Traveling with kids can be a fantastic experience. It’s a great way to bond as a family and it will change your relationship with travel in general, as you come to share your children’s sense of wonder at their surroundings. Traveling abroad when they’re young, even if they don’t remember it, can help to give them confidence about venturing into unfamiliar places, and it can instill a sense of adventure that will stay with them for life.
Really young children may not get quite the same educational benefit from a trip abroad as older ones do, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t notice and appreciate what’s going on around them. The trick to keeping them happy is remembering that what’s exciting to them may not be the same as what’s exciting to you. Infants are more strongly in tune with their senses of smell, taste, and touch. Although it’s not a good idea to feed them lots of exotic food before their taste buds and immune systems have fully developed, they’ll love visiting places where they can smell different foods.
Infants and toddlers will also be interested in new textures, such as hot sand or cool marble, so give them the chance to interact with their environment through their hands. Choose destinations that won’t be too busy or energetic, because they will inevitably get tired and need some quiet time. If you have a car at your disposal, it can be a good idea to stay in a quiet rural spot and travel from there to explore nearby beaches or towns.
Preparing to Travel
You may find that your choice of destinations is limited to an extent by your doctor’s recommendations, because health concerns in some countries make them a bad choice for young children. For others, you and your children will need vaccinations well in advance of travel, so it’s best to raise your plans with your doctor at the earliest opportunity. You can also discuss options for dealing with travel sickness.
Do your research and find out what your transport options will be in the places that you’re visiting. You may need to take adaptable travel seats with you or arrange to hire them when you get there. Similarly, depending on your choice of accommodation, you may need to take along something for infants to sleep in, such as fold-out carry cots. If you plan to stay in a hotel, look for one that’s child friendly. Hotel-run crèches and babysitting services are little extras that can go a long way, giving you some time to enjoy alone or with your partner.
What You Will Need
Good planning always makes traveling abroad go more smoothly, and it’s amazing how many seemingly trivial things can cause chaos when you’re overseas and you realize you are without them. A good way to work around this is to keep a diary, over a couple of weeks, of all the things that you use with your children – then work out what you don’t need. Unlike adults, children need multiple changes of clothes, because they will make a mess, and hand-washable garments are a good choice.
They will need toys and things to keep them occupied – when they’re old enough, coloring books and puzzle books are a good idea. They’ll also reach a point where they want to get involved in the process and feel like real travelers themselves. With friendly decorations, such as cute monkeys and other animal characters, pint-sized toddler backpacks allow them to carry some of their own things and make them feel like a real part of the team.
On the Journey
It’s no secret that flying with young children can be a challenge. It’s important to impress upon them that good behavior in airports is essential, but you need to keep the experience from becoming too intimidating and help them feel confident about the flying itself. Doing some preparatory work can help, playing with airplane toys and telling stories about flying to make it into an adventure.
Remember to take pacifiers or sweets for your little ones to suck so that their ears don’t hurt during takeoff and landing. If you’re going by boat, have a talk about water safety, but take the time to explore the boat itself with them and make it interesting. When properly prepared, children often find unfamiliar forms of transport the most exciting part of the journey.
Traveling abroad with young children can be an eye-opening experience. It will help you reconnect with the thrill of exploration.