Jet setting around the world, enjoying the adventure of the unexplored, and leaving on a moment’s notice are often considered luxuries specific to those who are still childless, but a love for international travel can easily become a family love with the right planning and approach. International travel has numerous benefits for young children that include exposure to new cultures, languages, and a hands-on learning experience. Consider that it will also create an early love for travel, what parent would not want to try family travel?
The important first step is the planning stage. Know what is needed for children who will be traveling internationally. Everyone needs a passport, and minors must apply in person with their parents. Research travel destinations to see what type of family friendly activities and accommodations are available. Discovery Map is a great free app that shows accommodations, attractions, and more in over 100 countries. Use it in the planning stage, but revisit it during the trip when looking for something specific. Planning family friendly activities does not mean an endless quest for international theme parks, but staying in a hostel is not the ideal traveling arrangement for those with small children. Include children in the planning stage by showing them websites about the destination, reading books about the country, and even letting them select some of the activities. This will not only build the excitement, but help prepare them for experiencing a new culture for the first time.
Packing is the main determinant of a fun family vacation or having a total meltdown on an international flight after realizing that you did not pack enough diapers or formula. Use apps such as Pack and Go Deluxe ($2.99) that create packing lists for each member of the family based on age, while allowing for notes about specific must haves. It also has an alarm feature to keep the packing on track. Plan for long times on the plane and in airports with travel friendly toys and game. Every parent knows that having a stash of healthy snacks can be a lifesaver, so be prepared. Check with hotels about what baby supplies can be rented or borrowed from the hotel, from cribs to baby bath tubs many hotel chains are working hard to accommodate family travelers.
Tiny family members may have had help planning the itinerary, but this does not mean things will go off without a hitch. If the first day seems especially overwhelming or too stimulating for young travelers, adapt the rest of the itinerary to include downtime throughout the day. Exploring the culture sights and tasting authentic international cuisines can be fun, but sometimes kids simply need to run around. Check with the concierge about nearby parks, and do not forget that for little ones the best part of a vacation can be enjoying the hotel pool. Being flexible ensures that everyone enjoys the vacation, while learning what will work best for the next overseas adventure. Postino is a modern way to create and send postcards before leaving. It is a free app, but can turn an online creation into a real mailed postcard for a small fee.
For older kids see if they can share their enriching experiences in a class report or creating a scrapbook with their trip mementos. KLM Passport is a free app that be utilized throughout the trip to turn pictures and videos into a movie of the international adventure. It is a great way to share the trip with others, and also to relive the great highlights. International travel does not end upon the return home, so keep kids interested by building upon the great experience. Also, see what everyone’s favorite part was in order to prepare for the next trip. Especially talk to your partner to see what the two of you can do to make for an easier trip next time. If you completely nailed it by avoiding all airport tantrums and not forgetting a single must have item, celebrate your awesome planning and parenting.
Ken Ripoll is the founder of AllstarPassports.com, a Los Angeles Passport expediter specializing in passport renewals and visas to China.