Traveling to the store with little ones in tow is hard enough. Traveling to another country? Seems impossible! Yet many parents around the world manage to do it everyday. These aren’t those superhuman, perfect parents who seem to be able to do it all. They are everyday folks who manage through proper planning (and a lot of patience).
If you thought that your dream vacation to France was out of the question at least until your kids turn 16 (and maybe not even then), consider these helpful tips for traveling internationally with kids. Wrangling excited toddlers and crying babies may not make for a dream vacation, but at least it will make for a memorable one.
Make Sure You are Travel Ready
You know that you need a passport to travel overseas, but you may think that your toddler or baby is exempt. However, all travelers must have a passport – even infants. You cannot use a birth certificate or other documentation when traveling with your children. They must have government-issued passports.
Passports for all members of your family must also be current, and must not expire for at least six months after the date of travel. If your passport expires a month after you’re set to return from that week in Italy, expect to be held up at the border – a nightmare situation that you don’t need when you have little ones in tow.
Finally, be sure to check the U.S. government’s travel recommendations for your destination. Some vaccines may be recommended depending on where you travel.
Create a “Travel Book”
When you are far from home, you don’t have immediate access to important phone numbers and other information. While this may have posed a minor inconvenience when you were a single traveler, it could pose a major problem and even a safety issue when you are traveling with children.
Compile all the information you need ahead of time and gather it into a planner or upload it to a data-sharing site like Dropbox. This should include:
- Contact information for people to call in case of emergency
- Phone numbers for your credit card companies, bank, and the U.S. embassy
- Copies of your credit cards, bank cards, license, passport, birth certificates and other important documentation
- Phone numbers, addresses, and websites for your hotel, car rental company, and all attractions
Include any information that you may need in case of an emergency, such as having your personal items stolen, getting lost, or getting sick.
Prepare for the Flight
International flights are grueling. No one likes to sit in one place for hours, eat bland food, or try to sleep sitting up. Imagine how that is compounded when you have small children aboard.
Do what you can to make the flight a little easier by preparing. Bring small toys and other items to keep your children occupied, and introduce them slowly so that their novelty does not wear off at 8 hours into a 17-hour flight. Make sure you have headphones on hand for the in-flight entertainment, and loosen the rules about TV time.
Pack snacks to carry on, or purchase them in the airport. Your little ones may get hungry while everyone else is sleeping, and you don’t want to be left without access to the snack tray. Choose snacks that are high in protein and low on sugar to keep mood and energy levels steady.
Bring gum or a bottle or pacifier to help little ears adjust to the change in pressure on takeoff and landing. If you are nursing, allow your baby to feed on-demand.
Adjust Your Expectations
While you may want to cram as much as you can into your short week abroad, you will have to adjust your expectations when you are traveling with young children or babies. They don’t operate on your schedule. They will get hungry at inconvenient times, want to sleep when you’re ready to go, and be full of energy when you’ve decided it’s time for some relaxation. Not to mention bathroom breaks and good old-fashioned tantrums.
Expect to do less on your trip when you’re traveling with children. Make a plan, but expect that there might be deviations. Adopt a flexible attitude, and you will enjoy your trip much more and may actually even get more done by avoiding battles of will.
Bring Everything You’ll Need
You never know what will happen on a trip. You might lose your bags. Someone may steal your wallet. Your flight might be delayed. Your hotel might get overbooked. You might not be able to find the staples you need at stores where the culture is different.
Plan for all this by bringing everything you think you’ll need – and as much of it as you can in a carry-on. Of course, you can’t bring every toy and every outfit and every blanket. What you can do is ensure that you have at least a few of the following to meet all your basic needs:
- Diapers and wipes
- Bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups
- Clothes for all types of weather
- Small toys
- Loveys and other favorite items
- Important medicines
It is important to bring your staples in a carry-on so that you are sure to always have what you need when you need it.
The key to successful travel – whether you are traveling with children or not – is to plan, plan, plan. Make sure that you carefully consider each aspect of your trip and plan ahead for all eventualities. What will you do when your flight has been delayed and you have to sit on the tarmac for three hours? How will you handle a meltdown on a public street in the back country miles from your hotel where no one else speaks English? Where will your baby nap when you are stuck on the metro heading to your next destination?
Making sure you know the answer to these and other questions will ensure that you have a successful trip with your children that is memorable for the whole family.
Carlina Yepinski is the primary researcher and writer for networkmonitoring.org. Her most recent accomplishments includes graduating from Kentucky State with a degree in communications and computer science. Her current focus for the site involves multi monitor software as network manager.