The thought of traveling abroad is daunting before you even add children into the mix — then, it becomes even more of a challenge to envision. But many before you have done it successfully. Plus, they've noted the many benefits of traveling with little ones, opening their eyes to new cultures, igniting a love of exploration and creating lifelong memories.
Of course, to get from point A to point B and enjoy yourself once you do, you'll have to do some planning. Here are four ways to ensure a successful trip abroad with kids in tow.
1. Carry on Plenty of Supplies
A long-haul flight will require a bag's worth of entertainment for your kids because let's face it, they have short attention spans. So, don't be shy when packing their carry-ons — fill them with books, games, and toys they can pull out for a bit of entertainment on board.
To that end, your kids will be even more excited to get onto the plane if they had a hand in choosing what they brought along. At the same time, you might want to slip a surprise toy or two into your bag in case their bag runs out of tricks — kids love a surprise, and yours might just save the day.
You'll also want to bring along snacks for your little ones, who might not have the patience to wait for dinner or breakfast service. Familiarize yourself with TSA guidelines for traveling with breast milk if your child needs that while flying. Otherwise, bring plenty of kid-friendly airplane snacks, because, just like with their toys, they'll need more than one option.
2. Keep as Many Routines as Possible
Traveling alone, you'd probably wake up on the other side of the world and immediately immerse yourself in the local culture. But your kids will need a bit of home to make them feel at ease in their new surroundings. Aside from the must-have soft toy they probably packed, they'll want to maintain most of their daily routines while on vacation, too.
So, if your mornings typically start slowly with a little TV before breakfast, do the same on your vacation. Try keeping snack and meal times aligned with your at-home intervals. And, if the local culture deems dinnertime to be super-late, forego customs in favor of keeping your kids full and happy. In this scenario, you might want to consider renting an apartment or home, so you have kitchen access and, therefore, the ability to eat whatever, whenever.
3. Research Your Lodgings Well
Of course, not every destination will have such spacious properties available for rent. If that's the case, it's up to you to find a hotel that suits your kids' needs. Experts suggest booking your hotel as soon as you have flights, so you get the best deal on your stay. This tip is especially helpful if you need more than one room since it'll save you a good chunk of change each night.
Once you have your eye on a particular property, call and find out what their policies are for guests with children. Some lodgings, for instance, will childproof your room for you or supply you with a crib. Others will bring a cot to a room so the whole family can sleep in the same place. You should also consider if there's in-hotel entertainment, such as a pool, or if they serve 'round-the-clock food if your kids get hungry at an odd time. Finding out these details will help you settle on the right place to stay and, more importantly, ensure everyone's comfortable for the duration of the trip.
4. Be Open to Unplanned Experiences
If you're traveling abroad, there are undoubtedly places on your must-see list. But following a down-to-the-minute schedule will be stressful to both you and your kids — what if someone needs a nap or prefers running through the park over walking through a museum?
As much as you're working to prepare your kids and ease them into your trip abroad, you need to get ready yourself, too. Most importantly, traveling with them means your trip won't be perfect. Plans will change, and you'll have to reconfigure them to ensure everyone's happy. But you never know — missing one opportunity can open your family to another incredible memory. The best advice for traveling with kids, then, is to go with the flow and enjoy what's happening, even if it's not what you had in mind.
Of course, with ample planning to prepare your kids for the journey, the transition and the places you'll see, you should have no trouble reaching this state of acceptance. You want to travel with little ones to open their minds and create memories together — no matter where you end up, you're sure to do just that on your next trip abroad.