by Dylan G., who has written for onlinecollegedegrees.net about forensic science education programs, travel, literature and other topics. He loves travel and hopes to spend more time in Southeast Asia.
Traveling with kids can be tough, but going international takes it to whole new levels. Lengthy times traveling, adjusting to time changes, cultural adjustments, not being near much of the familiar– those are hard for adults, then factor in a child (or 3) feeling the same way and it can be stressful.
But it can also be an amazing experience, one your kids will remember forever, and won’t be able to wait to brag about to their friends and classmates. Plus, they might learn a thing or two during the experience. Check out these Dos and Don?ts of International Travel. For further reading, take a peek at these excellent family travel blogs.
- Pack plenty of games and books. The most trying time of your trip will be that spent in the plane right off the bat. Long hours cooped up around strangers isn’t fun for anybody, but it’s much harder with squirrely kids. Bring games (department stores sell travel-sized ones), toys, and books to keep them occupied on while on planes, trains, or however you’re getting around.
- Bring favorite snacks. Being away from home is hard, and especially for picky eaters, foreign foods might get “ick” faces. Bring just a few favorite snacks, like a bag of chips or a preferred candy, for when you’re too exhausted to force someone to clean their plate.
- Make it a learning experience. Vacations are breaks, but kids will only travelling internationally that much more if they get something out of it. Bring a phrase book if going to a country that speaks a different language and practice basic phrases in the weeks leading up. Go see important cultural and historical sites and do some reading about them beforehand.
- Set aside time for postcards and souvenirs. Your kids will want to show off to their friends by sending postcards and bringing back little trinkets they’ll keep forever. You’ll probably want to do the same as well, so set aside just a little time for everybody to do some browsing for souvenirs. That said, don’t let shopping overwhelm the trip.
- Go overboard with activities and sight-seeing. You may have energy for walking around and seeing sight after sight all day long, but your little ones will get tired and cranky. Make sure to be realistic and keep a more modest tourist schedule than if travelling without kids. Have down-time at the hotel, which will also be a nice getaway for mom and dad.
- Take cabs everywhere. It’s tempting, but you’ll get a better feel for a city if you walk around some. Immerse yourself in the culture and the language that you’d miss otherwise by sitting in a car. Experience the sights, sounds, and smells, sensations that will resonate with children. Just a little bit of walking will help with cultural immersion and getting a better sense of where you are.
- Focus the trip entirely on learning. A family trip should be a vacation, even if it is overseas. Yes, your children should learn something from the experience, but make it fun too. Go to local amusement parks, hang out at parks and beaches, or just spend a day at the hotel pool. A little relaxation is always nice, for both parent and child. Plus, no one will get burned out on taking guided tours or seeing historic sights if pool time is promised at the end of the day.
- Forget to take lots of pictures. Everyone will want to see pictures after the trip, from grandparents to other moms to even teachers, who might want a presentation in class. Don’t skimp on pictures, and make a photo album (they’re really easy to make using machines at Walgreens or Rite Aid) when you get home to keep them all in one place.