Tips for International Travel with Young Children
I travel between Hawaii and Australia about once a year. Before having children, the trip was easy to make, now with two children under four years, it has become a learning and patience generating expedition. Here are my tips for International travel with young children.
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If you’re a parent, you know going anywhere with kids is a process, even if it’s just a quick trip to the grocery store. Deciding to take a trip can be daunting, but it’s definitely do-able… with a bit of preparation.
1. Plan and organise your trip in advance
The more you can plan and prepare for your trip in advance, the less stress you will have. Decide where you will be going, where you will be staying, what essentials you will need to bring/purchase/hire (car seat, stroller, baby bed, etc.). Book and organise what you can in advance, but always allow for flexibility.
2. Get all your travel documents together as early as possible
If this is the first time you are taking your kids overseas, then you will need to get them passports. Every country is different, in Australia it takes about 4 weeks to process. If you plan in advance then you will not need to waste money on expedited passports, which usually adds a few hundred dollars extra to your travel budget.
Also, apply for your visas early. Sometimes these can take much longer then you anticipate and you do not want to have to postpone your trip because you left it until the last minute.
3. Make a packing list
I find it so helpful to make a list to check off when packing. A few of my essentials include:
- Passports and travel visas and documents
- Power adapter
- Phone/camera chargers
- Headphones – Pack the kids and yourself some headphones to use on the plane. Most airlines I’ve been on provide you with a set, but they are very poor quality and hurt little ears.
- Nappies (diapers)
- Baby food – Be sure to pack enough for the plane and I like to pack one extra day worth of food in case we are too tired to go shopping on that first day of arrival.
- Travel snacks – Pack a nice variety for bored little munchers.
- Toys – Get a new toy for the trip to cut down boredom, I purchased this magnetic travel game before my last trip and it was great for my 3-year-old!!! Janod Magnetibook – Magnetic Racers Vehicle Game with travel case
- Car Seat – Bring one, borrow one, rent one or buy one. Read below for some of my experiences.
- Baby cot – I found having a safe bed for my infant was so valuable when travelling. I use the Phil and Teds Travel Crib, its the only one I’ve used and I really like it. It’s easy to set up, the mattress inflates to give extra comfort, it’s fairly light and fits in my suitcase or has a carry bag if you are tight on luggage space: Phil and Ted Travel Crib
- Spare hand-carry clothes – Pack 1-2 spare sets of clothes to take on the plane for your little ones and yourself! So essential, especially when your little one gets an upset belly and you end up soaked in vomit right before boarding a 10-hour plane ride (yes this happened on my last trip).
- Pram/stroller or baby carrier – Decide if you will need one when travelling. Most airlines will check a pram at no additional cost, but you will have the burden of travelling with the additional bulky item.
- Medications – Pack the medications that you will need as well as some cold/flu medications in case anyone happens to catch something on the trip.
4. Check on your airplane baby options – Bassinet, etc.
If you are travelling with an infant, you may be able to use a baby bassinet that your airplane carrier may supply. Not all airlines will have these options, so check with the airlines that you are travelling with. Also, its good to note that if they do have this option, it may only be available in specific seats so again check with your airlines. If your infant is sitting up on their own, then this may not be an option for you as they may not be safe to use at that stage.
4. To travel with a car seat or not to travel with a car seat
This is a hard decision to make. I have travelled in all scenarios. I’ve travelled with no car seat and rented one with the car hire, and that option worked well. I’ve also borrowed car seats from family and friends to avoid travelling with one. On this last trip, we decided to borrow a car seat for my son (age 3) and travel with one car seat for our infant (age 11 months).
Travelling with a car seat can be very cumbersome. It is big and bulky and heavy when you are moving from car to train to plane. We decided to bring one car seat since our infant could no longer fit in the baby bassinet that the plane provides. We were lucky to have an open seat next to us on both trips where we actually strapped in the car seat on the plane which provided a safe place for the baby to sleep and give our tired arms a much-needed break.
Do I recommend travelling with a car seat? Yes and No. It depends on the situation. If you purchase a seat for your child and can manage the additional burden of travelling through the airport with the car seat then Yes, its a great option, especially on long haul flights.
Also, one thing to note, your car seat must meet standards in order to use it on the plane. Check with your airlines beforehand so you are carrying it and unable to use it.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask the stewardess or other parents for help
When my son was about two years old I travelled alone with him on a 10-hour flight. When he was sleeping I really needed to use the restroom. I had a moment of panic wondering what to do in this scenario. I couldn’t just run to the bathroom and leave him there on his own in a plane full of strangers. So I paged the stewardess and asked if they could watch him while I ran to the bathroom. They were happy to help and it put my mind at ease.
On a recent flight, we were surrounded by other kids. At one point the mother in front of us came to my seat and whispered to me asking if I had an extra nappy. Of course, I do! I was so happy to help a fellow mom in need. The nappy may have been a size too big for her baby but I’m sure it did the job. We know what you are going through, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need.
6. Don’t plan too much for the first day
Your children and you will be exhausted after getting to your destination. Allow some quiet relaxation time that first day and settle yourself and your little ones into the new timezone. Take a moment to sit back and enjoy the solid ground and new sites. Let your crazy adventures start on the second day.