A favorite thing to share is what it’s like to travel internationally with kids and how to overcome the obstacles that often hold people back from traveling with kids of any age.
We’ve found that the greatest discomfort from traveling with kids comes from two main things. The airplane flight experience and accidentally being unprepared once you get to the destination. Throw in our Covid situation with the uncertainty and it makes traveling with kids feel hard to do and something you might want to avoid altogether.
But, fear not, because I’ve come up with 10 Ways You Can Prepare for International Travel with Kids that will not only make your airplane travel more manageable, it’ll make your international experience more enjoyable—something you’ll want to do again and again.
Remember, our vacations are for us too. So, if we can make our kids comfortable, we will have a more relaxed experience.
Your trip starts on the plane
I’m a firm believer that the trip begins with the plane. So even though we’re frenzied, rushing around the house, gathering up all the last-minute things so we can get to the airport on time, we always make it a point to incorporate the plane flight as part of our vacation experience. Meaning we want it to be a memorable experience —and not the bad kind. That might sound crazy because the plane is the thing most people dread when traveling with kids.
I’ve noted the tips that work best for our kids on the plane, and I think you’ll agree.
After our most recent trip to Ghana, located in West Africa, where we flew from Georgia to New York to Ghana, a 10+ hour flight with multiple layovers, I can say that I’m so glad I planned ahead.
Here’s how you can too.
10 Tips When Traveling With Kids
1). Have the kids pack their carry on bags for the trip
My kids are always so pumped to go on a trip. And one way I like to get them involved is by letting them pack their own carry-on bag. For the younger ones, I usually list how many of each toy they can bring, and they can collect the items. If I don’t put a cap on the number of toys, they bring every stuffed animal they own or the entire transformers set.
It’s fun for kids to pack on their own because they can think about what they’d like to play with on the plane, and it gives them more to look forward to.
2). Keep carry-ons light and have no more bags than you have hands
This rule applies especially to kids because inevitably, my husband or I will carry one or more of the things my kids brought along, plus the jackets, plus the snacks we bought in the airport, etc…
We’re past the stroller, car seat, or booster stage, but when we were in that era, we bought convertible, lightweight baby gear especially for travel. I’ve lugged a heavy car seat around the airport, and it is not easy or enjoyable, especially when you have a toddler running through a crowd of people.
Now that the kids are older, they have their own carry-on, but when it’s over-stuffed and heavy, it makes swiftly moving through the airport difficult. Wheels are a must.
3). Socks and shoes on the plane
No flip-flops or high heels here. If kids are tripping over flip flops it throws the whole vibe off when you’re in a rush. You never know when you need to move quickly in an airport or once you land.
Athletic shoes are comfortable for kids and less likely to leave a blister from lots of walking. Plus, planes can get pretty chilly, and remember, kids’ comfort is our #1.
Kids’ comfort = mommy & daddy’s peace.
4). wait until they’re old enough to enjoy it
We’ve had some amazing Mexico trips, even with younger kids. But we knew this most recent trip would be a stretch — further distance, time changes, and lots of fun-filled days of exploration. We decided to wait to embark on such a far destination until the kids were a little older, and we’re glad we did. Everyone was more flexible especially when it came to trying new food and being active all day. We were able to squeeze in some downtime but we did a lot of sightseeing.
At age eight and older, the kids were more likely to embrace the culture, history, sights, and food. It was a great learning lesson for everyone and prompted a lot of teaching moments and discussions. It’s a trip they will never forget.
5). Spring for First Class
Might seem like a stretch, but First Class is the way to go when it comes to ensuring comfort and ease on a 10+ hour-long flight. The kids could relax, lay flat, and have a reasonable amount of personal space. My kids slept and were in good spirits when we landed and were ready for fun. When you’re flying throughout the night, it makes a massive difference if the kids can get a somewhat well-rested sleep to hit the ground running when you arrive at your destination.
First Class also provides several meals and snacks. We didn’t have to wait very long for service, and they had plenty to eat. This took our flight “with kids” up a notch.
I know because I thought this too… First Class comes with a hefty price tag. But in reality, the whole trip will be expensive, and that 10-14 hour chunk of time sets the stage for the tone of your vacation experience. Plus, after a long vacation, it’s so rewarding to plop down in your First Class seat with that bit of extra room and a meal to close out your fantastic holiday.
Use points when you can and travel during off times if the weather permits. Plan ahead by putting expenses on your credit card to rack up points. Sometimes you have to hunt for deals, but they’re out there.
5). Sign everyone up for their own travel miles
I wish I had had my frequent flier number since I was younger. You might think it’s unnecessary, or you won’t be flying for a while, so it doesn’t matter, but miles add up, and so do trips. Before you know it, you’ve taken five trips with no airline miles. Take the extra 15 minutes and sign up the kids.
6). Buy the flight insurance
If you can’t afford to replace it, buy the insurance. With the constant uncertainty of Covid, flights and trips are canceled left and right. It’s peace of mind to know if you need to cancel, you can. You never want to feel forced into travel. If you buy the insurance plan, you can cancel and reschedule when the time is right with no loss of cash.
7). Check ahead for required immunizations
We all have a heightened awareness of vaccines with the Covid situation, but many travelers don’t know that some countries have other vaccine requirements. If the country you’re visiting does require immunizations, you can see a travel clinic to take care of those needs. Yellow fever or the typhoid vaccine may be necessary, so I recommend doing your research ahead of time.
8). Plan your transportation out ahead of time
Flagging down a driver when you land at the airport is not always guaranteed. Plus, you never know what or who you’re going to get. When you do your research ahead of time, you can read reviews, check prices and plan your excursions.
My husband arranged for us to have a driver, the same driver, the whole trip. It was perfect because some of our activities were 3 and 4 hours away. We could all relax on the drive, which meant we were refreshed and ready to go for the next stop.
Bring medications for the airplane and the trip
I make it a habit to bring medication with me on every trip. We always have the basics for aches and pains, allergic reactions, cuts or abrasions, cold symptoms, and diarrhea. This time, since we were traveling to a country we hadn’t been to yet, I wasn’t sure how our tummies would respond to the food or water. I decided to bring in the big dogs and have a prescription antibiotic on hand as well. Every one of us ended up taking the antibiotic, which tells us something. I’m glad I brought it.
We also had our malaria prevention prescription, which we had to take while we were in Ghana. I recommend seeing your physician ahead of time and requesting any prescription medications for your trip. Other items we brought that we used daily were sunscreen and bug spray. Lifesavers, those were.
Medical supply checklist for travel: Bring something for each symptom
- Aches & pains
- Cuts & abrasions
- Allergies (pill and cream)
- Cold symptoms
- Bacterial infection
- Sun protection
- Bug repellant
There are just some finishing touches on a trip that help make it the most memorable and enjoyable.
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