By Contributor Jen Shragge
Traveling abroad with young children is no easy feat. Many people assume that traveling half way across the world with a child under the age of five is simply crazy. While planning a recent trip to India with our four and a half year old, let me assure you that there were many moments where I started to think, “Am I crazy?” or “What are thinking?”; however, having your child see other parts of the world is both gratifying and ultimately well worth the hassle. Follow these easy (I’m using that word very lightly) six steps and you’re on your way!
- Be prepared.
Make a list and check it twice. There are many parts of this amazing world where children are potty trained before the age of two (i.e no such thing as a pull ups or size 5 diapers) or where bottles and sippy cups do not exist. Make sure you know what you cannot live without and then pack it.
- Visit a travel clinic.
Even if you are not a full subscriber to the standard North American vaccination schedule, when you travel abroad you do not want to mess with disease. Find out what is recommended. Do your homework (Canadians can look here: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/countries-pays/index-eng.php and Americans can reference the CDC here: http://www.cdc.gov/) and make sure you protect yourself and your child. Nothing will kill a trip of a lifetime faster than an emergency visit to a local hospital.
- Bring your own food.
While exploring new places and trying new foods seems exciting to most grown-ups, children depend on consistency and familiarity and can be very resistant to trying new things at the best of times. This becomes especially relevant if you are traveling to an area known for spicier foods, foods with very strong flavours or where clean water is not readily available. Bring along instant oatmeal packets, single serving peanut or other nut butters, pouch-style apple sauces and lots of granola bars and crackers. Just be sure to declare the items you have if questioned at customs at your destination.
- Embrace the local culture.
Even though I have just advised that you bring lots of food and snacks, try your best to embrace everything the local culture has to offer and encourage your little one to do the same. Even if you get shut down each time, continue to offer local foods or cultural experiences whenever possible. My son powered through coconut water straight out of a fresh young coconut in Goa, India without much encouragement from his (not as keen) parents.
- Bring a set of wheels.
If you have a young preschooler and are traveling to a locale where you will be doing a lot of walking, look into investing in a good quality travel/umbrella stroller. One that fully reclines becomes invaluable if kiddo needs a nap at an odd time or in the middle of the day. If you have an older child, a folding razor scooter can become a lifesaver if little darling is complaining endlessly about the walking; it also folds up nice and small and fits into a suitcase with ease.
- Let. It. Go.
Let go of the idea of bedtimes, meal times, appropriate foods and television/screen time. Part of traveling means you and your child will be all messed up for some number of days and if you want to keep sane, you simply have to roll with it. Jetlag has no real “cures” and does eventually dissipate. Be prepared for early mornings or late nights, or both, for a few days after arrival and especially after returning home.
Have you made the trek abroad with little ones? What are some of your best travel tips?
Jen Shragge lives just south of Vancouver, BC with her Kid, Hubby and Doggie. When she’s not trying to make the world greener, she is trying to get her family to eat more green. She writes about her challenges and includes the recipes at cookingforthecarnivore.