Home Featured Tips for Traveling Internationally With Kids | And Why My Trip To Paris With My Daughter Changed My Life

Tips for Traveling Internationally With Kids | And Why My Trip To Paris With My Daughter Changed My Life

by Maria
Tips for traveling Internationallly With Kids

I have big news to share! My trip to Paris with my 10 year old daughter changed my perspective, and my life.  Our solo international trip wasn’t easy, and that was part of the beauty. I can’t wait to share this giant list of tips for traveling internationally with kids.    Being relatively stress free can leave you open fully open to all the experiences that await.

 

Afraid you will forget something?  Print the international traveling with kids planner. It’s free and simple. 

 

Gather First Hand Tips From Friends

 

While this guide can be be invaluable on the overall tips for traveling with kids internationally (solo or as a family), your local friends may also have great ideas to share.   I sent out a Facebook message asking for tips, and I got some texts and messages from people who wanted to help.

Your friends might know that you are not good with directions (me) or that your local airline charges a overweight baggage fee of $100 (also me).) If your a foodie, then you will get restaurant recommendations. Outdoorsy, well maybe there is an activity to try.

So never hesitate to have a glass of wine  or a quick text with a friend who has been to similar destination with or without kids.

Plus what a great excuse to hear their stories and get excited!

What I learned from friends:

  • Be patient: A friend of mine went solo with two kids to Italy. She said the first day was disorienting and kind of overwhelming, so I should be prepared in case that happens. I had expressed that getting around town was always something my husband had handled, and he wasn’t coming. Her words gave me forgiveness for myself as we circled the Paris airport around and around like mice.
  • Search the internet: Another friend sent me the coolest website of things to do off the beaten track. She knows I love intimate and unique adventures. Loved these ideas at Atlas Obscura. We actually went to the National Library, and it was beautiful!
  • Carry your own bags: The tip we received over and over was for each child to be able to carry their own luggage. In an airport, this is Survival 101.
  • Know your airline rules: I also received advice that my local airline had a pretty steep fee for overweight baggage. Tip went in and out of my mind, and when I incurred the fee I could only be upset with myself.
  • Journal: Someone mentioned to take a journal to document and draw the day. More on that later.

So reach out to friends and hear first hand what they think you should know.

Nationale Biblioteca Paris France

Top Three Things To Do Prior To Your Trip

 

1. Locate your passports (or Visas) as soon as you book your trip.

Make sure your documents are current. Put them somewhere you can find them.

I remembered so clearly that my daughter Giselle had a passport.  I had no idea where it was, but I was quite sure I could find it when I needed it. While I am pretty organized, my life had shuffled papers.

Especially with the adoption of her sister and all the legal documents that circulated.  I was good. I was sure I would be just fine!

Of course, you know where I am going with this.  With two weeks to spare, we rushed a new passport for her. It was expensive and time consuming.

If you need to get a passport fast, I used Rush My Passport. They handled many of the appointment for me and checked my accuracy before submission. We had a new passport in 15 days.

2. Create or prepare your travel checklist.

Okay, I know this is kinda like a genie who gets 3 wishes asking for more wishes.  Because this step can actually be a lot of steps. Keep it simple if you already know what you need. Your list should include things like filling prescriptions, downloading movies for the trip, learning a few words, getting a coat or summer clothes that fit the weather and checking travel advisories.

Our free travel checklist: Print the international traveling with kids planner. It’s free and simple. 

3. Get Online and Get Excited!

I loved looking through all the things to do, and planning it out. My method is to get a loose plan together in excel, and leave room for spontaneity.  Ultimately these are the general guidelines that helped.

Tips for planning your activities:

  • On the day you arrive, plan something that doesn’t take a lot of energy or additional travel. We went to the Eiffel Tower.
  • Get ideas from the internet on tourism, but don’t necessarily buy tickets ahead.  At times the e-tickets were tricky to redeem. My favorite activity guides were Trip Advisor and Atlas Obscura
  • Print Pinterest or Google walking guides for your destination
  • When looking for a balance of activities, create a variety of outdoors, historic, shopping, kid-friendly, food and local. 
  • Leave room for spontaneity, and be flexible
  • Let your child get prepared and involved in planning any way they want to.  My daughter made a doll packing list. Completely unnecessary, but sweet.

Tips for Traveling Internationally With Kids | Let the kids prepare in whatever way they get excited about.

 

Getting To Your Destination with Your Sanity

If traveling through an airport is fun for you, I am quite sure the DMV is hiring.

Have you ever met anyone who enjoys the palpable anxiety of long security lines and trying to find a seat in an overcrowded, stuffy terminal.  In fact, I have been in relationships with people who literally change personalities as they approach the airport. Going forward, I will call this state of being “Intense Travel Mode”.

Intense Travel Mode has likely ruined at least a few marriages.

Getting through the airport:

  • Children and adults should each be able to carry their own bag. If at all possible, a carry on.  Travel light! You can do it! If you are tempted to check larger bags, remember the airport is only the first and last part of the journey.  You will be hauling your bag into cabs, on public transportation and between hotels.  It will likely sit on the floor of a tiny hotel. You might even have your bags with you a portion of the day on your departure date.
  • Download lots of entertainment and charge your devices before you leave.  Think ipad movies, a new album to your phone, meditations, podcasts, video games and puzzles. All of these highly time consuming activities are a blessing on a flight. Because you won’t miss the time.
  • Pack snacks for the flight because food service doesn’t operate on a kid’s hunger schedule or palette.
  • Get to the International airport early. 2 hours. Yup. I wish that wasn’t true.
  • Check into your flight the night prior.
  • Physically print your boarding pass and take a picture of it with your phone. Because phones die and papers get lost.
  • Dress comfortable with layers.  Do you have real pants that are actually soft like yoga paints. I do, and I call those my travel pants. If you can’t sleep on the plane due to your clothes, you might be miserable. Also wear layers, you really can’t predict if the plane will be cold or hot.
  • Pick up Dramamine , water and a fresh book inside the airport. Besides having time to kill because you are so early, you will need these!

 

Tips for traveling Internationallly With Kids | Airport Survival Guide

Keeping your Itinerary Adult and Kid Friendly

When I planned this trip to Paris, all I knew was that I always wanted to go. I heard that direct flights over spring break were a deal from the airport 10 minutes from my house, and I just jumped right in. My daughter was entering middle school, and I felt her and I drifting apart.  I was going through a trying period in my life and I felt challenged to stay present as a parent.

Making your schedule more child-friendly:

  • Put your favorites on the list first. Don’t waiver. You deserve it, and you will just have to be clear to your child that the Louvre or Vatican is on the list.
  • Shorten museum and architectural trips to a few hours at a time.  Let’s face it they move slower and loose steam faster.
  • Try the hop on hop off bus the first day to get acclimated. Feel no shame about any of your choices. You are on this trip when so many are not.  Especially in a town like Paris, where it is HUGE but walkable.  This can help you get around.
  • Plan your itinerary ahead on paper, but don’t necessarily buy tickets to everything. I found that having online tickets bought from the US created more problems than it was worth. I thought I would skip the line, but usually spent a ton of time trying to redeem them.  Know which ones you need to buy ahead and which you don’t.
  • Talk to your child about what they want to see. Get them excited for the trip and help to choose a few great activities.
  • Learn the language.  Hello, goodbye, thank you and please will get you by in English speaking countries. 

Tips for traveling Internationallly With Kids

Think Like a Child, To Succeed Each Day

I have a friend who stated he would never take his kid to Disneyland Paris while traveling in France. He was not totally judging, but also judging.  I don’ t think he thought to appreciate how great that break from parenting really feels when you travel with the kids. It’s crucial if you are solo.

In our case, we went to Disneyland Paris and it was an amazing mid-week break from museums and strolling the cities. Also on our last morning we went to Jardin Di-Acclimation an amusement park that the French attend in the summer.  Both trips were non-traditional, kid friendly and fun for both of us.

  • Plan a few excursions which will allow the kids to be little and silly  Take off your tourist hat for a few hours, and just be mom (or dad). Because watching them have fun can be the break you need.
  • Leave room for hotel relaxation.  Giselle and I took a light nap in the afternoon because sleeping at night was at times hard. Between time change and internal hotel temperatures.
  • Buy a journal to document your trip and draw what you saw
  • Get out into nature and see the local wildlife
  • Be with the locals at parks or in a local market
  • Sit and relax in a coffee shop while they draw, and you read
  • Let your child take pictures.  This gives you more time to absorb the culture and keeps little brains occupied
  • Try the local cuisine. Laugh about it. Be in awe about it, but food adventures are part of the story
  • Google what local tourists do with their kids, and go there!

More Tips for Traveling Internationally With Kids

If You Are Solo, Who Will You Talk To?

Reach out to a local. If you are solo, let’s face it that most kids are not great conversationalist. They can be too curious and intense, quiet or just litter you with random thoughts. On top of that everyone around you might speak a different language. And as attractive as the locals may be, the convo lasts about 5 sentences.

Do you have a friend of a friend who can meet up with you? Locals make great guides.

Feel free to text, email or call people back home. You can stay connected. Again there is no shame in that! You can even warn your besties or spouse you will be calling. Upgrade that cell phone plan.

What Will You Eat?

If you made it this far, you know that I realized that kids in France do not eat what kids in the US do. This is true in many international countries.

Here are some tips for surviving international cuisine solo with kids.

  • Find a restaurant that has amazing cuisine for adults and one item your child likes as well.  Go back and try sometime new for yourself. 
  • Is your child a picky eater? Ask for pasta no sauce, rice and beans, cheeseburgers and fries or cheese and fruit. It’s how we made it through.
  • Plan a few meals just for you.  Know that your children may need to eat before or after, and that you may just feed them table side bread.  It’s okay. Remember to put yourself first some of the time. Bring along a quite activity or book to keep them occupied.
  • Warn your child ahead what they will be eating, and remind them that it is an adventure. Nothing will taste the same.
  • Have treats. If you are like me you fear the sugar rush in your children. Heck you are on vacation, and you walked 4 miles. So eat that Ice Cream on a cold Finish Day.What-to-eat-with-kids-when-traveling-international

Check out what kids eat around the world for lunch

You do not want to be spending too much time searching for chicken nuggets or have a cranky child either. So find those few things they will eat and power through.

What are your tips for traveling internationally with kids? Leave a comment if we forgot something.

More Tips for Traveling Internationally With Kids

 

Tips to Manage the Fact You are Still Parenting

  • Accepting you will have to parent is half the battle.  You may have seen my trip or other trips and envision the way you think it was. Believe me there was a lot of parenting and even a few moments I had to take something fun away. 
  • If you have kids under 5, keep trips to museums short. Rent the high chair and pack and play if you need them.
  • Break the rules. Stay out late with the locals. Eat sweets and don’t go to the gym.  Take a nap and skip a tour if you are both tired. This is your week and you can give yourself permission to just be.
  • Meditate.  Each day I start out with 30 minutes, and it keep me focused and calm every day.
  • Set clear rules before each day.  Kids always do better with clear expectations. It is a trick every school field trip coordinator knows.  Talk about public transportation guidelines, to stay put if you have lost your parent, to eat until full so you don’t get hungry between meals and always use the restroom when you can.
  • Communicate the plan. Leave room for adventure and let them think they are helping to make choices.

Afraid you will forget something?  Print the international traveling with kids planner. It’s free and simple.

 

How Your International Trip Can Transform Your Life

If your curious about how this trip changed my life, here it is. When I planned this trip with my daughter, it was an extremely hard time in my life. I was going through deep emotional turmoil.  I had accomplished everything in life I had ever planned for and had been through some shocking betrayals at the same time.

Not sure what to do with the distraction and pain I lived with every day, I decided to jump on the inexpensive tickets to France. I had not traveled in 10 years.

Already in a state of distress, I felt anxiety about going to a place where I did not speak the language or know the culture.  I had always traveled with other adults who were good at getting around. My hands shaking the first day.

By the end of the week, I had conquered my doubts about traveling alone.  That feeling of empowerment has lasted.

It also forced me to just be more present with my daughter.  There was so much to see, to eat and to pay for. On a daily basis, I took the opportunity to free myself of expectations. Go with the flow. I had to because I was parenting and determined to enjoy myself in the process.

Most importantly, my daughter and I bonded in a fresh way.  I came to her level and she came to mine. My anxieties lifted and my pain started to dull. She and I listened to one another, laughed and fought. She was patient through my worries and even contributed some great suggestions.  We were able to connect on a human level in a new way, and that has carried through to our every day at home.

Tips for Traveling Internationally With Kids

This picture embodies the sweetness of our Paris, France trip.  Just Giselle and I in front of the Lourve.

Tips for traveling with kids to Paris

When a great experience becomes a memory, it can feel like almost a sad thing.  That maybe I will never have a great day exactly like that one, or be with those particular friends in the same way again. It’s a Buddhist thought that life always changes and to accept it is.

Giselle and I fully embraced this trip, and it changed the way we exist with each other every day.  I hope you will love your trip as well!

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Tips for Traveling Internationally With Kids

 

 

 

 

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