- International airlines are most accommodating to children and families. They often have kid specific meals and give out games and toys on the flight.
- If you are traveling with an infant in your lap, request a bulkhead row. Some airlines have baby bassinets and infant seats that snap onto the bulkhead, free of charge. You have to call ahead to reserve them, and the bulkhead but it’s well worth that little bit of effort to have free hands and laps on the flight.
- Stop by the dollar store and pick up a bunch of cheap toys and games to entertain toddlers and young children. Don’t give them everything at once. Give them one thing at a time and let them play until bored or antsy. Playdoh is especially great!
- Bring lots of snacks. Try out new snacks on them before you leave home so that you’ll know they are a hit, then take them away for a couple weeks so that when you get on the airplane, they are exciting and new, but not unfamiliar.
- Fly red eyes. Kids will sleep on planes. This works better than trying to entertain fully rested children on a long flight.
- Extend any layovers by a day or two to explore some new territories. If your flight to India stops in London, for example, stay a few days in London. You’ll get a break from the airplane, get to explore new lands, and slowly adjust to time zone changes.
- We use Kayak.com and Vayama.com to find cheap airfares.
- Renting houses or apartments works very well with children. We used websites such as AirBandB.com and VRBO.com to find rental properties. You can stretch out and usually have a kitchen, washer/dryer, etc. which can make life so much easier with young children. See individual country pages for links to specific properties that we have enjoyed
- If you don’t find a rental property, websites such as hostelworld.com, agoda.com, and tripadvisor.com can be useful in finding places. We have stayed in rooms at people’s homes before too which adds to the cultural diversity of your trip. I recommend against staying in hotels because what’s the point of traveling to the far reaches of the Earth, just to pretend that you haven’t left home?
- Pack light. You can buy anything you need or forgot along the way. The world is so global now. You can often even find the same brands that you are used to, albeit with different packaging.
- Don’t bring things that you care strongly about. This especially goes for clothing. We generally drop our clothes off to be laundered at our various pit stops. You don’t always end up getting all of your clothes back or back the way that they originally looked. Laundry is super cheap and makes the pack light comment easier to understand.
- If your child has a favorite toy, bring it. It’s nice to give them that familiarity when in an unfamiliar place. Our daughter has a favorite kitty that she has brought everywhere with us. He used to be bright white, but is now a dingy gray with holes and fuzz coming out. When at home, she doesn’t bring it anywhere, but when we travel, she tends to carry him everywhere. It’s just her safety item and we’re supportive of that.
- It’s easier to bring around a backpack than it is a suitcase. Backpacks conform better to train compartments and tuk tuks, for example. Also, most roads and sidewalks are underdeveloped or non-existent in most countries. Suitcases don’t roll well through dirt and mud. Far easier to carry a backpack on your back. We use compression sacks to vacuum seal our clothes that we can fit more into a single bag. You can pick these up at REI or search for them online. We try to only use one bag for everybody. This leaves the other person’s back free to carry a baby or toddler.
- If your child is in diapers, this is an awesome way to save room in your bag for souvenirs. Even though diapers are readily available for purchase, we pack a whole bunch. That way, when we go through our trip, we end up with more and more space in our bags for new items.
- Strollers are pretty useless except in developed countries. They don’t work well with unpaved roads or cobblestones and steps. We have used a rigid infant carrier in the past, but these don’t fit well into tuk tuks. Our Ergobaby was the best for most of our travels. Lightweight and compacts. Our Kelty baby carrier was great in Paris though. Our umbrella stroller was useful in Sweden. It will really depend on where you’re going. Consider road conditions, sidewalks (or lack of them), and transportation methods before deciding what to bring.
- Immunizations are important. If you are a no vaccine person, I don’t recommend that you travel with your children out of your home, much less the country. Other countries’ vaccination rates are abysmal. The last thing you’ll want is for your child to contract meningitis or measles when you are in Nicaragua and there is no good medical care. With regards to specific immunizations, you’ll want to do a quick search on the CDC site to see what country specific recommendations that they have or go to a travel clinic.
- Medications. We always travel with a full pharmacy. We want to be able to take care of things along the way. I am an ER doc so my comfort level with dosing and delivering medications is probably higher than the general public, but this is where a supportive pediatrician would come in handy. We always bring zofran (for nausea/vomiting), Tylenol and Motrin (for fever and pain), immodium (for grown-up diarrhea only, not kid safe), azithromycin antibiotic in powdered form (to be reconstituted with water if needed), ciprofloxacin (for grown-up traveler’s diarrhea), and powdered rehydration solution in the event of diarrhea. In malaria prone areas, we bring Malarone for prevention.
Food and Water
- If you can peel it, you can eat it. i.e. bananas
- Bring a water purification system if you are traveling somewhere where water isn’t safe to drink. I would put bottled water through the system too as some countries are known to sell bottled water where empty bottles are refilled from the tap and glue is used to reseal the bottles, making them appear new. We used the Trav-L-Pure water system when we traveled to India, Cambodia, and Thailand and nobody got sick. Easy to use and lightweight.
- You can generally find familiar brands in grocery stores. Nestle has a big market overseas.
- If it’s not on the menu, just ask. We had plenty of restaurants in India make our children spaghetti with marinara sauce or chicken nuggets, even though they weren’t on the menu. The worst that they can say is “No”.
- See if you can find a local restaurant near your hometown that serves fare from your destination country. This way you and your children can try out things in advance and you’ll have some go-to food items that you are familiar with.
- We always get a small amount of the local currency from our home bank before we go. You never know when the ATMs will be broken or closed for a religious holiday or what not. We also bring some USD in small, crisp, neat bills. Most countries won’t accept USD greater than $10 and if they are wrinkled or ripped, forget it! So, I bring a bunch of $10s and $5s, or even $1 depending on the wealth of that country.
- We do bring debit cards with us so that we don’t carry too much cash all at once. We haven’t had any problems with identity theft. We try to use ATMs that are associated with big banks and not just random ones. We also use an identity protection service in the U.S. Make sure you let your banks know that you are traveling so that they don’t lock your card for fraudulent activity!
- A good guide book is useful to have. Online sites like TripAdvisor are great to find things to do but a good solid guidebook with a map is so helpful. I used to be a Lonely Planet fan but they’ve gone downhill lately, IMO.
- With kids, you’ll want to at least scout out places to stay and places to eat before heading out and about. Nothing worse then trekking about with tired, hungry kids and no specific destination in mind.
- Of course you need your passport. It can’t expire within 6 months of your return date, so make sure that it’s current.
- For kids, you need a passport photo where they are looking at the camera, with their eyes open. Impossible! So, best thing is to do your own photos at home so you can take 100 photos to get the one that they are looking at the camera with their eyes open! Make sure to use a white background. When our kids were infants, we laid them flat on a white towel. Then you can upload your photo to epassportphoto.com. You can choose to download the picture sheet and print at your local store, free of charge.
- You’ll want to verify if the countries in which you are traveling to have a visa requirement. Some countries do visas upon arrival, some make you get them in advance, and some don’t require at all. Don’t get stranded overseas without a way to get into the country!
- Make photocopies of all your passports. Give one copy to somebody at home in case your actual ones are lost or stolen. Keep a second set of copies somewhere with you, but not stored in the same place as your actual passports. Again, if they are lost or stolen, it’s far easier to replace if you have some form of identification on hand.
- Most countries have an export fee that needs to be paid prior to departure. More and more, this is starting to be added into the return airfare cost, but not always. Make sure that you find out ahead of time and put aside this amount to pay on your way out. We were counting change to pay our way out of Thailand when my husband and I went by ourselves, 7 years ago. When we went this past fall though, it was included in our airfare.
- You will be outside your comfort zone a whole lot. Having the right attitude will help a lot. Remember, every encounter that is new or unusual, is a great introduction for a discussion with your children about differences in the world.
- Have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Go with the flow. Relax. Your kids will be more happy and relaxed if you look and act stress free. If you freak out, your children will freak out!
- Try to keep to a similar schedule that you have at home. If your child naps midday, then be sure to have a rest period midday for them. Try to have a consistent, set bedtime. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get up at midnight one night to watch the Eiffel Tower do it’s twinkle thing, but you shouldn’t do it every single night.
- Remember to have scheduled meals. Kids love schedules and it will help alleviate any stress that all the new images, sounds, and situations bring. If you follow a breakfast, snack, lunch, rest, snack, dinner routine at home, you should do the same when you are abroad.
1. Please check with your home state or country regarding specific requirements and recommendations. We lived in Washington State but plan on living in another state upon arriving home. We tried to go through Washington State but they had nothing to help our specific family plans so we are doing it on our own. We did hear that to enroll our children back into school, it’ll depend on the specific state, school district, and principal. Basically it is our understanding that they’ll have to go through some sort of assessment to determine grade level.
2. Lots of online resources available. We purchased several off of the site: www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.org. Here is our list of favorites, in no specific order:
–Highlights Top Secret Adventure kits (we buy specific countries off of Ebay. Great overview of the countries that we are traveling to.)
–Brain Chase (fun electives combined with a real life treasure hunt!)
3. If your child is a reader, I highly recommend that you purchase a Kindle eReader. You can download books for free from your local public libraries. Great way to pack a zillion books with you, with little added weight!
1. Most 3rd world countries have no way to get a car seat into the vehicles (a car seat, in a tuk tuk?), or if there is a way to fit it in the taxi, there aren’t any seat belts to wear, much less install a car seat. So look ahead at the country that you plan to go to. Renting a car in each country can be expensive, plus when you throw in unknown traffic rules and driving behavior, it can be quite a dangerous expedition. Train travel and bus travel is a nice way to get around in countries that have good systems in place.
2. If you are in a developed country and plan for car travel, a car seat is a must. We purchased: Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible car seats and then added Samsonite Luggage Compact Folding Cart. With one bungie cord, we can attach a car seat to a luggage carrier and poof!, we have a rolling car seat. We purchased car seat bags that we can throw the car seat plus rolling cart into, and both check right in at the airport for free. We haven’t tried to take the car seats onto a plane with us yet but they are very light weight and very compact so I think that they’d fit beautifully onto an airplane.