I just finished writing an article for Babble/Disney on tips for traveling with kids. As I was brainstorming I kept coming up with tips for international travel so I am going to share them here with you because as a mom who travels a lot with kids I think they will be helpful to you.
10 Must Know Tip for Traveling Internationally with Kids
1. Priority Preferece: This first one is my favorite because my children are my ticket to bypass LONG lines. I don’t know if all the countries outside of the U.S. do this but all of the ones I have traveled to in Central and South America give special service to: people with kids/baby, pregnant women, special needs and the elderly. Believe me after 12 hours of traveling with your tired kids you will want to take advantage of this feature.
2. Money exchange fees: In most places the exchange rate is less at the airport than if you go into your destination city. Make sure you look online before you head out to find out where is the best place to get the most for your $.
3. Babies are viewed differently. In Mexico, Central and South America and other parts of the world people view babies and toddlers completely different than what they do in the U.S. I can’t really explain it but don’t be surprised if complete strangers pat your child’s head, give them candy (w/o asking you first), start a friendly conversation with them, give them money to buy candy, give you a sad face if you’re little one is crying, expect them to be bundled up in hot weather…
4. Family Discount – If you’re doing touristy excursions like museums, bus trips or staying at a hotel make sure you let them know how old your little ones are because a lot of places don’t charge for toddlers and babies. In our last trip to Peru none of my kids 2, 6, 9 had to pay a fee to enter any of the museums.
5. Food & Drinks – Encourage them to taste new foods it’s part of the cultural experience. You will be amazed to see them venture out of their norm because you’re not at home. Also, the rule of thumb for eating fruit and veggie is if it has a peel then you can eat it without washing it but if it doesn’t then you should disinfect it with your fruit and veggie spray or soaked in vinegar and water. Don’t drink tap water always use bottled water. We typically stay at a hotel that includes breakfast we go out for lunch and eat in our hotel for dinner or the other way around. I usually ask around for a local little grocery store where I can pick up some essentials like bread, ham, cheese and or soup. I stock up on these and we have them for lunch or dinner through out the week so we are not eating out tons.
6. Find a hotel– When booking your hotel try to find one with breakfast included this usually makes it easier on everyone. If you’re staying in a cooler climate area make sure you ask if they have heaters, chimney or thick blankets and check for them when you arrive to your room. When we traveled in Ecuador and Peru we were in cooler climate places and there was no central heat or air in most housing or hotels. So if the hotel doesn’t provide you with a fireplace or heater than you freeze at night.
7. Gear for getting around – Pack light but don’t skimp on the stroller or baby carrier. If you’re not sure which to bring, take both. In some countries it’s pointless to have a stroller because the streets are so awful it’s more of a hassle but there are some areas like the park and mall that it’s nice to have a stroller so take both.
8. Sights and Sounds – Your kids may see some one dressed differently or do something differently from what you all are used to. These are wonderful teaching moments to share how important it is to celebrate the difference. Just because it’s different doesn’t make it wrong.
Depending where your destination is you may get awakened or have a hard time sleeping because the country your in loves to shoot fireworks every night, or the house down the street has roosters, or you’re on a busy street and car alarms are going off at all hours of the night. We always pack our sound machine which just happened to blow out on our last trip a few days ago. If you don’t have one you can go online and find a website with free nature sounds like this one. Or pack some ear plugs just in case.
9. Electrical outlets: If you will need to plug in anything make sure you check before you leave if you will need some kind of adapter but also pack a two or three prong device. In Peru we didn’t need an adapter but the hotel only had two hole outlets and we needed three.
10. Rest – Flying is tiring but flying internationally can be exhausting so don’t plan much on your first day of arrival. Also, if you have a huge time difference your children may struggle sleeping, so don’t fill your whole day with activities or you may find them napping (or was he having a tantrum) at the entrance of the cathedral as shown above.
Make your whole trip a learning experience for your family. You may want to get a head start on the cultural & language experiences at home before you start your travel adventure, by going to a restaurant from that country.