We, as a family, have been blessed with the opportunity to travel… a lot! In her 12 and a half years on the planet, our daughter Kayla has gotten to explore so many new places and experience so many new things, and what a journey it’s been! Kazakhstan, Australia, Holland, Portugal, Venezuela, Columbia, Panama and Spain, to name but a few.
Today I’m going to be looking at the joys of international travel with children, as well as some of the difficulties, and hopefully also give you a couple of ideas to make some aspects of this glorious topic a little easier. An opportunity for international travel doesn’t come around every day, and it’s important to try to make the most out of it all!
Handling a long-haul flight with younger children:
The first time we flew with Kayla was when she was around a 20 months old. We flew from South Africa to Portugal to go visit some family. Let me tell you, it’s a long flight, almost 11 hours… and to up the entertainment factor, we’d just started potty training, but the plane toilets scared the poor child 🙂 , lol, lots of drama!
Anyway, lets back back to this list… First of all, you need to make sure you pack your carry on properly. Try to keep it as light as possible, although, looking at the list, that may be easier said than done… luckily, as parents, I’m sure you too are already pretty good at juggling 🙂
- Double the amount of diapers than you would typically pack in your diaper bag plus wipes and a few disposable changing pads.You never know what flying will do to little tummies!
- Any medications you or your child might need on the trip (you don’t want to risk losing them in checked baggage), just remember to separate any liquids into your ziplock bag.
- Plastic bags (so important for diaper disposal or soiled clothes)
- At least one change of shirt for your child. For babies, you may want spare pants as well, and even maybe a spare shirt for mom!
Utility and Safety
- Passports and travel documents (babies and children are required to have a passport for international travel)
Snacks and More
- An empty sippy or bottle if needed.
- Snacks! Even on a long-haul flight, you can’t be 100% sure that they will provide something that is going to be suitable for your little one. With Kayla we always used to have rusks and biltong, but that’s my personal South African choice. Other great ideas would be baby teething biscuits or small cheeses such as baby belle.
- If you have a baby who drinks formula, it’s easiest to bring powdered formula and mix it with water on the plane. Very Important!!! Never use tap water from the airplane bathroom to rinse or fill a bottle, ask the airline staff for bottled water, most are super friendly and will even heat up a bottle if needed.
An entertainment bag
- An extra bag (or little back-pack for older kids to carry themselves even) with some quiet toys, books, and music for the plane.
Comforts (these aren’t necessities but make life a lot easier!)
- Your child’s favorite pillow or blanket.
- A light blanket, jacket or sweater for your child, you’d be surprised at how cold the cabin can get at night.
- A magazine or book for you (if you’re lucky!)
Child Safety Seat/ Car Seat/ Travel cot
If you need a car seat or travel cot at your destination, you may need to carry it on board with you. If you haven’t got a great travel set, check out the link that I will post at the bottom for some reasonably priced and practical options.
- If at all possible, try to check in online. This will help you avoid the really long, slow lines and will make your life so much easier.
- Arrive at the airport early.
- Make your arrangements for collection at your destination well in advance and try to call and confirm just as you’re boarding your flight. By the time you arrive, you will be exhausted, and will definitely not feel like trying to arrange anything else right away.
Making the most of your time abroad
This needs to be handled in the way that is correct for your family… first thing to consider is the point of or reason for your journey. To start with, when we traveled, it was mainly to visit friends and family, so the focus of those trips was to spend quality time with our loved ones. In a case like that, the most important thing you can do is relax! Your friends and family are not going to expect that your kids are little angels the entire time or that you are fully made up with salon perfect hair and an air of tranquility at all times… pack comfortable clothes and shoes, a good camera and a compact stroller if needed.
If your trip is for another reason, try figure out which aspects you would regret not doing the most, and try to get that done first.If you’re planning a trip to France, try to create a plan that allows you to do all the things that would be great for the kids, like EuroDisney, but don’t forget to squeeze in a trip to see the Eiffel Tour. Remember, this is your vacation too! If you don’t have friends or family in the area that could babysit for a couple of hours, keep in mind that most good hotels offer reliable babysitting services too.
Keep your eyes and ears open
Whenever you’re in a new country, the opportunities to learn are multiple! We always made a point of trying to learn a few new words each day in the language of our host country, and in doing so discovered just how good kids are at picking up a few new words. Granted, if you don’t help your little one to remember the words by using them every now and then they will forget, but that can be combated by including certain games and activities at home.
There are many great resources out there to help you.
If you have been to a Spanish speaking country and are looking for great FREE games and printables, try these wonderful websites…
rockalingua.com – a great website with wonderful activities to teach your child the basics. There is also an option to join and pay, with access to extra ‘lesson/classes’ but the free activities are great for beginners.
bbc.co.uk/schools – a really fantastic site, with activities that teach your child (and You 🙂 ) pronunciation, Spanish calender dates and all sorts of extras. Lots of fun!
Play and Learn Spanish with Audio CD, 2nd Edition – (Amazon Affiliate link) Songs, games and activities to make learning Spanish Fun!
If you’ve been to Germany, and would like to do a little bit of catch up at home, the following sites have some great stuff available…
bbc.co.uk/languages/german – this is a very informative site, however, it is definitely aimed more at older teens or young adults (it’s not very exciting)
homeschoolden.com – this post by HomeSchoolDen has a whole bunch of free printables with the German Basics (numbers, clothes, etc)
Hear-Say German: Kid’s Guide to Learning German with Book(s) (Hear-Say Language Guides) (German Edition) (Amazon Affiliate Link) is a great range of audio cassette tapes for kids age birth through 12 years. Prices starting at $4.99
If you’re looking for French resources, take a look at these great websites…
bbc.co.uk/schools – again, what a great FREE site! Everything is set up in such a logical way, perfect for learning the basics!
lightbulblanguages.co.uk/resources – this is another website that provides a great service, but could do with a makeover 😉 Hundreds for wonderful free printables!
52 Weeks of Family French – (Amazon Affiliate Link) This is a great way for the whole family to stay on top of the new skill. Small weekly lessons make it manageable for even the busiest family members.
If you’re in need of Russian activities and printables, look no further than these…
learnrussian.rt – i think, if you’re going to learn Russian, this is the place to start. Read the introduction (look past the few linguistical errors 🙂 ) and i’m sure you’ll agree that the philosophy is great. The website is clearly laid out, and you and your child should be able to work your way through the lessons without any issue.
digitaldialects.com – i like the fact that the games have sound, so you and your child can hear how the word should be pronounced in Russian.
Russian for Kids – Colors Storybook: Russian language lessons for children – (Amazon Affiliate Link) There is a whole range of books, including numbers, body parts, vehicles, fruit and veggies etc, and at only $4.99, why not build a little Russian library?
If you’re looking for Mandarin resources, here you go…
bbc.co.uk/schools – yes, if they had resources for each of the languages, you’d have seen them here for the other ones too! The BBC site really just knocks it out of the park… easy to navigate, with extra videos too!
My Fun Chinese Book: Animals Level 1 (Traditional Chinese characters): For Kids 3 + or Beginning Mandarin Chinese Students – (Amazon Affiliates Link) I little pricey at $12.85, but worth it! Packed full of great activitie and 3D crafts, your little one is sure to have lots of fun while learning!
Another great learning opportunity lies in the food and music of the country you are visiting. Most cities and towns will have a great selection of traditional restaurants (your hotel or local tourism board will be able to advise you on child-friendly options) and by exposing our kids to new experiences from an early age we are teaching them to become more well-rounded and accepting people later in life.
Finally, when traveling with your little ones, try to remember that every experience in life is an opportunity for growth. Even if your child doesn’t remember all the places you’ve been or all the people you’ve met, the benefits of those experiences will follow them through life.
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