The thought of travelling across the world with your little ones in tow can send a parent into sheer panic. Traveling internationally as an adult can be nerve racking, but add kids to the equation and the jitters multiply! However, I can assure you that you can survive and embark on the trip of a lifetime with your family. The key is to plan accordingly, expect mishaps, and most importantly, go with the flow and enjoy the moments. This past October, my parents, husband, 4 year old, and 14 month old, went on a 2 week trip to Thailand. This trip was 5 years in the making since my husband and I wanted to go after we got married, but never seemed like the right time. My mother is from Thailand and my grandparents still live there, so I definitely wanted to take my family to meet them. Finally in May 2016, we decided to book the trip and make the most of this experience. It was definitely a trip to remember and I’m so thankful that I was able to experience it with my family. I don’t consider myself a travel expert, but I do have a few tips that helped me in planning this trip.
- Passport– Everyone needs a passport to travel Internationally, and sometimes you need the passport number to book your tickets. Additionally, your passport should be valid for at least six months after you return home, and needs to have two or more blank pages. We have a great post covering passport information here on EVMB.
- Pediatrician and Doctor’s Appointment– Depending on where you are travelling, kids and adults may need recommended vaccines. Check the CDC for recommendations based on the area you are travelling to. The area of Thailand we were traveling to, had a moderate risk for Malaria, however after talking with our pediatrician and reviewing the risks and side effects of anti-malaria pills, we decided to not take them. Every country is different and it depends what activities you’re planning on doing in those areas, so it doesn’t hurt to do a little research and talk with your doctor. Our pediatrician also recommended bringing powder based probiotics for the kids since travelling can cause some tummy issues. Thankfully no one got ill for the entire trip, it was only when we got home that we all came down with a stomach flu.
- Plane Tickets– Certain airlines will have special rates for kids and infants. The plane ticket for my 4 year old was $200 less than an adult ticket, if the special rate is not listed online, I would call the airline. Even if you have a lap child, you will still need to pay taxes. If your child is under 2 you can also request to have bulkhead seating. Here they can attach a bassinet to the bulk head and your baby can have a comfortable place to sleep. We were able to get this on the flight home and it was perfect! On the flight there, the airline associate was a rockstar and actually gave us an extra seat for my daughter who was a lap child. When booking your tickets, also select special meals for your family. Options typically include children’s meals, and special dietary restrictions. My son loved that he got his own special ‘kids meal’. International airlines will also provide essentials like diapers, milk, and blankets for babies and kids. Just call the airline ahead of time.
- Diaper Bag– We had 4 different plane changes on our way to Thailand, and I knew I did not want to be carrying more than I needed. I kept it very simple with the diaper bag and used my lightweight nylon diaper bag and only packed essentials- 2 change of clothes for each kid, diapers, some snacks, a magnetic drawing board, and medicine (Tylenol and Benedryl). Thankfully we did not have to use the Benedryl. We also did not bring a stroller. This decision I went back and forth on but it actually worked out well! Again, with 4 different planes, I did not want to worry about getting a stroller to each flight. Also once we were in Thailand, I knew most places we were going were not stroller friendly. Instead I bought a lightweight carrier and was able to use it walking through airports and while exploring the city. I also did not bring a lot of toys for the kids, since the airlines provide crayons and stickers, and even small games for kids.
- Hotel Accommodations– If you need a crib or extra bed, check ahead of time to see if the hotel your staying at can provide this. Most hotels also offer a laundry service. We took advantage of this and only needed to bring a weeks worth of clothes and washed them for the second week. Trip Advisor is great for recommendations and reviews while travelling abroad.
- Car Seat– Travelling outside of the U.S., means different or sometimes no regulations for child car seats. For the majority of our trip, we had a van that we rented to use for transportation and they also provided us with a car seat upon request. However there were a few times, in taxis, buses, and our 3 days at the beach where we did not have a car seat. This is a personal decision, and depends on what type of transportation you’ll have once you get to your destination. If you feel more comfortable bringing a car seat, then I would recommend a travel bag to make it easier to carry.
- Time Zone– Travelling will throw everyone off their schedule, especially kids. My best advice is to try to keep your kids on the same schedule but at the new time zone. It’s so tempting to have them ‘sleep off’ the jet lag, but if you can hold off till night time, their bodies will adjust much easier. We flew from LA to Taipai at midnight and the kids slept for about 8 hours of the 13 hour flight. This worked out perfect, because we got to Taipai in the morning. Then we had 2 more flights to the beach in Thailand. We arrived around 4 pm in Thailand, and kept the kids awake till about 7 pm when they crashed out. The remainder of the trip, we were pretty much on the same time zone.
Lastly, the best advice I have is to enjoy the adventure, have fun, and don’t stress if everything doesn’t go to plan. Even when we think we have the perfect trip planned, a curve ball is thrown, but that’s ok, because it’s all about being in the moment. Yes it can be stressful and chaotic traveling halfway across the globe with kids in tow, but if it’s something you’ve been wanting to do, I say take the leap and enjoy a family vacation abroad!