Since having our first son, my husband and I have put our international traveling passion on hold. Previously, we’d spent six months together backpacking around the world, exploring and getting lost in foreign countries: riding public transportation, eating interesting food, catching a local sports match, or simply mingling with the locals. These are experiences that broadened us, brought us closer together, and ones we always hope our children will experience as well.
And now, that opportunity came sooner than expected: We’ve moved to Santiago, Chile for the summer with our two boys! We leave behind Dallas’ 100 degree days for the Chilean Winter and a chance to show our children all that foreign travel has to offer.
Yes, it will be tiring and it is hard to travel with kids. Packing for the trip was an adventure in itself and you are never able to see as much as you would if you were traveling alone.
But the moment I saw my son interacting with a Spanish-speaking child on the playground, or heard him ask how to say “grocery store” in Spanish, or saw him enthusiastically eating lentil stew for lunch – I knew it was a worthy sacrifice and one that made trip a bit more magical for me too.
Here are some tips for traveling abroad with children:
Navigating the Passport office:
Here are the different passport offices in and around Dallas — note that not all are able to expedite so if you are in a hurry to get your passport make sure you go to one of the places that are able to fulfill your request.
- Both parents must be present unless you have a special notarized form (Form DS-3053)
- You can bring pictures from any pharmacy but they could potentially get denied if not taken correctly. My suggestion is to have your pics taken at the Passport office. $10 cash per person
- Birth certificate, SS Card and children present
- Cashiers or personal check only
- No appointments necessary at all of the locations
- Download and print passport request forms online and fill out before.
- Arrive prior to opening time to get a good spot in line.
- Snacks/entertainment also helps because it can be a long process
Before you plan your trip research here if a Visa is needed and if they require one for children as well. This can add up and take a substantial period of time to complete. So make sure to plan ahead.
- Check to see what shots are required vs. recommended and make an informed decision for yourself. The CDC has a great site for doing just that.
- Coming from a person who has gotten very sick, TWICE, while traveling abroad I can tell you that it is important to check with your Insurance provider about your coverage out of the Country and purchase additional travel insurance if need be. One that I love and trust is World Nomads
- Depending on where you go make sure to research the food and water in that Country. My rule is peel it, boil it, cook it or don’t eat it. I also stick to bottled water with no ice in most foreign countries just to be on the safe side.
- Make smart choices with children — I would stay away from street meat and unwashed fruit.
- I always pack probiotics for every vacation abroad as well. To keep their guts as strong as possible. I give it to them every night and then anytime I notice something changing in their tummy habits I up it to twice a day. Here is my favorite probiotic for children
- Liquid melatonin (30 minutes before you want them to go to sleep)
- Charge devices (I am not huge on screen time but for a 10 hour, overnight flight, this was a must
- Let them pack their own carry on – makes them feel special, empowered and a connection to home
- Champagne or hard liquor for parents
- Bring snacks because airplane food comes when it comes with no exceptions for hungry kiddos
- If you can fly overnight, do it — it should help with jet lag and cut down the amount of boredom
Sightseeing with kids:
- Know where the parks are — after a long day of sightseeing let them run off the steam in a park
- Bring snacks and water incase you can’t get to a lunch spot on time
- Trip Advisor & WikiTravel and guidebooks (Lonely Planet and Eyewitness are my favorite) will help
- Don’t be afraid of public transportation with children
- Most cabs won’t allow or have the capabilities to install car seats
- Uber abroad is your new best friend when you want to get somewhere but can’t speak the language — just enter the destination on the app and you’re on your way
- Stroller and wrap. I bring a single lightweight umbrella stroller and a lightweight wrap so I can give my kids the option. If my 4 year old needs a break, I put him in the stroller and wrap up the 17 month old. Lightweight everything is key because you have to lift the stroller quite often and carry everything with you for the day.
- Embrace napping on the go. Let go of your rules from home and just accept that a trip won’t be perfect. Stroller and car seat naps are OK.
- Be prepared to move slow and take lots of breaks. You will not be sightseeing like you used to pre kids so just slow down and enjoy what you can see
Bottom line, children are resilient and they will adjust to jetlag much faster than you will. Find the joy in the little things like chasing pigeons through a piazza or sipping wine at a winery that also happens to have a farm (win win!). Your children may not remember the trip, but the travel and experience will mold them into the interesting and worldly adults that they will become.
Stay tuned for more about our travels in South America over the next two months and follow along on Instagram @Lpedison #edisonboysdosouthamerica