There are a lot of different things that a family is going to need to take into consideration when traveling with their children, and the first thing to really take into account is how old your kids are. I personally didn’t start traveling with my parents until I was ten, but there are many families that travel with their children when they are younger. It’s a combination of the child’s personality, your typical family lifestyle, and your own comfort threshold with travel – if you know you aren’t going to be able to handle a screaming four year old on a plane, then you might want to reconsider.
It also depends on how you plan on traveling. If you’re backpacking, your considerations are going to be much different than if you’re traveling on a cruise or staying at a high-star Western hotel.
Traveling – especially with children – is definitely one of those situations where you plan for the worst and hope for the best.
If you feel comfortable traveling with your children, no matter what age, there are a good deal of additional things that you should be adding to your planning lists and mental checklists.
Before You Go
When traveling with children, make sure you know their habits inside and out. Does little Jimmy crash and nap at around 3 in the afternoon? Does young Sam hate spicy food?
Know their do’s and their do not’s, their typical daily (weekend, if they’re in school) schedule, and make sure you pack all their medications and necessary accessories. Medications, of course, should be in your carry-on luggage.
Make sure, of course, that everyone that needs a passport has one – do this six months out from your travels if you’re getting new passports for your family.
If you’re traveling to locations that are a bit more out in the wild, you’re definitely going to want to consider bringing things like –
- bottled water: you can never be sure that the bottled water that you have purchased is pure. If you have to buy water, buy brands that you know, and make sure that the cap is sealed.
- flashlight: power may go out at your hotel – also handy for finding your way at night. Plus, makes great entertainment – hand puppets!
- fork(s): Traveling in Asia especially, a fork or two will come to the rescue often for your children – unless they have already been exposed to chopsticks, they may find them quite difficult to use, and many restaurants may not necessarily have forks on hand.
- power adapter & converter: If you are going to be bringing any of you (or your child’s) US products abroad, bring a power adapter. Most electronics already have a built in convertor, but it’s not a default inclusion. You don’t want to have your child crying on the first night because their new toy died when they plugged it into the outlet to charge.
And of course one thing that you are going to want to do, especially if this is the first time your entire family is traveling abroad, is to sit down with the kids in the family and explain to them (though don’t scare them!) some of the differences between the culture that you are currently in and the culture that you are going to.
When You Get There/While You’re There
Perhaps the biggest thing when traveling with children is finding ways to keep them entertained that also keeps you entertained and able to enjoy the scenery around you.
One of the easiest ways to keep your child from getting too bored is to give them a piece of paper and a pen – they’ll draw, doodle, write…or, if your kids are older, give them a map and tell them either to mark out where you all have been or where they would like to go. Giving your child a map is a great idea as well, because it will turn out to be a great memento for them.
Here are a few other items you should have on hand when you’re actually traveling with your children –
- Books on CD
- Puzzle Books
- Anything else they would enjoy!
When you’re traveling with children, especially if there is long car or bus travel involved…stop more often than you normally would. Children get ancey, especially in an unfamiliar place. Give them time not cooped up in a car or bus, if that is something that you can control.
Don’t forget about jet lag, either – children can be much more susceptible to it than adults, simply because they are more likely to sleep when their body tells them to then when the clock tells them to. Sleep when they do, and hopefully you are going to be in your location for a bit more of an extended period as your adjustment to jet lag will probably be more gradual.
If you want to help with the jet lag, one of the best things to do is to get out in the sun! Take a walk around your new “neighborhood” and see what it’s like locally before venturing out further.
And if your kids are asleep and you want to go somewhere, of course you aren’t going to leave them cooped up in your hotel room only to freak out when you aren’t there and they are in an empty hotel room. There are a lot of Western international hotels that will provide some sort of daycare or nanny services for your children when you want to go out and see something that isn’t quite kid friendly. If your hotel is one of those, take advantage of it!
When You’re Back
Traveling is something that can have a profound impact on children. Talk about what you guys did, create a scrapbook, get your favorite digital photos printed and framed. Remember the experience, and travel as much as you can afford to with your children – it’s something that they will never forget!
Jade Evans is a freelance writer who works occasionally with Nanny Pro, a provider of nanny services and babysitting jobs in the United States. She traveled quite a lot as a child and hope that you do so as well!