Tips for Traveling Abroad with Young Explorers
Your flights are booked and you are ready to show your young adventurer the magic of traveling abroad. We salute you! Ignore the naysayers. We are avid supporters of getting your little ones exposed to travel… the earlier the better. Scientists report that cognitive development begins as early as six months, forming pathways led from discovery and experiences. Invest in becoming a prepared parent-on-the-go; travel offers endless learning opportunities for you and your little one.
Raise a well-adjusted traveler by planning your travels far enough in advance to appropriately plan for their trip, set them up for success rather than try to wing-it. Throughout the planning phase, and once you begin your journey, remember to exhibit the behavior you wish to see reflected. What are your default behaviors? Are you anxious about the delay in your layover or happy about the extra time to stretch your legs and play Marco-Polo in the unused gate area? If you get stressed out easily during travel, incorporate practicing de-stress techniques as part of your travel planning checklist. Demonstrate optimism in front of your kids- you will see a transformation in how they tackle conflicts on your trip and when they get home.
Traveling abroad is a luxury; whether you are traveling to chase waves or visit museums, step back and look at the opportunities that you offer your kids through their eyes. When you take them on neat adventures, take time to foster gratitude. Why are you able to offer these opportunities to them? Explain these loftier concepts to them. Skip the souvenir lines and opt for enriching their experience. Instead of getting them that overpriced stuffed animal, take them to a local non-profit conservation facility that is in a subject that interests them- the memory will be one that they will not forget. A grateful kid is a happy kid; this spills over into all aspects of their childhood.
Here is a list of our top international travel hacks (we narrowed our list to include tips that you may not have thought of):
#1 Sharing the spirit of wanderlust with your child is an experience second-to-none, but make sure you have the critical back-ups in place if something goes south. Look into medical evacuation insurance and have knowledge of basic first aid if you are traveling to a remote location. One of the best tips that I ever received was a head's up to review the Department of State Directory of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions. Follow the link for a comprehensive contact list. If you are traveling to a non-English speaking country, contact the embassy in your destination region for a list of recommended English-speaking physicians.
#2 What activities will be the focal point of your trip? Get your kids professional training/lessons to make sure that they are set up for success. If you are heading on a surfing or snorkeling trip, look into swimming lessons to get them brushed up on their strokes. Build their confidence! Just like you wouldn't register for a triathlon without proper training, don't expect them to be able to keep up with your plans without first making sure that they are well prepared physically and mentally.
#3 We wander to grow, to learn, and to enrich our minds through exploration and collective experiences. Create that same space for your young adventurers. Introduce them to the language, cuisines, etiquette, and customs of your destination. Plan a new activity each week leading up to the trip to enhance their cultural literacy- make it fun and exciting. Create a travel journal with them! Include suggested journal entries for them, such as: what did you hear on the train, what did it feel like when the flight took-off, draw what the currency looks like, draw a map of your favorite site so far, make a list of all the animals you have seen, make a list of the animals you would like to see, try a new food and describe how it tasted, describe the music that you have heard, etc.
#4 Schedule an appointment with your local travel clinic at least 4-6 weeks in advance. Many vaccinations require multiple shots before reaching their full protection level in your system. Depending on where you are traveling, make an appointment with your pediatrician as well to go over any concerns. Click here to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage for region-specific comprehensive data.
#5 Assign packing duties to divide and conquer. Do not try to share the burden of packing without a plan hatched in advance. Too many cooks in the kitchen results in items getting left behind. You thought your packing partner packed your little one’s favorite teddy bear, they thought you had… meanwhile, teddy bear is sitting on the floor by the backdoor and you are about to board your plane!
#6 Make an exhaustive list of things your child should be a cautious of/aware of prior to the trip and then take the proper precautionary measures. Some examples that have frequented our list,
- Creepy Crawlies: Our little one loves playing with bugs and chases after everything. When we travel we go over "looking but not touching." Depending on the destination we also enforce a footwear rule (to avoid inadvertently stepping on something harmful). We look through various animal books to go over features of the bugs and slithering friends indigenous to the area.
- Crowd Safety: What to do if they are somehow separated from us
- Water Safety: How to identify a rip tide, rescue techniques
- Language Barriers: Basic ways to call for help in other languages, how to reach paramedics
- Satellite Phone: Define the various means of communication. If you are heading off the grid, make sure that everyone in your group knows, a) who to call and b) how to call
- Orientation: If a call for help is needed, do you know your location for someone to easily find you
#7 Get airport savvy. Plan your trip with kid-friendly airports in mind. We always try to book layovers through Chicago Midway. They have an excellent yoga room that often sits empty. A superb haven to stretch out with the kids. Take the time to research your air route and make your layovers part of the travel fun.
Along the way, trust that your little one can handle the tasks that you give them. Use traveling as an outlet to build their confidence. They will likely become more resourceful and self-reliant, and above all happier travelers.