Do you have a passport?
First things first. If you are reading this post, that means you are considering heading out of the country. Go hop in your car and drive to the nearest passport facility (usually the main post office) and get one! It takes several weeks to process your request unless you are willing to pay a ridiculous amount of money. I always make sure I have a current passport in case I am feeling spontaneous!
Don’t forget your little ones passport! Here’s a tip: make sure both parents are present when applying for your child’s passport. I made the mistake of going alone at first and was told that my daughter’s father had to be present. Be sure to bring their birth certificate as well.
Where are you going?
Is there a certain place that you have always dreamed of going? Or are you completely clueless? The biggest decision you will be making is deciding on your destination. If you are concerned about “kid friendly” destinations, I want you to throw that mindset out of the window! Pretty much any part of the world can be kid friendly if you plan accordingly. I mean, there ARE children living in all parts of the world, am I right?
The main aspect of choosing your destination is figuring out what type of getaway you are picturing. Only then can you really start planning.
-Do you want to gallivant around a European city? Take trains around a country or even to multiple countries?
-Would you rather pick one location and stay there?
-Do you see yourself relaxing on a beach while your children splash around in a crystal clear ocean?
-Or are you looking for a more cultural experience filled with art, foreign foods and history?
And YES, you can do all these things with your children! I am living proof by traveling solo with my toddler!
Luggage or Backpack?
How adventurous are you? If you are planning a multiple destination adventure, I would highly suggest sticking with a backpack. If your child is old enough, you can get them a small backpack to carry themselves with their necessities. It will be a total pain to lug around suitcases through train stations or along European cobble stone roads. You will also be screaming TOURIST. With a backpack, you can easily hop on and off public transportation, move efficiently to your hotel or hostel and avoid checking a bag on your plane. Just be sure to purchase a lock to keep the pickpockets away. That being said, backpacking definitely isn’t for everyone. There is nothing wrong with packing a suitcase, especially if you are staying in one location and won’t be walking to your hotels. It all depends on what your voyage entails. So think, what will make things easier and less stressful for you and your family?
For my fellow backpackers, I absolutely LOVE my Osprey Packs Farpoint 40
How long do you plan on staying?
This is another important question to ask yourself. Many people try to squeeze in too much into a short period of time. Be reasonable. You don’t want to feel rushed during your travels; you should feel the opposite. If you are planning to visit several different cities or countries, ensure that you give each place enough time to see all that it has to offer. The longer you spend in one destination, the more you will discover and immerse yourself in that particular culture. This is especially important when traveling with your children. The more you are on the move, means less time for your child to adapt to new surroundings. Take your time, it will make for a much smoother journey…for everyone.
Book it! Flights → Hotels → Itinerary
Once you have figured out your destination of choice and length of stay, go ahead and book your flights. You will want to book well in advance to get the best deals. Once you have your flights booked, start researching hotels. Make sure the hotels are child friendly prior to booking. Many offer cribs for children at no charge. When traveling with children, I would suggest you pick a hotel in a convenient location. This way you can walk to all main attractions and avoid extra transportation hassles. Also, this will ensure you are always in close proximity to your hotel in case your little angel has a temper tantrum and is in need of a nap. Trust me.
Once everything is booked, it is time to start working on your itinerary. And when I say itinerary, I mean a tentative guide. Because if you’re a parent you already know that your child basically puts you on their schdule. To create your itinerary, first decide all your “must see’s and do’s”. Open up google maps and search the location of everything you wish to see. Group the excursions that are close together on the same days and so on. Looking at a map will give you a good idea of where everything is and the best route to take. I always leave the last day of my trip completely blank. Doing so will allow you the chance to see anything you may have missed or to simply just relax on your last day before going back to the real world.
Packing for your little one
This isn’t as hard as you may think. I want you to pay attention to everything your little one uses in the course of one day (minus toys). Make a list and write down everything you see your child using. When it comes down to it, your child only needs the necessities. For my toddler, I noticed that all she really needed were clothes, diapers, wipes, one sippy cup and her favorite toy. Seriously, that is it. You don’t need to bring tons of toys when traveling. Kids are curious by nature and exploring new environments will be way more exciting than old toys from home. My motto is if your kid can live without it, don’t pack it. Less is more when it comes to traveling with little ones.
-Get travel insurance. Just do it. You never know what can happen.
-Don’t rely on credit cards. Exchange some money for the currency of your destination.
-Speaking of credit cards; notify credit card companies of your travel plans.
-Inquire with your cell phone company whether or not your phone is set up to work in another country.
-Book a red eye flight. This is the best chance you have that your child will sleep!
-Be sure to make a copy of you and your child’s passport prior to leaving incase some crazy person decides to steal your passport. It happens
-If you are planning to visit museums or attractions with ticketed entries, I would suggest purchasing your tickets online prior to leaving the country. This will end up saving you a ton of money down the road.
-Can’t decide on a destination? If your child is old enough, let them choose for you. You may be surprised.
-Forget the stroller if possible. Substitute a stroller for a baby carrier and save the frustration of dealing with another bulky object. I love my trusty Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier
–Have patience. Traveling with your children is an incredible experience. Go in without expectations and you won’t be disappointed.