When thinking of traveling abroad with kids, you might find yourself in one of two camps: why take them on a big vacation when they’re so young and won’t remember? Or, why not?
It's easy to understand why parents would hesitate to travel, particularly with young children. We’ve traveled to 21 different countries after living abroad for seven years. Most of those trips were with a baby, a toddler or both! Here are some of the things we learned along the way.
Traveling with young ones opens the world to you
Yes, you might miss more time spent at museums, fancy restaurants or late nights out; however, you will see how other cultures regard children. It can make travel more personal. If your children are young enough to not remember, be sure to take pictures and reminisce with them over the years. Storytelling is a valuable learning process and children carry those memories in a different way.
Research the available accommodations
First and foremost, you need to prepare. Research your destination and needs based on the age of your children. Traveling with a baby requires more than with older children. I suggest staying at an accommodation with a kitchen and washing machine, if you can. This way, your family can store and cook food and wash clothing without paying a fortune. You’ll also want to determine your transportation needs. With children still in car seats, choose destinations with good public transportation options.
Pack well, but pack lightly
Once you know where you’re going, you’ll need to pack appropriately. With children in tow, try to pack as lightly as possible. After five years of family travel, we took a three-week European vacation with two carry-ons and two backpacks. The ease of getting around was amazing! An easily foldable, lightweight stroller—plus a gate check bag for it—is also a must. Of course, the stroller is for tired kids, but doubles as a luggage cart, if needed.
Have a plan, but stay flexible
When you arrive at your destination, relax! And lower your expectations. Things won’t go as planned, but that’s OK. Prioritize the most important sights and go when your children are calm. Call it quits when things aren’t working out, value impromptu exploration, and try to find places for the kids, too. Playground visits and children’s museums are fun and usually free! Plus, you’ll get a view at how other cultures teach their children.
Buy souvenirs to preserve the memories
Buying the kids a toy is inevitable, so I like to make it something relevant to the location: a tuk tuk from Thailand, a dala horse from Sweden, or a singing plush camel from the Middle East. These are representations of the culture, and memories of what we learned about during our visit. Illustrated children’s books in different languages also make beautiful souvenirs.
Traveling abroad with children isn’t easy, but it’s worth considering. Children prepare you for an entirely different look at things that add value to international travel—more wonder to experience, more questions to answer, and undoubtedly, more family connection to enjoy.