The Best Tips For Your First Trip Abroad With Kids

Traveling with two kids internationally can be an adjustment if you’re used to traveling with adults. Families can enjoy international travel with their kids even if it means making a few changes. The vacation won’t quite look the same, but it can still be a very enjoyable experience. Both for the kids and the adults of the family. By following these tips help you can be sure that your first trip abroad with kids will be successful.

Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy

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PREPARE THEM FOR THEIR FIRST PLANE RIDE

If this is your kids’ first ride on a plane, it’s good to prepare them for this part of the adventure. We thought that a short trip within the States would be best for our kids first plane ride.

Things didn’t work out as planned since their first flight was trip from Toronto to Paris. The good thing was that they loved lift off. They laughed and giggled and thought that it was just amazing having the plane speed down the runway and then take off.

The bad part was their first landing. They didn’t like that feeling at all. And the worst of it was the popping sensation that you experience in your ears while the plane descends.

We brought some gum for them but it didn’t really work as well as we hoped. What we learned from another friendly traveler is that lollipops work best. So our following flights have involved us bringing a stash of lollipops for them to suck on during landing.

And that has worked perfectly. They still didn’t like the sensation of the plane dropping for landing but after a few times it was manageable. 

We did experience a bit of turbulence but nothing too severe. It would be good to let them know that it won’t always be completely smooth sailing. There’s going to be some movement, but the plane is going to be okay.

SIMPLIFY YOUR ITINERARY

When my wife and I traveled before our kids we born, we were constantly on the go. Our ideal vacation usually involved a lot of sightseeing as we weren’t really the beach vacation type of people.

It was more than okay to work some beach time into our vacation, but it wasn’t ever the main focus of our trips. We would easily reach 30k to 40k steps on our days out.

Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

We used public transportation some, but our main mode of transportation was always our own two feet. Our vacations were great that way and we loved it.

When traveling with two kids, the approach changed a bit. Of course their little legs and feet couldn’t keep up with us so we had to modify our approach.

We still prefer sightseeing, visiting cities and cultural sites but we’ve cut back on the amount of walking. We rely more on public transportation. Our basic rule for our itinerary is one major site in the morning, one major site in afternoon. This helps to keep things comfortable for everyone.

Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy

It was a bit of a change for us, but it keeps everyone happy and it doesn’t overwhelm the kids. We had to slow our pace, but it works well for us and we have enjoyable vacations that way.

It helps that in the planning stages, when putting together an itinerary, to come to the understanding that you’re simply not going to see everything and be okay with that.

There are certain things that are “must sees” that you won’t get to see. This could be because it wouldn’t fit in the itinerary or the unexpected happens. We tend to focus on what we did get to see and experience.

Then enjoy the fact that our family gets to travel and experience certain places at all.

The Pantheon in Rome, Italy

BRING SNACKS FOR THE PLANE

This is helpful when flying budget airlines when you have to pay for every little snack and drop of water. We’re perfectly fine flying budget as we bring our food and snacks with us. It’s not much of a hassle as long as you plan ahead and have your own travel items for kids.

Food is okay to bring aboard and we have no concerns getting it though security. The only real limits are on liquids. Even then, you can easily bring an empty water bottle and fill up once you’re past the security check point.

Most airports have fountains that you can use to fill up your water bottle for the flight. Even on flights that serve snacks, having something that you know your kids will like and eat is a life saver.

You’re able to give them something when they want to eat. This way you don’t have to wait for the airline to bring something.

GOING THROUGH SECURITY

This is another area where it’s good to inform your young ones of the process. There’s usually a bit of a line and some waiting depending on the time and airport.

Also the process of emptying your pockets, putting things in bins, removing shoes, going through and being searched all while making sure you’re not leaving/losing anything or anyone can be a bit stressful.

It can be stressful and confusing for kids as well. So giving them a bit of a heads up is good.

One major sore spot for us is having to take out all of our electronics. This includes tablets which are usually tucked away in individual backpacks and luggage. 

It’s better to have electronics in an easy to reach location. This way, when you have to take them out they’re easily found. Then, when you have to put them back, you have a designated area to return them too.

It shouldn’t be that stressful, but somehow, that gets us every time. Keep that in mind when packing away tablets for yourself and the kids.

DOWNLOAD MOVIES ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

You can often rely on entertainment from the plane, but if you’re using a budget airline, that’s not always the case. When we’ve flown budget airlines, this was a great thing to have. When at home, you can download movies and tv shows from Amazon Prime Video onto your tablets.

Once you’re on the plane you’ll be able to watch them without wifi. I have found that in some cases licensing issues have prevented some media from playing once you cross borders. But even then it’s only been a handful of things that wouldn’t work. The majority of them work just fine.

The best thing is to have a variety of different movies and tv shows. This is good because if something doesn’t work, you’re not stuck with an entire season of a show that you can’t watch.

Riding on the airplane watching a movie

Another neat trick is to purchase a headphone adapter so that your young ones can share a tablet with their own separate headphones. This can save battery life for especially long trips.  

While this is particularly helpful for trips on budget airlines, this can work even if entertainment is offered and your kids have a favorite tv show or movie that they’d love to watch. Again specifically if it’s a really long flight. This helps also for long layovers.

INCLUDE KID FRIENDLY DESTINATIONS

Going to NYC, London, Rome, Paris or Washington DC? These fantastically cultured cities are surprisingly kid friendly. It’s really the best of both worlds.

The parents get their culture and experience these amazing cities and young ones get to enjoy them as well. Try adding parks and playgrounds or trips to the zoo to your itinerary.

Each of those cities have amazing parks, playgrounds or zoos that kids will love. Many of those attractions are free as well, which makes it even better.

Playing on a playground in Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, France.

This also provides an opportunity for parents to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

So, when deciding which destination is a good fit for your family, consider some places that on first glance may not seem family friendly, but really are. Your whole family will love the experience.

You’ll probably be surprised how much you’ll enjoy this part of the trip. Many great cities also have great food and even some surprises. Naples, Italy is a great example of a city with spectacular food that kids will love. Our kids loved the food in Naples when we visited.

Be sure to include some kid friendly restaurants which shouldn’t be too hard to find.

This may also require a bit of planning. Some familiar spots may have to do as well so don’t feel bad if you have to stop at McDonalds in Paris or Rome! One of the best parts of vacation in new countries is to try new foods and if you have an adventurous eater they’ll surely like that part as well.

ADJUST FOR JET LAG

One of our main concerns on our first international trip was how the kids would adjust to the difference in time. We were going to Paris which is 6 hours ahead of our local time.

The best advice I had received was to not stop. At most come to your hotel or apartment, then shower, change and get out of there! Hit the city as soon as possible.

Riding the carousel in Paris, France

We couldn’t believe how well that’s worked for us. Our thinking was that our kids would be super tired, but they weren’t. While we didn’t have anything planned with a scheduled start time, we had a couple of easy activities planned.

We did those and returned to our hotel. In London, because of the time we landed and the location of our apartment, we just dropped our bags off at a Stasher location and kept it moving. We didn’t even reach our apartment until the evening, and our plane landed at 10am.

It worked out perfectly that time for us as well. The first couple of days we didn’t force them to get up to early while they got adjusted.  It wasn’t as big of a problem as we thought it might be.

MAKE USE OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

We’re used to walking everywhere, so a 15 or 20 minute walk wasn’t much for us at all. But for kids it can be a bit much over the course of a day and then a week. It can quickly add up.

London Underground in the UK

We decided to use public transport for some of those 15 or 20 minute walks. It kept them from tiring out and that worked well. Just substituting walking with taking the train here and there made a big difference in how they enjoy their day.

Public transportation is often amazingly easy to use and very efficient. It’s a great way to get around in Europe. London’s Underground as well as Paris’ metro are great examples of fantastic public transportations systems.

LET THEM APPRECIATE THE EXPERIENCE IN THEIR WAY

Giving the kids a little background ahead of time can help them enjoy some of the things that they’ll see on their vacation. Even still there are certain things that will catch their attention and they’ll enjoy.

Rome, Italy

Of course things like the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace and the Colosseum are pretty amazing and really need no introduction. Even at a relatively young age they’ll grasp some of what makes those places so special and they’ll be excited to see them and visit them.

There are some things that they just won’t care for. For example, the Spanish Steps. I believe the quote from my kids was something along the lines of “dad, it’s just steps” and then “where’s the gelato?”. 

Even though they won’t understand completely what makes a certain place so great they’ll likely get a feel of it and remember what was great to them about the place. And that’s pretty much what travel is all about anyway, isn’t it?

PACK LIGHT

Ever since we were forced to travel with only one backpack each to snag an amazing deal, we’ve learned to pack light and travel as minimal as possible. For us this means a carry on and a personal item, which is usually a backpack.

This has served us very well because overpacking is not only cumbersome and hard to manage but it can also be expensive. You may be surprised that you can fit what you need in a carry on and a backpack. Not having to lug around heavy bags gives you a lot of freedom.

Walking through the airport

Trying to make your way through the airport and to your accommodations can be increasingly difficult with multiple large bags. It’s even more difficult if you’re trying to do that and keep track of your kids.

We typically use public transportation to and from the airport so having smaller easy to manage luggage is a must.

The key is to make a packing list ahead of time that’s tailored to your destination and the needs of your family. Bring essentials such as medications, snacks, comfort items and weather appropriate clothing. Packing cubes can go a long way to helping you stay organized and save space.

ENJOY YOUR TRIP!

Are you ready for your first trip abroad with kids? It will take a little more effort, but it can be done and it’s worth it! So when you start planning your trip don’t forget to check out essential guide on planning an international trip for your family as well as expert tips on booking a flight to Europe. Safe travels!

Author

  • Jeremiah Pittmon

    Jeremiah Pittmon is a published travel writer and photographer from Cleveland, Ohio. Passionate about exploring the world with his family, he finds inspiration in all types of travel. Through his blog, smilesonarrival.com, and social media channels, he shares captivating experiences and valuable tips for families who love to travel.

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The Best Tips For Your First Trip Abroad With Kids
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