we embrace the fact that we do and take them to far away places whole- heartedly.
I jotted down a quick few notes on my recent trip, to remind myself and you to make sure you think about on your next trip abroad with the family:
1. When traveling to a foreign culture where they speak a new language, orientate them to the language before you go. They may love to try to speak a few words and try to pull words out of the native’s language. Mine did. You can buy basic books or audio in advance of the trip and listen in the car. My son’s favorite expression after our recent trip to Paris: “Excuse moi!”
2. Study the destination or talk about it before you go so they know what to expect. Or watch a film that takes place there. My daughter watched “Monte Carlo” before we went to Paris and knew exactly what she wanted to see (the Eiffel Tower).
3. Take car seats – there is no extra charge by airlines and car rental companies get you good on car seat charges. Also, take your portable GPS. Who wants to get lost with kids?
4. Carry snacks and water everywhere you go so the kids can sustain walking trips and long days. You’d be surprised how much water costs in some places, so I bring large, empty water bottles.
5. IMPORTANT: Don’t over plan! Kids don’t like agendas on trips and you can’t expect realistically to see everything that you would otherwise see without kids. Remember, you can always go back when the kids are older – with them or without them. Mix up your days – a little museum, a little shopping, a little playtime. Give yourself lots of time to stop for breaks. Don’t get annoyed when you can’t do exactly what you want, you will be back (important to reiterate as clearly, this happens to me often).
6. ALSO IMPORTANT: Don’t expect your kids to eat the way you do back home. There will be meals where they don’t eat vegies. Some days they might have pizza twice on the run. You might sit down for meals where your kids don’t eat anything, either out of fatigue or refusal. Don’t worry about it, kids can skip meals! It’s not a big deal. I wish that my kids would eat better sometimes, and I wish they would experiment in new cultures. They do sometimes, sometimes they don’t. I just don’t let it get to me anymore.
7. Always bring extra clothes and make sure everyone is wearing comfortable clothing and shoes. Try not to carry too much, just what you need. In Paris and London on our last year, I went really light. My husband carried the kid’s jackets; I carried a small handbag with my camera and money. I don’t miss the diaper bag and stroller my kids have outgrown, that’s for sure.
8. Think digital. As much as you may like to un-digitize on a trip, eating out will be so much easier when you can hand over your iPhone or iTouch. Take chargers to keep all your items charged.
9. Make sure your kids have their own cameras. It keeps them entertained and plugged in to the nature of sight-seeing. It’s also a great skill for a child to have.
10. Make sure your kids keep travel journals. We tend to write about each day’s events at the end of each day, or at least we try to. It helps keep up reading and writing skills. We also take work books with us (grade appropriate for each child) so that their skills don’t lapse.
What do you make sure you do while traveling internationally with kids? Tell me below.