Planning an overseas family vacation this coming year? Or, considering a family move outside the country? Whether it’s a vacation, an expatriate assignment or a permanent move, there’s some tried-and-true things you should be thinking about if your international adventure includes bringing kids. With the right considerations, you’ll make memories for you and your children that you’ll talk about for years to come.
Get Your Passports In Order
It might seem logical that your passport need only be valid until the day of your planned return home but don’t risk getting stuck in country. There’s all kinds of reason’s your trip might be delayed – from weather and closures, civil unrest or in-country transportation issues. Make sure your whole family’s passports are good for a minimum of three months past your expected return date, longer is even better.
Defeat Jet-Lag on Day One
It’s tempting to want to crash as soon as your reach your hotel at your final destination but you’ll make the most of your trip when you fight the jet-lag fatigue and stay moving once you arrive. Research fun kid activities in advance so you know what’s in close range of your accommodations. This might include outdoor parks, interactive children’s museums, hikes or public swimming areas. Also research when culturally-appropriate meal times are so you can get your kiddos on an eating schedule that matches when restaurants are serving. Keep snacks packed nearby to fight off the munchies.
A Stressed-Out Parent Does Not Make Calm Children
Every parent understands this but when you are travelling abroad, it’s especially important. If you are renting a car and planning to drive, understanding local driving laws and road culture is a must. This is especially important in countries like the UK where driving rules are different than in many parts of the world. Another tip: Stay busy but not too busy. Packing every day from end to end will not only frustrate you when something doesn’t go as planned, but also, your rush and tension will wreck havoc on your kids as well. On the other hand, not having enough to do might leave you and the kids bored which can lead to whining and sibling bickering. Best to have a few planned activities each day but to keep a back-up list that you can pull out and pick from should a flexible change of plan dictate. Better yet, let kids help design their day. Enthusiastic kids make for happier parents.
Give Older Kids Opportunity
In each new phase or day of your trip, create a flexible daily budget they can spend on whatever they like. Ahead of the trip, buy conversational language books and make a game or a contest out of memorizing new words. Elementary and middle-grade kids can make their own bingo-style boards ahead of time that they can use to spot the new words on street signs and billboards. Each day, a different child can pick the restaurants you’ll go to. Teach them how to ask for options from a concierge, read printed guides or maps, or talk to locals about recommendations. Last, find places and ways for them to interact with other kids. Children are far more open, naturally curious and tolerant than many adults. Let them be your ambassador.
Travelling with kids can be a wonderful experience that creates a family bond like nothing else. The more you engage your children in the experience and the more you remain flexible and open to letting each day unfold inside the umbrella of some foundational planning, the more likely you’ll enjoy a trip that none of you will ever forget.