The thought of traveling overseas as an adult can create anxiety.
Add kids to those travel plans and you’re talking about a whole new ballgame.
Fortunately, it can be done, and you don’t need to hold off on those exciting adventures until your kiddos are older. A little planning and you’ll be making memories in no time.
Some suggestions to help you make it happen:
Get your paperwork in order –
- In general, passports and visas take 10 – 12 weeks to process. Be sure to double-check expiration dates on your current passports to make sure they won’t be expiring within 6 months of your planned trip, or you could find yourself stuck on “Go.” Note that some countries are even stricter, so check out a travel website to get up-to-date information regarding your particular destination(s). If your timeframe is compressed, expedited paperwork can be done, but it will cost you much more and can be stressful. If only one parent is traveling, additional paperwork will be needed. Again, be sure to consult both U.S. requirements and those of your destination(s).
- Make a copy of your passports and visas and keep them with you, leaving your originals in your hotel room safe. I also have scanned copies that I emailed myself for ready access on my phone (though be careful to password protect your phone in case you lose it or it’s stolen).
- Check your destination for any immunization requirements and make sure yours and your children’s are in order.
- Notify your credit card companies prior to departing so they don’t deny your overseas charges on the suspicion that some Russian hacker has stolen your information. And it’s a good idea to take more than one card with you.
- When possible, book an evening flight. Entertaining kids for 6+ hours can be difficult, so having a nice long stretch of sleep will help. Return flights may be harder, so prepare to have new things for the kids to do. In the past, I’ve created small “surprise bags;” just simple brown paper bags into which I put small games, crafts and toys. Each hour, the kids (if they were well behaved) got to pick a new bag with a different surprise.
- If you are traveling with an infant, many larger jets have bassinets that can be placed in the bulkhead seats of the plane, giving your little one an easy place to sleep.
- Toddlers may need car seats, so please check with your airline for allowed sizes and types.
- Be prepared for jetlag. No matter how tired you are upon arrival, do your best to force your body to get on the new time zone. Push to stay up as long as possible by engaging in stimulating and exciting events appropriate for you and the kids to help with the transition.
- Put enough clothes and toiletries for 1 – 2 nights in your carry on. Lost luggage happens. And if traveling with small kids, accidents happen and you’ll definitely want clean clothes for yourself!
The little things –
- Don’t line up too early! Getting on the plane or train early means more time you are going to have to keep your kids busy. Wait until the last call!
- Be flexible. Having a schedule and agenda is helpful, but being flexible will lead you on much more exciting and less stressful adventures. Utilize the concierge. Concierges have great recommendations and work to make sure you have fun.
- Have clearly defined roles. Each parent should be responsible for different aspects of your family’s travel, so things don’t turn into a game of “I thought you did.”
- Pack less! Lugging kids and luggage around can be difficult. The convenience of space we have in the States doesn’t exist in most of the rest of the world. Expect smaller cars, smaller rooms, smaller EVERYTHING.
- Be safe. Again, consult the concierge to learn about any safety concerns in the area. Have an emergency plan in the event of a disaster or someone getting lost. Talk with your kids about busy areas and the importance of staying close to you.
- Upload pictures regularly. I utilize online photo storage so that losing my phone or camera won’t mean losing all of those valuable memories.
- Smile and have fun. New things can be intimidating and not knowing the language can be challenging, so download apps to help you. I love the Google Translate app. You can take pictures of a menu or other signs for immediate translations. It also has a microphone feature that provides audio translation, as well. GENIUS!
Most important, ENJOY it! If you plan and get your mind right ahead of travel day, you CAN enjoy the journey; see the trip through your children’s eyes and focus on the memories you’re giving them. It’s an amazing world, so explore, ask questions and have fun!