For the first few years of your kids’ lives, international travel with kids is all about worrying about the flight, what food to take so they don’t starve, vaccines, etc. As your kids get older, they’ll start forming memories of their travel (I personally remember trips we took from when I was about 6) – and it’s important that these are good ones!
So beyond the normal what’s the weather like safety concerns, travel logistics, and budget, here are 5 tips for picking the perfect destination for your international travel with kids:
1 – Know your objective
If you want to go relax on a gorgeous beach or have fun on a cruise ship, that’s a very different trip than going somewhere to immerse yourself in another culture. You can obviously do both, but knowing which way you want your trip to mostly go will help narrow your focus!
2 – Think about public transportation accessibility
Public transportation is a great way to learn about a big city. You see people from all walks of life and public transport is generally built around key parts of the city.
Some cities have very stroller-friendly public transit whereas others are much tougher and would require more baby-wearing. A bit of research before you hit the subway will save you frustration and headaches.
Also, some cities have special public transit passes that can save you money on your trip.
3 – Be realistic about how much sightseeing you’ll do
The one thing you don’t want to do is make international travel (or any travel for that matter) a poor experience for your children. Especially for that first trip, they’ll remember in later years, you want those memories to be fond, not ‘that time where mom and dad dragged us to 10 museums, 5 cities, 3 countries, etc. in a week’.
Expect kids to not be interested in everything a place has to offer or a piece of history they have not learned about. Pick a destination that has a good balance of stuff to see and places to have fun in other ways as a family.
4 – Involve your kids in the planning process!
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a couple destinations within your budget, start the sell!
Tell your kids why you’re excited about these places and let them weigh in. It’s important that you don’t have a specific favorite in mind – if they want the other place, don’t discount their opinion.
5 – Travel with friends!
Whether you have friends at an international destination, or you go with friends you travel well with, your kid may feed off the energy and excitement of the others!
If you have the privilege to be able to travel abroad, it’s an amazing way to broaden your child’s horizons. Be proactive and intentional in embracing various parts of the destination country’s culture, always being respectful rather than derogatory. While taking your kids to a developing country is a great way to expose them to the economic diversity in the world, don’t demean the culture by only pointing out poverty and how lucky they are to not have to live that way.
So far, our 6-year-old son, Bubba, has been to Vancouver, Mexico (SMA), and India twice. COVID interrupted additional travel plans but we’re very excited about our summer trip to Panama (and my infant’s first trip!). I think this will be the first trip that Bubba will have some solid memories of and we can’t wait to explore Panama with him!