May 16, 2014

How do you prepare your children for international travel?

Guest Post by Terumi Pong

“Can you find Iceland on the map?  I’ll give you a hint, it’s in the North and it’s in the Atlantic Ocean.”

We’ve been traveling since our kids were very small and now that my twin boys are nearly six, we’re finding it’s getting a lot easier and a lot more fun… and they’re really curious about where we’re going to go next!  Our last trip was a European trip which included Iceland and Denmark that were new to both my husband and me, we weren’t sure what to expect.  But, that is the adventure in traveling with our family and all of us learn a lot along the way.  For me, the toughest part of packing is realizing I can’t bring 5 pairs of shoes or outfits that I “might” wear… that space goes to an extra pair of shoes for the kids or a just-in-case outfit for them if they spill or have an accident.  We like to travel lightly so that we can take public transportation and walk with our luggage if we have to.  But every family travels differently!  For us, here are a few of our favorite tips and maybe they might be helpful to you too:

The first thing we do when we book a trip is find it with our kids on a map we have in our office.  We talk about how many hours it will take to get there by plane or train and discuss where it is in comparison to other places we’ve been.  We wonder together if it will be hot or cold and if there will be swimming pools or animals to see.  We think about the food that is grown there and what we might like to eat.

Then we buy books.  Sometimes I buy them online so they show up when we first start talking about a trip, or the kids and I go to the library or bookstore to pick them up together.  We like picture books that are set in the place we’re visiting or travel books about the place.  If we can find a family-friendly DVD we do that too.  For our recent Iceland trip, my guys enjoyed the travel clips on the Tourism Bureau’s website. We also like the Dodsworth books by Tim Egan -we’ve read them for Paris and Tokyo and we’re curious where Dodsworth will travel next.

If the country speaks a different language we make sure we know at least “hello” and “thank you”.  Dover Publications makes coloring books that are in French, Spanish and English and Usborne Books have great 1000 words books in many languages too.  We’ve found that if the kids can say “hello” and “thank you”, many people are much more receptive to us bringing our kids almost anywhere.

A couple days before the airport we buy a small toy that’s under $10.  This saves the panic of having to find souvenirs or treats for the kids when we get somewhere to entertain them, and it gives them something to look forward to after they nap on the plane, or get to the airport or whatever the agreed pact is for opening the toy.

And when the travel day arrives, we think of some kind of walking/running/energy-burning activity before the flight – especially if it’s a long one! We wake up extra early if we want don’t want a late night in our destination or we nap if we want to keep them up to get our family on a new time schedule if we cross a couple time zones.  We’ve found that walking and taking public transit to the airport from our home in Seattle gets a lot of pre-trip energy out and saves us a few extra dollars for coffee at the airport.  Which is definitely another travel must for my husband and I!

And then we go…

 

Terumi is a 30-something Seattle mom of twin boys. You can learn more about her and her family’s travels on her blog, An Emerald City Life.