So you’ve decided to embark on an international trip with your precious toddler or young school aged children—you are in for one amazing ride. Our family just returned from a wonderful European vacation and while it wasn’t all smooth sailing, it went a whole heck of a lot better than I thought it would. While I am certainly no “traveling with kids” expert, I did learn a few things along the way.
With the holidays slowly creeping upon us, I mean Pumpkin Spice Lattes are out and stores are full of Halloween decorations, holiday travel will be here in no time. Whether you are traveling internationally for a vacation, to visit family or on a sudden whim with your little ones in tow, here are ten tips to help make the journey bearable—I mean, fun.
Never underestimate the power of a good snack bag. I suggest filling multiple gallon size Ziploc bags with crackers, protein bars, raisins (for ascent and decent), and even some Organic Horizon Milk (that’s right, those individual containers don’t have to be refrigerated—though we did cool ours down before leaving the house).
I made sure that we had a mix of salty and sweet, as well as a few tried and true favorites and some new surprises sprinkled in. This variety kept things interesting. I had the Horizon milk out for takeoff to help the kids’ ears adjust to the pressure change—the sucking on their straws kept their ears from hurting. When the milk was gone, I broke out some yogurt covered raisins until we reached cruising altitude.
Throw these goodies in a Ziploc bag or two so that when you head through security you can quickly pull them out for inspection. Since we had a child under the age of two, the milk was allowed to come with us, it just had to go through one extra layer of security when we were leaving the U.S.
Oh, and pack way more than you plan on eating. When you are in a plane for 10, 12, 14 hours your family is bound to get hungry because those airline meals just don’t cut it. Plus, it’s nice to have some familiar snacks available when you are in a different country.
Think of a regular backpack, but with 15 more pockets. I found a great backpack at Target for $35 and it was well worth the purchase. We fit two laptops, two tablets, a whole bunch of charging cords, magazines, clothes and a blanket into it. The convenient side pockets allowed for easy access to Passports and boarding passes. Yes the backpack was heavy, but it was a lifesaver.
Multiple Changes of Clothes
On our way to Europe we flew overnight, and to make it seem a bit more normal for the kids, we packed a set of pajamas to change into for “bedtime”. This let the kids get cozy, kick off their shoes and relax. On our way home, our oldest opened his water bottle and the pressure made the water shoot straight into his face and soak his shirt (hilarious, yes!) and boy were we glad to have an extra shirt for him to change into.
Stroller (for gate check)
If you have a toddler, a stroller is a must! Gate check it when possible, because a roaming toddler while you try to navigate Customs and a foreign airport, is sure to make you lose your mind.
Backpack of Surprises for the Kids
Each of our kids had a backpack to bring along. I filled them with some surprises to keep things interesting for them—a couple new books, stickers, art pad, markers—things that weren’t too heavy, but packed the entertainment value.
A Few Regulars
In our bag I packed a few favorites—a couple fun toys that they love and their favorite (small) books. This provided reminders of home and the books were welcome surprises as bedtime.
Tablet with Comfortable Headphones
While most international airlines have in-seat entertainment, it was still good to have favorite movies and games on-hand. Our youngest watched Moana more times than I can count, and I am pretty sure I can read her lips with complete accuracy at this point.
Taxi Information Upon Arrival
Have an idea of where to pick up your luggage and hail a taxi (or any other mode of transportation). After the oh so long plane ride, you want to get to your final destination as quickly as humanly possible so you all can have a little breathing room.
The Subway System
Have an idea of how you plan to travel around the city you are visiting. We planned on using the subway to get around, however on our first day we quickly realized that our credit cards didn’t allow us to buy tickets like we planned. We had notified our card holders of the trip, but the ticketing machines didn’t accept credit cards in a different currency. We ended up asking a hotel concierge and he recommended a quick and easy app from the country’s Department of Transportation.
A Good Sense of Humor
My husband and I laugh a lot and don’t take each other too seriously, and frankly that helped us survive. While the kids were exhausted and on the downward slope into epic meltdowns, we were able to just look at each other and give a “what did we do to ourselves look”, laugh it off and move on.
Is an international trip work? Yes. Does it require lots of planning? Certainly. Is it worth it? Without a doubt.
Don’t let the anxiety, fear and stress of planning stop you from packing up those little ones and heading on a family adventure. They might not remember the trip as they get older, but those precious memories are something you will cherish for a lifetime.
Have anything you would add to the list? Please leave a comment below!