The following is a guest post from Rachelle Haime. After living abroad for 8 years she moved back to Florida and became a wife and mom. After going through many years of emotional ups and downs including postpartum depression and endometriosis she started to blog about her journey from empty cup to full and how she learned to nourish herself so she could nourish others. You can read more about Rachelle and her blog at http://www.theplentifulcup.com.
International Travel with Kids Is All About the Experiences
Experiences fulfill you. Experiences leave you with the memories that last forever where objects are something you will forget about as soon as the next cool thing comes along. Traveling with kids can seem overwhelming, and more so if you are going to a different country. It doesn’t have to be though. I have found a way to make it a lot less overwhelming and a lot more fun.
When we lived in Colombia we traveled internationally every few months (mostly to visit family in the US but other times to discover new places). We have been lucky enough to travel internationally as a family since the kids were 3 months old. Not only have they been used to traveling very young, but I have gotten used to traveling with the kids which is a big adjustment from traveling alone!
Here are some of my tips for international travel with kids:
Make Sure You Have Packed Any Over the Counter and Prescription Medicines Your Family Needs
Before the trip, I start to take out things to pack little by little a week in advance. The most important thing I always pack is a good medicine kit. I take everything! From the basics to the homeopathic to the “medicine for something super random but you just never know.” You don’t know what might not be available over the counter; they might have a different concentration, or you might not even find the same medicine where you are going.
For example, in Colombia, silver sulfate for burns is over the counter, in the US it’s not. Even something as simple as acetaminophen might have different mg/tsp when you visit a foreign country, so I just take everything!
Apart from packing any prescription medications, we may need, I always pack the basic medicine for fevers, pain, cuts scrapes, stuffy noses, allergies (topical and respiratory), and anything gastrointestinal. I pack a few extra days worth of vitamins or anything anyone takes daily because you never know when you might be stuck a few extra days!
Don’t Forget a Record of Vaccinations
An incredibly important thing to pack when traveling internationally with kids is a vaccination record. I take a picture of the record and have it on my phone. If you ever to have to visit a hospital, this is how the doctors can gauge what has been given and what hasn’t so they can treat your child properly. If your child has any special medical needs you should have those records as well.
Before You Go, Check Travel Regulations Regarding Passports and Visas in any Countries You Will Be Visiting
When you plan on visiting a different country you want to be sure to check the country regulations on passports and visas. Some ask for visas and/or to make sure your passport is a certain time away from expiring. This should all be done a couple months in advance if possible. Also, I think it helps to make a copy of your child’s passport photo and info page. You Never Want to Be Anywhere without Identification! Since adults normally carry their driver’s licenses I carry the passport photocopy for the kids, that way I can leave the passports in a safe place at the hotel but we all have some sort of identification.
Where to Pack Your Necessities
I am a huge fan of backpacks. When we travel as a family I always take a backpack for the plane and for the whole trip really. It may not be the most fashionista choice but it makes my life so much easier. My backpack has lots of pockets for easy access to everything. I have a pocket for my things (wallet, glasses, keys), tissues or wipes in a very easy access pocket, one pocket for their clothes, I put sunscreen and bug spray in another pocket, and have a small bag with some medicine basics (ie: ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment, band-aids, allergy medicine).
I also have space for water bottles and snacks. When someone needs something they need it now so with all the pockets and organization I feel like a mom ninja. My husband also carries a backpack with all our important travel documents and tablets.
Tablets are great for long flights or long airport layovers. I know this is a controversial subject and to each their own, but we love tablets because it’s easier than taking toys. Whatever you take, you want to take something to entertain the kids while at an airport, plane ride, train station, road trip, etc.
What to Wear on the Plane
For plane travel I love sweatpants. My kids wear sweatsuits and sneakers, comfort is key! Airplanes and airports can be cold the sweatshirt and pants are perfect! If it’s too warm they take off the sweatshirt and they are fine. I always carry an extra outfit in my fabulous backpack too. If it’s a long flight or if we will be getting in late at night I take PJ’s instead and change them before we land.
A Note About Traveling with Strollers…
I remember telling my husband that I wanted to invent a stroller that fits in the plane overhead, a couple years later it was invented…not by me. THIS IS A BRILLIANT INVENTION! If you need a stroller to travel and you travel via plane a lot BUY ONE OF THESE!
When you get on the plane they normally make you check a regular stroller. When you get off the plane you have to wait for a while before they bring it up to you (or they may even just take it to baggage claim). When you travel internationally with kids this is extra annoying because you have to go through immigration and if there are a lot of international flights coming in at the same time, or immigration is small you will be stuck at the end of the line. If your kids aren’t tired by the end of the flight they probably will be if they have to wait in a long immigration line.
Sometimes they take the stroller directly to baggage claim. My husband once had to carry our sleeping 2-year old for almost an hour in line while our 5-year-old was tugging my shirt telling me how tired he was on repeat every 30 seconds and we had no stroller for either because it went to baggage claim.
A stroller is great but sometimes you want to consider various things. We’ve been to places that have cobblestone streets and taking a stroller hinders more than it helps. In that case, if you can go with a baby carrier or if they are too big you just know you might want to take a few more breaks.
Make Sure Your Kids Have Comfortable Walking Shoes
When you travel with kids comfortable shoes are the way to go. Not just for the kids. You can leave the stilettos at home. Yes, unless you have a specific event, you can go anywhere in sneakers. I get them in a color that kind of goes with everything which is very different from my neon orange ones that I use for the gym at home. I go everywhere I can in sneakers. Nobody will look at you strangely for being in sneakers, and if anyone does IT DOESN’T MATTER!
If we are going to someplace warm I still take windbreakers for the kids (sometimes museum AC can be chilly!). There are some that are lined with t-shirt material and they are water-resistant and warm enough, but don’t take up a lot of space like a sweatshirt or raincoat.
When they were younger I would always have 2 wet bags (in my awesome backpack) with a change of clothes for each. Wet bags are great in case it rains, or if you want to take a swim in a lake in your clothes, it won’t let the water out onto whatever else you are carrying.
Snacks are SUPER Important!
Wherever I go I grab some extra whole fruit or granola bars from the hotel at breakfast and stick them in my backpack. Anything that won’t get crumbled, or smooshed. Sometimes we are in the middle of a museum when we get hungry and there might not be anything nearby or long lines so this keeps us full and we can finish what we are doing.
Try Not to Overplan…
Now here is my favorite part. Once we get to our destination I become Mrs. spontaneity. We don’t set up tours because we want to be able to do things at our own pace (hence why we need the snacks sometimes since lunch is later than normal). We walk A LOT! We love to walk around and discover new places. We ask the locals where they eat lunch and go there!
Most importantly do whatever you have to do to be present during the trip. I go through all the planning I do so I can just let go and enjoy our destination. There is nothing better than watching your kids experience a new place, food, culture for the first time. Whenever you can travel internationally with kids do it! These experiences mark you kids lives more than any toy ever could.
Explore, relax, and most importantly truly enjoy these moments with your family because time flies and you never know when these opportunities might come again.
PIN THESE TIPS FOR LATER!