Stress-Free International Travel With Kids - Part Two
Part 2: You Made It! Now What?
Beat Jet Lag
We do this best by immediately pretending the new, local time is our own. This is of course easiest when you arrive in the evening where you simply have dinner and go to bed…
It’s the early morning arrivals that are the doozies!
Fight the urge to sleep and get outside and do something active. (You would sleep the entire day away anyway.) Think parks, playgrounds, long walks or bike rides where you can soak in the fresh air of your new, exotic locale. It’s easier said than done, we know, but oh-so worth the effort if you care to avoid meltdowns (the bad kind).
Routines Will Keep Entire Family Sane
In our opinion it helps oodles to keep as many home routines in place as possible. For us this primarily means meals, snacks and sleep times (again, adapted to the new time zone).
When our son was really little and still needed more napping, while on city trips in particular, we’d bend the rules during the day and just stroll him around morning until late afternoon. There was so much city stimulus he’d often just conk out right there in his stroller. But having a personality that doesn’t want to miss a beat, it wasn’t always the case. In those instances, we’d have to grudgingly pass on dinner out on the town and order in room service so he could go to bed at a decent hour. This happened more than once in places like Naples, Florence, Paris – the kind of destinations where you most definitely do not want to be eating on a hotel room bed. But believe me, it was for the greater good, and we’d do it again if need be. (I won’t write out what happened on the occasions we weren’t so wise…)
Learn Local Culture – and Maybe Even Some of its Language
There’s nothing sweeter than learning language and culture – in context. This is particularly meaningful for children who may have been studying the local language prior to the trip solely via books or screens. Seeing the language in action - in the flesh - will actually assign a whole, new (fantastical) meaning to the endeavor. Don’t be surprised if a whole new degree of excitement and motivation ensues after your return home.
Take advantage of any opportunity that allows your children to interact with local kids. Think parks, playgrounds, museums, family-friendly restaurants and more…
Pay for the tour when visiting museums, cities and the like. Seek out a real human, a local if possible, allowing you of course to bask in the native language - and hear from a local what it is like to live in a different world, the one you are there to discover.
Engage with the local people! Opportunities are at every turn…those same parks and playgrounds, restaurants…but also, local bakeries and small family run shops and more. Stereotypes abound about different places. Actually taking the time to talk to people and get to know the real person inside is a sure-fire way to experience the human component to every place you roam.
Patience With Them…and Others
They’ll be excited…and tired. And you know what that can mean. Bring large doses of patience on your trip. Of course the same goes for the big guys too. Long, crowded, and uncomfortable travel can bring out the worst in anyone. I’ve been given the evil eye - and the evil lip despite my absolute very best efforts in trying to comfort a screaming baby in diapers. If anything, it most definitely is a fantastic occasion to model restraint, patience and kindness for our little angels. Haha!
The days are long gone when you could do whatever your heart desired. But that’s the case every day with kids, now isn’t it?! You don’t need to give up all the things you love, but you do need to tackle your desires differently.
Limit the number of times that you change locales. The kiddos will be less stressed and happier to sink into the moment.
Alternate more mature activities with those that allow the kids to go bonkers and blow off steam. Balance is key. In Paris, for example, I tend to take in more museums and cultural highlights, but now with my little man we make time to also stop by le Jardin de Luxembourg to let him run and spread his wings. (And by the way, this wonderful location, I otherwise would probably not have discovered, has now become one of my favorite places in Paris. Thanks, little man!)
Shop for language materials!
Take advantage of the occasion and hit up bookstores and toy stores for easy access to what the local kids are using to learn their own language. I tend to prioritize items that have native sound like music, sound books, or even toys with good sound quality; but books are also always on my radar. A lot of cities in Europe in particular have excellent quality second hand bookstores where deals abound! Just to be sure to leave room in your suitcase…and be mindful of your weight limits. The books can take me over the top very quickly. (But oh so worth it!)
Record Those Precious Memories in Journals/Scrapbooks
What better is there to a remarkable voyage, than to be able to relive (the very best parts of) it? This is what our family travel scrapbooks mean to us. Scrapbooks of our travels are without a doubt the most relished items in our home. Staples on our living room coffee table, we rotate them out to keep them fresh and inspiring (and make room for the new)!
You (or even older kids) can also record meaningful moments in a handwritten travel journal. My husband did so for the first time during a month of backpacking in China. Picking up that forgotten book some years later and reading it out loud together was actually the most sensory rich experience I’ve ever experienced (where many of the items, I should mention, were otherwise completely forgotten until the words were pronounced). We truly were able to be transported to the way things looked, tasted and felt in a way even photos had failed. I highly recommend giving it a try!
Either way, you’re savoring the moment, which not only helps us appreciate our blessings - but highly anticipate what is to come!
Travel time has become, hands down, among the most treasured moments for my family. Perhaps it’s being outside of what is comfortable and known…that vulnerability that allows us to let down our guards and just be…savoring each and and every delightful moment.
We hope this has inspired you to venture out of your realm of comfort and catch a little bit of the travel (and language) bug. I promise, you’ll never be the same.
Bon voyage! Goede reis! Safe travels!