For me, going to the library down the street is a lot of effort. Visiting my mom a three-hour plane ride away is pandemonium. But XLMIC is a worldly traveler, and she goes with her kids! Here’s how she does it.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say, “We’d love to travel abroad, but we have kids…”, I could pay the roundtrip airfare for at least one member of my family to fly to Europe.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But isn’t that really what most people say? And if they aren’t saying it, they are thinking it, right?
People talk about international travel as something that needs to happen before they have kids, or after the kids are grown up and out of the house, or at least old enough to stay with Grandma and Grandpa for a week or two. Well, I am here to let you in on a secret…
This is not the case.
The first thing you do is change the wording… You are not going on a vacation. You are changing location. Travel with kids does not allow for much vacating 🙂
Taking a trip with your children is not going to be heavy on the romance. If you get any nookie, you get a gold star. You can, however, experience the world with your children AND have a great time doing it! All it takes is some tweaking of the agenda, thought and planning, patience and flexibility, a stiff upper lip, the ability to roll with possibly major sleep deprivation, and the willingness to ignore mean people on the airplane.
What follows are just a few tips I can share that may help you embark upon a successful family trip abroad. This is by no means a complete list, nor will all points work for every family. I am simply sharing with you what has worked for US in OUR experience traveling with anywhere from one to eight kids ranging in age from 5 weeks to 22 years.
Get an apartment. You are going to be there for a while. Do not jump 6-9 time zones with kids for less than 7 days… two weeks is the minimum I will do at this point. You don’t want to be living out of a suitcase. You don’t want to try to find family-friendly restaurants that are open at 3 a.m. (‘cuz that’s when you will be awake for the first few days!). With kids, you want a kitchen and some separation of space. The first 5 days will be hell if you are going from the West Coast of the U.S. to Europe. On Day 4 you will wonder why you are on this #@&* trip. On Day 5, you and your spouse may start talking about divorce and swear you will never, ever do this ever again. And the next day… it will all make sense 🙂
It is nice to try and schedule your flight for a time when you know your child(ren) will sleep. Unfortunately, some kids sleep on planes and others don’t (I have both). If you don’t know which you have, go for the cheapest flight with the fewest number of shorter layovers. You don’t want to be hanging out at the Dulles Int’l Airport for 8 hours and then Heathrow for 6 hours with your kids en route to Paris. Trust me.
I like nonstops. Get me up there, let me spread out and don’t make me move for 10-14 hours. The more relaxed you are, the easier it is on your kids. If your kids are unruly, you only make one set of enemies. And remember… you will probably NEVER see those people again in your whole life… so it doesn’t matter.
Packing for the flight
I don’t pack light; I pack effectively. Traveling with kids under the age of 4 requires a lot of stuff for me to feel adequately prepared. They have accidents… pee, poop, food and beverage spills, vomiting not in a receptacle… so I bring full sets of clothes, for them and for me, in a carry-on. I also tend to max out on the number of carry-ons we are allowed… even it if means I have to carry 5 of them. I have gotten weird looks and even had flight attendants start giving me grief… until I point out how many seats we have paid for and how many bags that means we may carry on … with a big smile on my face 🙂 I do not want to run out of diapers or food or entertainment items in the event that there are delays, which there often are.
With one child under the age of 3 in the mix, I prefer to use both an Ergo carrier (or sling) AND a stroller through the airport. I have the child in the carrier, and I put the car seat and as many carry-ons as I can pile up in the stroller. Then once at my destination, I have both at my disposal. One of my children is very curious, so I bring the port-a-crib not only for him to perhaps sleep in, but also as a means of containment once we are settled. And to ensure the right sort of car seat at the destination, I have learned to always bring our own.
This picture was taken right before my 11-year old vomited while going through security…
So far, I’ve just covered the ‘getting there’ part. It sounds like a lot. It sounds hard. Putting this work in ahead of arrival allows you to enjoy more of why you’re doing it!
XLMIC blogs over at Taking It On. She is a mom of 4 and stepmom of 6 who has traveled internationally several times with various members of her blended family. Not traveling in her early years fueled her desire to have her own children see the world. Her 11-year old son filled his first passport before he turned 5 years old. She and her husband recently returned from a trip to France with their 4 youngest children.