In August of this year I had the chance to take my children (by myself!) abroad. Spain was the main agenda, where half of my family still lives, to show the kids where our family comes from. There’s something incredible about going somewhere where people look like you, where your family names are the village names, and where you can run into relatives all over town. My kids have been learning Spanish and were excited to meet their cousins–it turns out that Xbox is the true universal language! It was the trip of a lifetime: exhausting, limit-pushing, crazy organization and schedules, and finally about letting it all go to have fun.
A few pictures from our trip are in this gallery, or scroll for tips about how to take kids abroad–
Prepare for the Flight
My tips for taking kids abroad:
- Plan plenty of time to arrange for passports. I ordered ours 5 months before we were supposed to go.
- Have you tried Google Flights? It was easy to view the best range of ticket price options across a specific time period, and we ended up saving a bunch of money on tickets.
- Call about your itinerary if it seems complicated. We had three flights there and three flights back. On the last leg, the flight attendant told us that since we’d booked through the airline website, we could have called the airline and had them simplify our itinerary. I wish we’d known that before!
- Neck pillows for the kids. We picked out neck pillows that were also stuffed animals. Handy on the flights, on long car rides, and as a friend for sleeping in a strange bed.
- Give every child a job. Whether it’s handling a suitcase, helping a sibling with their seatbelt, or keeping track of crayons, kids do better when they have a job to focus on while getting on and off airplanes.
- Headphones scaled for kids. Every kid had their own over-ear headphones, it helped for the airline as well as for peace and quiet in the car.
- Stock a backpack for each kid with new crayons, paper, books, small toys, healthy treats, and even comics for older ones. Seek out the triangle-shaped crayons for your younger kids–they don’t roll off airline trays. They kept their headphones and neck pillows inside their backpacks as well.
- Melatonin to help with jet lag. Some of you already know about melatonin. I wish I’d known about it! It was a life saver and really worked for my kids–while we were there and when we got back home.
- Stay in a house or apartment if you can. We stayed in a 2nd floor flat without anyone below us. The kids could run, scream, and be noisy without me being worried they were bothering neighbors. You forget how noisy Americans are!
- Pack light. For real. You can do it. 5 shirts, 3 pants, underwear, 1 sweater, 2 shoes (one for walking, one for the beach,) for the kids for 3 weeks. There are washing machines outside of America, y’all. I took only two medium suitcases. I bought an extra duffle there for packing souvenirs home.
- Don’t over schedule. I love a jam-packed schedule, but for max vacation enjoyment, dial it way back. Kids get tired, hungry, and dehydrated quickly.
- You can’t see everything. Don’t try. Be realistic about seeing everything, pick the most important things to you and know that even though you may be tempted to try everything, it will just result in misery for you and the children. If the choice was between a 2 hour day trip and a 30 minute one, you know what to do. If you were going with grownups you could try to see everything, but this is not the trip for that.
- Don’t count on Internet access. It was few and far between, so download movies and apps to your device before you go. This may be a plus for you, but not being connected was rough on me; working overseas can be hit or miss. Turns out I need you peoples.
- Do check out Internet access from the car rental place! The car rental place offered a mobile wifi connection device that was $200 for our entire 3 week trip. We should have opted for this, instead I bought phone data and it ended up being far more expensive.
- The Fanta is way better in Europe. Just let your kids drink the soda.
- Go out and explore the countryside. During the summers many European countries like Spain have regional or local festivals and carnivals. It’s safe, fun, and immersive.
- Relax and enjoy the trip. Let things go. Eat pastries at every meal. Bedtime is out the window. Sleep late. Take every chance you can to connect with kids.
Have you ever wanted to take kids abroad? Do you travel with kids already? Share your best ideas!
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