This is a list of things I learned from traveling overseas with kids.
We’ve traveled pretty extensively with our kids and learned so many lessons along the way. That’s why we thought we should share some with you! So here is our top nine list of things we learned from traveling overseas with kids.
FLY DURING THE DAY
Our from home to Paris was about 8 hours. It was the first long haul flight any of us had taken so we weren’t sure how it would go. We departed around 6 PM which we thought would give the girls time to eat dinner on the plane, play for a bit, and then go to sleep at their normal time of 8:30 PM. Sounds great, right?
They were too excited, there was too much movement, and let’s be honest — a coach seat does not hold a candle to a twin sized bed. By the time we landed, we were all groggy, sore, and ready to be done with all of it.
Our return trip, however, was early morning so we flew during the day. Night and day difference from our first flight [pun intended]. With the exception of maybe a thirty minute doze after lunch, they were awake the entire flight. They talked, play games, watched movies, and enjoyed themselves peacefully. It was a regular day — except cramped in a plane seat.
PACK LIGHT [SKIP PACKING THE EXTRAS]
Number one tip folks always share is: be prepared. Well, when I travel, I’m prepared alright. You name it and I’ve probably got it stuffed into one of the 28 bags I’m carrying. It’s worked out fine for me during solo travel — or even when I travelled with just me and one of the girls. But as a group of five? It is torturous. I can still hear the locals laughing at us hauling all 5 of our suitcases onto the Eurostar with our three little ones in tow.
So the lesson? Skip packing the extras. The spare pillows, the extra blankets, the backup toys, etc. can all stay home. If it turns out you need something you left behind, you can find it in the airport or it will be provided by the airline. Things you should carry with you? Spare clothes [trust me — a fresh shirt after you land goes a long way], baby/sanitizing wipes, and snacks. All the snacks you can carry. Chewing mouths can’t complain :)
WAITING IN THE AIRPORT CAN BE FUN
The airport doesn’t have to be a daunting place to be with kids! Come up with simple games to get you through security [like how many red suitcases can you spot?], point out interesting items you might find inside, know where the play areas are, and keep the kiddos well fed! Lollipop prizes don’t hurt either. Aaaaaaand if all else fails, have a photo shoot in the middle of the airport :)
SPRING FOR THE PRIVATE TRANSPORT
When you finally reach your destination, chances are you will be exhausted. Skip the train or bus from the airport to your hotel and take a taxi.
Two minutes later…
Better yet, book a private transfer. Ours met us at the gate, assisted us with our luggage, and dropped us off directly at the hotel. It was relatively inexpensive and a nice, welcomed brain break after such a long journey. Plus, they provided car and booster seats.
ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES [BE FLEXIBLE]
I like to make itineraries. Something about them just gives me ALL the warm fuzzies. But you know what they say about the best laid plans, right?
Things will go awry. Without fail. Kids don’t really “push through” like an adult might. Just roll with it. Nap when they [you] need to. Veer off schedule if you need to. Be creative when seeing the sights — visit an attraction that allows you to see many things at once like the London Eye. Linger in a spot longer than normal just for the foot break. Whatever it takes. Just enjoy your trip.
TECHNOLOGY IS YOUR FRIEND [BUT HAVE BACKUP]
Download all the apps you think you might need [Google Maps, Visit a City, etc.] before you depart on your trip. It’s also a good idea to save the phone numbers for your hotel, any private transports, and booked vendors in your phone. Internet connectivity is readily available in most places but better safe than sorry.
In addition to this, I recommend having a print out of all the vital information: where you need to go, when you need to be there, and how you plan to get there. On top of that, it’s good to have a print out of your agenda, the weather forecast for each day, and important things of note like phone numbers. A tangible map isn’t a bad idea either. Why? Phones can be lost, stolen, or broken and there’s nothing worse than feeling helpless when you’re in a new place with your kids. Be prepared!
TAKE LOTS [LOTS!] OF PICTURES
We decided to splurge on professional pictures while we were in Paris. Best. decision. ever! Not only did the girls enjoy the opportunity to get all jazzed up but we now have pictures to keep as keepsakes for a lifetime.
We booked our photos through Flytographer and have no regrets. It is an online company based in Canada that can connect you to photographers all over the world. I’ll do a more in depth post on them later but for now know they come highly recommended from our family. [Update: in depth post here.]
Amateur iPhone pictures are just as good too! Sometimes, when traveling with kids, we are so focused on watching them that we forget to capture the moment. If there are two of you traveling with the kids, try taking turns: one person monitor while the other takes pictures. The more the better!
When you return home consider creating a photo scrap book for each of your kids. Every few months, we do a slide show on the TV from all the pictures we took on our phones and the kids love it.
This might sound too obvious to be listed as a lesson learned, right? But believe it or not, we went to Paris….and London…..and bought nothing. Not a single thing.
Don’t be like us. Get something the kids can see everyday to remind them of your wanderlust. Feel free to be creative. Go to a local toy shop and let your kids pick out one toy each. Purchase a postcard, let them write a note to themselves, and mail it home. Look for trinkets that are reminiscent of the place they visited [miniature Eiffel Towers, anyone?]. Better yet, let them decide what they would like to purchase.
GO TO MCDONALDS
Before you boo and hiss, let me ask you a question. Have you ever seen the delight on a child’s face when they open a kid’s meal in a new country? If you have, you understand why I feel this is a must do!
From digital menus to macarons at the counter, the things McDonalds does in other countries is neat! Plus, kids love pointing out the differences between their meal at home and away from home. We did many things on our trip to Paris and London, but the girls still list our McDonalds visit as one of their favorites.
So there you have it — my top 9 lessons from our first trip overseas!
Do you have any tips to share? Please leave them in the comments below!
Until next time.