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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Surviving Overseas Flights with Kids

In my last post I wrote about the pros and cons of traveling abroad with your kids. One of the cons was dealing with your kids on long flights and the jet lag. If you are thinking about going on a long flight with your family, how will the kids handle it? Here is my advice on when its the right time to take your kids on that first big trip and some ways to make it easier. 

 Everyone has their own situation and there is no hard and fast rule to help you decide when your kids are ready for a long overseas flight. I should rephrase - when YOU are ready to deal with your kids on a long overseas flight! Are you ready to deal with your kids in these potentially stressful situations - will it still be a vacation (perhaps you’ve seen this essay about taking a trip vs a vacation)? So before you start making gift bags to apologize to your fellow travelers, consider how your children will behave and how you will deal with it (and for the record I am against “I’m sorry gifts” on flights). 

Here are some things to consider before planning your first big trip: 

  •  How many kids are you bringing? Just one? You can probably make that work, especially if you have 2 adults you can tag team to get through the rough patches. 

  • What happens when you skip nap time? Is your entire day ruined? Many kids need to stick to their schedule or it’s chaos - you may want to consider waiting - jet lag with a cranky toddler will not be fun! 

  •  Have you taken flights before with your kids? How did that work out? I’ve had kids throw up in the aisle on the way to the bathroom, a child who would scream unless I let her sit on the floor until the seat belt light went off. Those were all trips under 3 hours, we were not ready for a long trip back then! 

  • Along the same lines, but will your child sleep on an evening flight or be content watching shows, coloring etc.? Everyone has their breaking point but knowing your kids tolerance for staying in a seat for a long period of time can help you decide. Maybe you’ve been on a long car ride or stuck waiting a long time for an appointment, how your kids handle these issues are all good indicators.

  • Now, this is up to you but it is my preference to leave behind bottles, diapers, strollers and car seats. This means waiting until your kids are 4-5 years old. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve taken many a strollers and diapers on domestic trips (and often rented car seats or booster seats from the car rental company to avoid the extra baggage), but we waited until our youngest was starting kindergarten to go abroad so we didn’t have any of that “stuff” to deal with. 

Let's say you have decided to go for it and bring the kids, what are some ways to prepare yourself and your kids to make the process as easy as possible? 

  • Have movies and shows downloaded onto a device. First off, sometimes things go wrong with inflight entertainment, on a flight this summer my audio jack was broken and I couldn’t listen to the movies. You will also most likely have to pay for wifi and you are better off already having your go to entertainment downloaded and ready to go. Also, tv is Europe is a lot different from the US (and Netflix doesn’t always work on your US device!) 

  •  Prepare your kids for sleeping on the plane, get them excited for it, make a “schedule” for the flight (ex: we will take off, get our dinner/snack served to us and watch a show then read a story and close our eyes). Small kids can curl up and be pretty comfortable. Have them wear clothes that are comfy - even pjs if they want to. Your airline will give you pillows and blankets, they might provide you with eye covers. For my younger kids we bring our own small blankets (that fit into a backpack) and neck pillows. 

  • Consider booking a hotel room or renting your apartment for the night of your flight. I have not done this but its something that I wish I had done. Even if you/your kids get some sleep on the plane, its going to be 2:00/3:00 AM to your body when you arrive. Depending on your flight you will be arriving anytime from 7:00/11:00 AM local time - that's a long stretch of time before the usual hotel check in time, trust me when I say your kids may not be up for sightseeing for a few hours before you can get into a bed. 

  • Being in your hotel or rental shortly after your arrival means being able to take a nap and shower. There is lots of advice about getting over jet lag and adjusting to a new time zone, this is what has worked for us. We all try to take a nap, I will set my alarm so I don’t sleep for too long. Once we have all had a chance to rest we get up and shower, freshen up. Then we go walk around, find someplace for an early dinner, maybe take a long walk back to our place, explore a little bit, find an ice cream place and try to go to bed as late as we can. The next morning we wake up and are “on schedule.” 

Do you have any tips for surviving an overseas flight with kids or dealing with jet lag?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Family Travel Abroad

Have you ventured on a trip out of the country with your kids? According to the 2012 Profile of US Travelers Visiting Overseas Destinations, only 8% of US Travelers abroad were accompanied by children. That number includes the Caribbean so I can imagine the number visiting Europe, Asia and beyond is much smaller. Is taking a European trip something you’ve wanted to do or does it not interest you? There are always two sides to every story, lets start with the reasons people don’t want to travel overseas with their kids.
  • Cost is the number one reason, right? The costly plane tickets, not to mention getting passports for your children and paying for lodging large enough to fit your family.
  • When you get married people tell you to “make sure you travel before you have kids” and perhaps traveling through Europe with kids in tow isn’t what you’ve always imagined, even if you didn’t get to travel before you had them.
  • It’s a long plane ride and there will be jet lag. There will also be looks of annoyance and concern from your fellow travelers.
  • Will the kids be interested? You will be in a foreign land where you don’t speak the language and if the kids are bored it’s even more stressful!

Traveling outside of the country with kids can be a big deal and its not for everyone. Many families prefer to travel within the US with their kids, there are a million places to see and lots of fun things for kids to experience. Families have different priorities and a jaunt over to Europe may not one you yours! 

But Wait! There’s another side of the story!
Maybe you’ve always dreamed of a trip across the pond and have been thinking about traveling abroad with your family, there are many reasons to go!

Yes, it’s going to be pricy to travel abroad with kids. It’s also pricy to spend a week at Disney World, spring break at Atlantis or to go on a cruise, it all depends on your family and their interests. The main cost will be plane tickets. Keeping an eye out (or asking your Travel Agent!) for good times to travel is key. We went to France a few years ago and flew home on a flight that arrived 36 hours before the kids had to get on the bus for the first day of school. That was not ideal timing, but it was $400 cheaper a ticket – a savings of $2,400 versus traveling earlier in the summer. Since the kids were still on Paris time they were up at 5 AM for the first day of school, so it all worked out!

Maybe you didn’t have the chance to travel before you got married and you don’t feel like waiting to be an empty nester before you do. It may not be the same as a honeymoon but If you have the opportunity you may want to travel with your kids before they get too old to want to hang out with you!

Yup, it’s a long plane ride and there will be a big time change. You are the best judge of your kid(s) and if they can handle it. I’ll have another post coming up soon about deciding if you are up for an overseas flight with kids and ways to make it more manageable.

Every kid is not going to love a trip to Europe, you will tell them how lucky they are, ask them “do you know how many kids get to do this?” They may not give a darn or they may absolutely love it! I’ve had people ask me “But what did you do there with your kids? Weren’t they bored?” There are lots of amazing things for kids to see and do on a trip abroad that will give them a chance to experience history and culture unlike ever before, and yes have FUN  (not to mention lots of yummy food!). I’ll have some posts coming up soon that will give you a better idea of ways to make your trip fun for you and the kids.

If traveling to Europe or elsewhere abroad is something you really want to do, you are prepared and know what to expect, you can have an amazing trip, even with kids in tow.

Let me know if you’d like to chat about taking your family on a trip abroad or if you are looking for fun vacation ideas right here in the USA… 

I’d love to help you plan the best trip for your family!

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