Six tips for international travel with children

You and your significant other may be seasoned travelers with dozens of excursions under your belt, but traveling with your little ones is a whole different ballgame. Everything from packing to flying has another element of difficulty when you add children to the equation. Get ready for lost toys, sudden meltdowns, unexplainable rashes, and underwear left under beds around the world.

Sounds terrible. On the other hand, sharing an adventure with your loved ones and seeing the sparkle of discovery in their eyes makes the hassle all worth it. Lucky for you, thousands of parents travel with their children every year, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Here are six crucial tips to keep in mind when traveling with your kids.

colosseum-rome

1. Don’t rush

There is a direct correlation between the number of children under 18 you are traveling with and the number of minutes it will take you to get ready. The worst thing you can do for your family is book travel or tour arrangements that have tight deadlines. Traveling is exhausting! At some point somebody is going to get sick, get tired, or just want complain and drag their feet the whole way to the next stop on the walking tour. Include lots of padding time for transitions, especially for international air travel. International flights board earlier and are a major pain to reschedule.

2 .Pack everything yourselves

Don’t rely on your children to remember their rain jacket, the right number of socks, a sweater, and whatever medicine they need. Until they get to the age where they can’t stand you even existing in their room, go ahead and take the initiative on packing their clothes and necessities for them.

3. One phone = an entire play chest of toys

The prevailing sentiment in western culture these days is that kids spend way to much time staring at screens and not enough time using their imagination, reading, coloring, and connecting with their friends. You know what? That sentiment is totally true. But suspend your righteous fury when it’s time to take the team on a long, logistically complicated vacation. Use technology to your advantage. Especially for young children, access to unlimited engaging games is a great way to keep your little ones from fidgeting endlessly or getting into mischief at the airport. Employ a little parent kung fu and use their love of video games to your advantage. There are tons of educational games for kids that are free, fun, and informative.

4. Explain to them what to do if you are separated

Make sure your children know what to do if they accidently wander away. Go over how to contact authorities in the countries you are traveling to, and always have a meeting spot picked out if you attend events with large crowds. On big travel days, dress your kids in colors that stand out and write your contact info somewhere permanent inside their clothes or bag.

5. Make it about them (obviously)

If you are going to spend two weeks tromping all over Europe, admiring gorgeous gothic paintings and medieval architecture, then at some point you better hit up Disneyland so your kids don’t dissolve. Europe is full of family-friendly attractions for you and the kids to enjoy together. Disneyland Paris will be favorite, as will tours of Warner Bros. Studio in London, the home of the Harry Potter movie franchise (with excellent tour options available).

As the world cup is this year, football is on everybody’s mind. A football match is a great event that will make everyone happy. Not to sound biased, but if you are going to attend a match, you might as well see the best. Check when FC Barcelona is playing during your travels. Flights from London to Barcelona have never been more affordable or reliable with sites like Expedia all over the internet.  You don’t necessarily have to astound them with the biggest, most extravagant experience. You know your children and what they like. Maybe some putt putt mini golf is their favorite thing. Just remember to make this trip all about them.

6. Make it about you (a little bit)

Ok, you don’t have to make this trip all about them. If you are traveling to Europe with children this year, plan with your significant other so you can divide and conquer. If you are dying to see the beaches of Normandy where Allied forces landed on D-Day, take a trip out there solo in the morning before rejoining your family for lunch. The next day, take the kids to a science museum while your husband or wife attends that classical opera they have been obsessing about for years. There are also a number of hotels across Europe that offer daycare services if you want to sweep your partner off their feet and have a romantic evening sipping wine on the historic streets of Rome.

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About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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