ionally with kids creates a lifetime of memories and instills a love for adventure and learning about other lands, but there are a few things to keep in mind once you’ve ventured across the oceans.
Schedule, but don’t overschedule.
Have an itinerary of what you want to see and do, but don’t fret if it has to change. Weather, jet lag, traffic, etc. can all impact your calendar. Have a must-do list and then add in others that are “nice-to-sees” but be willing to be flexible. Jet lag actually seems to be much harder the older you are, so take that into consideration as you plan out your trip agenda.
Be aware of all bathrooms at all times. In the U.S., this isn’t as much of a thought, as there’s always a gas station or Target to stop at, but in other countries, it’s wise to be ever-vigilant of potty stops, especially in the subways and train stations. And carry change in your pockets as many public toilets may charge a small fee for use.
This was one of the harder things for us to do, while traveling overseas, especially when we were in Japan, but we figured out a way around it. Our kids love noodles, so we thought eating would be easy with very noodle-centric cuisine…until they decided they didn’t want noodles. So, we ate at a couple of American restaurants and pointed out how they were different from U.S. Then, we figured out the magic combo: the kids ate McDonald’s and then we hopped in the sushi bar next store and had amazing ahi and nigari. Encouraging the kids to try different foods, but not forcing it was the best way to go. Besides, not even a picky 6-year old will turn down green tea ice cream.
Don’t be disappointed if your kids fail to appreciate the uniqueness or grandeur of the situation. Or don’t want to read all of the museum descriptions. They are absorbing it, even if you (and they) don’t realize it. My 9-year old will occasionally make a connection between something he’s heard in school or seen on TV and an experience or learning on a trip, and my heart leaps. And, my 7-year old made his own version of Stonehenge within a week of our trip using his Shopkins and Uno cards.
Don’t wear out your welcome.
It can be tempting to plan a 2-or 3-week trip when you’re flying a half-day to get to a location. But, we learned that depending on the ages and personalities of your kids, as interesting and fun being in a foreign environment can be, it can also be stressful. We err on the side of caution and, so far, haven’t planned trips more than eight days abroad.
Live like a local.
Historical sites, temples and attractions are great, but getting a taste of what it’s really like to live in a different country is an excellent educational opportunity (and fun). While we love museums, experiences and touristy shopping, one of our favorite things to do is to go to a local grocery store. It’s fun to explore and try different candies, treats and fruits. Local transportation like gondolas, subways and trains make for awesome experiences. Staying in an Airbnb is the ultimate way to nap native and sleep like a citizen. And my 9-year old’s head almost exploded inside the Japanese version of the Dollar Store.