Family vacations are what memories are made of. Anytime you can get the entire household off to a distant land to spend some quality time together is a great thing. There are countless benefits of traveling outside of the United States early on for a young child. From the culture they experience to the sights they see to the different languages they hear, it's a sea of worldly experience that can make a big impression.
However, no trip that you're going to take with children is going to be completely smooth. Getting the family together for a 3-hour drive to a relative's house is a lot different than heading on a 12-hour flight (plus a layover). Working as a nanny for many celebrities over the past two decades, I've traveled all over the world. One important thing I learned from all of the destinations that I've been to for my work -- London, Italy, Paris, Switzerland, Fiji, Tokyo, Morocco and Australia -- is that it's essential to be prepared for anything unforeseen that may come your way. Whether we traveled to a movie premiere, a film location or a family vacation, I realized that it's always an adjustment for the children, especially if they are not used to traveling very far. Through the years, I've found ways to make traveling out of the country easier on everyone. Below are my seven travel tips to consider before you take off with your family on your next adventure overseas.
Take a First Aid Training Class: I think every parent should take a first aid class, especially if you're planning on traveling out of the country. You could be on an African safari and something could go wrong, endangering the children. There may be no one in sight that can administer first aid. Parents should be prepared at all times because often with children if something can go wrong, it will go wrong.
Pack for a Longer Trip: When you go overseas it can be for a longer duration of time than a domestic trip, so you have to pack more and be smarter about it. Try to bring only what is needed because airlines these days seem to charge extra for anything they can. And many of these fees are very high, so if you're on a budget plan, plan, plan. I suggest finding out if the hotel has a laundry service. This way you can pack less and wash as needed.
Eat Smart: When you're out of the country, it's important to not allow your kids to just select anything randomly from the menu. When you're in a foreign place you need to use your instincts when you go into a restaurant. They serve different cuisine and you need to keep your eyes peeled on many things, including whether the food is cooked thoroughly.
Contact Info: Make sure your children know the name of the hotel and have the info written down on a piece of paper in their pocket with a phone number included. If, God forbid, you and your child should ever get separated and he or she becomes lost, the identification of their hotel becomes of primary importance.
Night Life: Depending on where you are visiting, you and your spouse may want to take in a play or have dinner alone at a restaurant at night. If you don't have anyone with you to watch the children, you may have to hire a reputable nanny through the hotel or the American Embassy. Ask a lot of questions prior to employing them and make sure that they speak fluent English. If your cell phone doesn't work, pick up a mobile phone that can operate in that country in case the nanny needs to reach you.
What to Watch: When there's some downtime, don't let your kids just turn on the television and channel surf like they may be allowed to do at home. You don't know the kind of programming in foreign countries like you do in America. Keep the remote in your possession and find a channel that is kid friendly and leave it on that station.
Snap Away: Having photos of the trip is priceless. You can load them onto Facebook for friends and relatives. But children are known for losing expensive digital cameras. I suggest that you use the digital one and give each child a throwaway/disposable camera. This way, they can have fun and see the trip through their own eyes and if they drop the camera, who cares?
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