For even the most experienced travellers, adding children into the mix can make it a whole new ballgame. You have to do a lot more preparation, budget much more carefully (thank God for cheap family travel insurance) and be far more aware of your surroundings once you’re actually abroad. These helpful tips and tricks will make all that planning a snap – and before you know it, you and your family will be enjoying a croissant in front of the Eiffel Tower.
The Right Age
Before taking your child abroad, it’s a good idea to consider whether or not it’s practical to do so. Lots of parents agree that, as long as you’ve got child-friendly activities planned each day, primary school kids can be the best to travel with, while others believe kids in secondary school are the ideal age. Regardless, a good rule of thumb is that if your child has no problem with sleeping away from home, is able to withstand full days of walking and is comfortable eating whatever is placed in front of them, they are probably old enough for a holiday in Europe.
The Right Destination
The right destination can make or break a trip with children. For younger children, it’s best to pick places that offer lots of fun kid-friendly activities so they don’t get bored (e.g. playgrounds and petting zoos). They also tend to be happy with rural accommodation – as long as there’s a grassy field to run around in and a pool to swim in, they’re set.
However, if your children are older (and especially if they’re teenagers), enlist their help in deciding where to go and what to do. They’ll love being a part of the decision-making process, and researching locations and things to do will make it their trip as much as yours. If you take their answers into consideration when finalizing the planning, you’re far more likely to end up with a trip everyone will love. Once you know where you’re going, introduce the country by finding some age-appropriate movies and books set in the place you’re jetting off to!
Although you always want to be prepared when travelling, it’s especially important when you’re going on an international holiday with children in tow. Come up with contingency plans should there be an emergency, and go over these plans with your child. For example, if you lose each other on crowded public transportation, a good backup is reconvening at your accommodation.
Give your child a business card from your hotel to carry so that they have local contact information. Many parents also invest in pay-as-you-go mobile phones for easy contact in case of emergencies. Some families even come up with a unique loud noise, like a whistle or whoop, to catch each other’s attention easily.
Inspire and Excite
Buy your child a journal (purchasing it abroad can make it a cool souvenir) and a disposable camera and encourage them to write about and take pictures of their trip. Make the journal important to them by suggesting they record more than just the day’s itinerary – they can include their feelings and reactions, and even paste in the photos they take! To boost their confidence, teach them a few useful phrases – with their newfound foreign language skills, the bravest among your brood may even try to strike up a conversation with one of the locals.
Before You Go
Get everything in place before you go, especially if you’re on a budget. Your flights will be way more affordable if you book ahead of time and there are lots of great options for cheap family travel insurance that will set your mind at ease. It’s also important to pack correctly (you only need a few toys, and super bulky clothing often just takes up space) so that you don’t have the unnecessary expense of checking in that extra suitcase.
An international holiday with children may seem daunting but that doesn’t mean it’s not more than doable – and it definitely doesn’t mean your trip won’t be enjoyable. Your travelling days are nowhere near over just because you’ve got some little ones running around. You just need a little more planning…and a lot more snacks!