As you know (because I’ve reminded you about 8,502 times), we went to France for a family vacation recently.
I honestly did not know if we would emerge from the trip unscathed, still sane with good memories intact. Young children can be challenging to travel with, and multiply that by two, both aged under 5, add on the 13,000 flying miles both ways – well, that’s a perfect recipe for a disastrous holiday.
In the event that you do decide to (foolishly) go on an international trip with your family in the future, you may want to take some notes on how we survived the whole thing.
1. We collected an insane number of frequent flyer miles. I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but collect enough to get free business class tickets for at least two adults. Now, I am not bragging. We ABSOLUTELY CANNOT afford to fly business class ANYWHERE, if it was on our own coin. I scraped together over 5 years worth of accumulated points on my credit card, and converted them to miles. My husband had been doing a fair amount of business travel, so in went those points. He has no points left on his credit cards either. But we flew business class (we did have to pay a child and infant fare for the children), and it saved our asses on the flights both ways. The space allowed them to sleep during the long (14 hour) flight. The endless supply of snacks and water was a lifesaver. The additional baggage weight allowance was a blessing because we all know children need a lot of
crap stuff when traveling.
2. We learned to love screen gadgets. I know, we’re not supposed to ply our children with technology for long amounts of time. But when you’re looking at hours of travel (this includes waiting at the airport, waiting for baggage, travel to the airport from home, and from airport to your accommodation overseas) – bite the bullet, let the kids play on the iPad or tablet. Put some educational TV on it if it makes you feel better. Believe me, it helped keep my kids occupied when they were bored, and it meant no whining or tantrums. Oh, you do need an equal amount of tablets and children. Because, one must have what the other does. Again, we are not wealthy braggarts who have iPads coming out of our ears. The kids used a banged up, cracked second-generation iPad, and we bought a cheap Samsung Galaxy tablet for the trip.
3. We embraced all the chocolate. For me, that is.
4. We gave up the idea of a routine. If you’re going to a different time zone, trust me on this, just go with the flow. That you’re actually traveling is already “un-routine”. Don’t worry about nap times, snack times, meal times, bed times. Do what feels right. See how the children are feeling. If they are tired, they’ll sleep. If they’re hungry, they’ll eat. Get back to some normalcy once your bodies have adjusted to the time difference.
5. We had fun. The most important thing. Ditch the daily worries aside. Do extraordinary (to you) things. Try something new. Let the children try something new. Go with the flow. Be flexible. Focus on happiness. Embrace the small things. Take pictures. Be together. Just have fun.
These things worked for us. They might not work for you. Likely, they won’t. You know this is tongue-in-cheek right? I’m wiggling my bum as I free-write this. Please don’t call me a snobbish, pretentious, sanctimonious ass for suggesting flying business class, handing children aged 4 and under iPads, and plying them with sweets.
PS: We had fun. No one was the worst for wear. I have a lot of chocolate stains on my clothes.
What tips do you have to survive international travel with kids?