Traveling abroad with children can feel a bit like herding cats — with the huge exception that the stakes are incredibly high. If you’re planning on traveling internationally with a child — or children — in tow, here are a few tips and tricks to help make sure you all stay safe and the trip goes as smoothly as possible.
A great trip starts with an even greater plan. Ideally, you should start planning for a trip at least six months in advance. With children involved, you may want to start even earlier. Research local family-friendly entertainment, compare lodging options, and research what airfare is going to cost — sometimes, airfare for kids is free, typically if your child is under two years old.
Think about Health … and Vaccinations
It’s also essential to cover your bases in the health department before you leave. Make sure to get a checkup for each child and have a doctor’s number and local emergency numbers handy when you travel.
In addition, it’s critical that you tend to your children’s vaccinations. While there are still many myths about vaccinations like the flu shot that deter people from getting them, when it comes to international travel, there is often no choice in the matter. If you don’t have the right vaccines, you may not even be allowed to visit a destination in the first place. You can find a list of requirements for each destination on the CDC’s website.
Along with requirements, though, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s simply a high risk of contracting a sickness while you travel. You’re in a foreign environment, often visiting places where many people congregate to see the sights. Even the simple act of ordering food can be a threat, as reports have found that as many as 12% of foodservice employees work while they’re seriously ill. In other words, make sure to cover your health-related bases before you leave.
Don’t Forget about Jet Lag
Jet lag is tough on adults. It’s detrimental to children. To fight being thrown off a sleep schedule, make sure to spend time in daylight once you get to your destination. Also, start adjusting your children’s sleep schedules before you leave if you can.
Always do thorough homework for each person when gathering documentation. Make sure you have a consent letter if you need one, and get your passports and visas with plenty of time to spare. Don’t assume anyone can skip on the travel docs. Even babies need passports.
Make Extensive Packing Lists — But Pack Light
As you research for your trip, start making packing lists. Include things like a travel safe car seat, diapers (along with where you can find them in your destination), a solid yet light travel stroller that can handle dirt roads and cobbled streets, and so on.
Then, when it comes time to pack, do your best to reduce your list to the bare essentials as to avoid literally carrying too much baggage.
When it comes to booking your plane tickets, there are a couple of options. First, consider getting a red-eye flight. These are typically avoided by most travelers and will, therefore, be emptier. In addition, your children will likely sleep for a good portion of the trip. You can also opt for an early morning flight if you don’t want them to sleep on the plane. Once again, early morning flights are often emptier, and they allow you to travel when everyone is fresh.
At your destination, try to plan a budget that allows you to get a taxi instead of public transportation or bite the bullet and rent a car or even a van. Having the luxury to travel in your own vehicle can save you a world of trouble when it comes to herding those cats you call your family around a foreign destination.
Enjoy Your Trip
Finally, do your best to enjoy your trip. If you take the time to plan ahead and strategically schedule your familial adventure, you’ll be better able to relax as you go.
Make no mistake, any trip will feel busy and stressful at times if you’re bringing kids along, but making preparations beforehand will give you the best chance to make positive memories as you travel abroad truly.
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Magnolia Potter is a muggle from the Pacific Northwest who writes from time to time and covers a variety of topics. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a good book.
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