Traveling with kids can be tough, but traveling internationally can take your stress level to new heights. Lengthy times spent in coach, time change adjustments, cultural adjustments, and being in unfamiliar surroundings are all factors that can be hard for adults, and even more challenging for children.
That said, traveling internationally with the whole family 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 even learn a thing or two during the experience.
Check out these dos and don’ts for your next big trip overseas.
- Pack plenty of games and books. The most trying time of your trip will be time spent in the plane. Long hours cooped up around strangers isn’t fun for anybody, but it’s much harder with kids who haven’t yet learned the art of patience. Bring toys, books, and games (department stores sell travel-sized versions) to keep their hands—and brains— occupied.
- Bring favorite snacks. Exposure to foreign foods can be fun for you, and not so fun for picky eaters. Bring several healthy, tasty snacks for those occasions when you don’t feel like begging your kids to clean their plate.
- Make it a learning experience. Vacations should be fun and relaxing, but kids will enjoy them all the more if they learn something. Visit a country that speaks a different language, and practice basic phrases with your kids in the weeks leading up to your adventure. While there, 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 monopolize the trip.
- Go overboard with activities and sight-seeing. You may have energy for walking around and taking in the sights, but your little ones will get tired and cranky. Make sure to be realistic about your time frame, and create an easily-managed tourist schedule. Factor in down-time at the hotel (time that is just as nice for you as it is for the little ones.)
- Take cabs everywhere. It’s tempting, but you’ll get a better feel for a city if you spend time walking around. Immerse yourself in the culture and the language that you’d miss otherwise by sitting in a car. Experience the sights, sounds, and smells that will forever resonate with you and your children.
- Focus the trip entirely on learning. A family trip should be fun. Yes, your children should learn something from the experience, but don’t worry if you’re not creating young cultural ambassadors. Go to local amusement parks, hang out at parks and beaches, or just spend a day at the hotel pool. A little relaxation is essential 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 enjoy seeing pictures of your trip—friends, family, and maybe even teachers who might invite your children to share with the class. Snap plenty of photos, and make a photo album (they’re really easy to make using machines at Walgreens or Rite Aid) when you return home.