7 tips for traveling internationally with kids

As I was SCUBA diving a few weeks ago, my main thought was how I’d love to be holding Kyle’s hand, experiencing for the first time with him the strange thrill of breathing underwater. I saw Nemo hanging out in a sea anemone on the Great Barrier Reef, and of course, my knee-jerk reaction was point it out to Tate.

Oz has moved up on our list as a place we want to visit as a family. I’m so thankful to have experienced Queensland with a group of bloggers, but it’ll be all the more special when we return as a clan.

I know a little family jaunt to Australia isn’t realistic for everyone—but it can be with thoughtful planning, or if you’re not too far from there anyway (Simple Mom has a global audience). We plan to visit the country as part of our round-the-world trip.

I’m a big believer in not putting off major trips until kids are older—the younger they start traveling, the better travelers they become, in my experience. Here are good things to know about traveling globally with small kids, particularly to the Land Down Under.

1. Remember the seasons, and travel with them, not against them.

June is winter in Australia, along with everywhere else in the southern hemisphere. The tropics reside in the northern segment of the country, not the southern. I know this is a giant “duh,” but it’s easy to forget when you habitually think of August as the hottest month of the year.

Winter (June through August) is a great time to visit Queensland, since it’s still warm but not terribly hot. Visibility is good for the Great Barrier Reef, although Aussies find the water a bit chilly (it can go as low as 72 degrees Fahrenheit; 22 degrees Celsius).

2. Loosen up on the long flights.

We treat long airline flights as “special treats” for the kids. Sure, we keep to certain standards (especially as a courtesy to other passengers), but our normal routine has gone out the window—why try and fight it?

The kids can have multiple juices when the flight attendants offer, and I have to admit, the myriad kid-friendly movies on personal screens are a godsend. We pretty much let the kids watch movies nonstop, so long as their behavior remains appropriate. Sure, we’d like them to sleep, but we don’t expect it—I don’t sleep well on planes, either. If it happens, awesome.

My flight from LAX to Sydney was long—a bit over 14 hours. Make sure the kids walk around every few hours (unless they’re sleeping), take advantage of airport playgrounds during layovers, and allow them to enjoy the airline treats.

3. Enjoy the natural offerings as much as possible.

Sure, we visited Disneyland Paris on our trip to France a few years ago, but I think those outings should be tempered with enjoying creation whenever possible. Visit national parks, go camping, and drive deeper into small towns—you’ll get a much richer, organic experience.

The options are endless in Queensland, Australia:

• snorkel or SCUBA along the Great Barrier Reef
• hike, camp, or zipline through the rainforest
• go croc spotting on a riverboat cruise
• kayak along Cape Tribulation

…Or simply take a picnic to the beach and make a day of it (but make sure it’s not jellyfish season!).

4. Make it educational but fun.

If you make a game of it and show interest yourself, learning about the history and science behind where you’re visiting could be the highlight of your trip. I’m a sucker for history myself, so I love learning about old buildings and the original people who first called a spot of land Home.

But I totally enjoyed the science-y bits behind my time in Queensland. A highlight was chatting with a film editor whose footage can be seen in BBC’s latest documentary about the Great Barrier Reef (it’ll be available in North America sometime December 2012). He also films a lot footage for Discovery Channel’s infamous Shark Week.

Mid-sentence, he shouted “Crikey!” and ran over to show us an epaulette shark. He picked him up (he was in the middle of mating—sorry, dude…), and taught us all about this unusual shark species. That afternoon remains one of the highlights of my time in Oz.

5. Enjoy the cultural and linguistic nuances.

Instead of fighting the differences in foreign countries, embrace and enjoy them. Some things can be harder than others (such as a completely different language than yours), but continually keep this mindset, and teach it to your kids: it’s not wrong, it’s just different.

Australians and Americans both speak English, but they are two very different brands of the same language. We had a ball learning the various Aussie lingo. For one, they shorten everything—uni for university, sunnies for sunglasses, brekky for breakfast, prezzies for presents, mozzies for mosquitoes.

They also call swimsuits either togs or cozzies (depending on their region of origin), and they have a delightful array of nicknames for men’s Speedos. Oh, and they must give everyone a nickname. How on earth do you nickname me? Either Tshie or Oxie.

Yeah… It doesn’t make much sense. But it’s fun.

6. Embrace the food.

Unless you’ve got a serious food allergy on your hands, resist the urge to pack backup Goldfish or mac-n-cheese. In Australia, I had kangaroo, crocodile, and a variety of ice cream like wattle seed, soursop, passionfruit, and black sapote. It was all delicious. Can’t say I loved the Vegemite, but I did try it (even though Darren says I tried it wrong).

If the kids see you trying new things with a good attitude, they will, too. And in Australia, you can always fall back on “normal” food as well… like Tim Tams.

7. Spend more money on experiences than souvenirs.

You’d probably guess that I’m not a big fan of souvenirs and travel tchotchkies that just collect dust on a shelf. I’d much rather spend money on experiences than on things to bring home. You can always take photos of you enjoying the experience, then frame and hang it at home.

I did buy a few small souvenirs for the kids (small stuffed kangaroos, koalas, and cassowaries are hard to resist), but otherwise, everything else was consumable. I love heading to local grocery stories for souvenirs—it’s a great place for a cultural comparison, the items are much more affordable, and they’re usually consumable.

For our family, international travel isn’t a one-day dream—we’d rather prioritize our money to spend visiting cultures and far-off lands over two cars or a large house. It’s just how we roll, and it makes for a lot of fun memories.

We also pack light, ignore the glares on the plane, and typically only eat out once per day. These little things go a long way to making family travel more fun and affordable.

I know a lot of you have traveled internationally—what’s been your experience in traveling with kids? Any bits of advice you’d add?

I visited Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef courtesy of Tourism Queensland. For more travel inspiration, check out their Queensland blog.

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Nice article. Very interesting as well as very informative. Thanks for sharing this

  2. Thanks, Tsh. I know this will come in handy in the future. Right now my baby sits through half of a 3-hour bus ride and sleeps through the other half. She also slept through a 15-minute paddle boat ride. If it weren’t for financial constraints, I’d say this is the best time for me to go on an international travel with my kid.

  3. Thrilled you loved Aus. Yes we are a little unique. Enjoy. Kerin (Australia)

  4. As a long-time fan and a Queenslander living in the Persian Gulf, I’ve enjoyed hearing your perspective on Australia!

  5. I lived in New Zealand for awhile before I got married but the closest I got to Australia was sitting on the runway in a Quantas plane. Bummer. It sounds like a great place to take the kiddos. Josh could teach them to surf. 😉

  6. When we travel far, we prefer night flights. Especially with young children, it is so much easier. They’ll sleep (even if you are not) instead of getting bored.

    • That’s a good idea…if your kids sleep. My kids barely sleep no matter what time it is, especially when we’re going to a new time zone. 🙂

      • I always advice parents to fly when their kids are happiest! I have two that even when extremely tired, are pretty easy going and happy and will eventually fall asleep. I will hands down book flights in the evening when that works and hope for some sleep. My sister has two little ones that if they go past their bedtime around 7pm will melt AND one of them might refuse (loudly!!) to go to sleep anywhere but a bed. But, they are happy and smiley at 5-6am. She books flights early obviously. Each parent knows their kiddos…take their disposition and happy time into consideration when booking flights 🙂

  7. Good planning to take lots of snacks for travel, but *don’t* try to take food through customs into Australia (or New Zealand). They’re (rightly) paranoid about importing plant pests or diseases, and eveything has to be declared. Be prepared to search through your bags and dispose of everything in the ‘food rubbish bins’ on disembarking from the plane. You can try to take unopened food items through customs. You must declare everything, and they’ll review the items and decide if it can be imported or not (much easier not to try….). There are lots of warnings on the plane and at customs – but stressed-out Mama’s with grumpy toddlers can zone these out. There are substantial instant fines if you are caught with undeclared food items. A nasty start to your holiday.

  8. i live in perth and i’ve done the perth to houston trip twice with my kids (who are now 6 and 4), and while stressful at the time, was easy enough to manage – for all 36 hours or so. maybe that’s because i pack light (two smallish suitcases for the four of us for three weeks) and my girls are easily entertained.
    i completely agree with the experiences and food as souvenirs (although as a papercrafter, i did take up an awful lot of space with my stamps and stuff on the way home – we had to get – *gasp* – an extra carry-on bag!) we brought back a bunch of things we can’t get here (powdered lemonade! graham crackers!) but i wish i could have brough back some bread-in-a-can… still think that’s the most hilarious food ever… it is wise to be aware of customs restrictions before leaving/returning – email or make a phone call if an internet search won’t shed any light.
    language fascinates me – one of our texan friends grew up close to the mexican border, so throws the occasional spanish into conversation, which was so fun for the girls – it was like dora! in real life! (spanish being generally fairly useless in australia.)
    one more thing we found – you can’t do it all. i’ve never seen uluru or the great barrier reef. our texan friends have never been to the grand canyon (but we have! a ha!). there’s always something that you’re not going to be able to do – make peace with that before you leave home.
    (ps – kangaroo is the only red meat i buy. yum…)

    • Totally can’t do everything, you’re right. There’s lots I haven’t seen in the U.S.—in fact, I’ve probably seen more of other countries than my own!

  9. Lol! TimTams are normal food Tsh? LOVE IT!! They are definitely a fav here! Glad you liked it … How did you have the vegemite? Love this too! … And swimming at this time of year – not even in Darwin do we go!! … Was great to hear your perspective on this wonderful land I live in! There is a lot to see and do here in Australia – the whole continent over!

  10. Yes! x 7

  11. Great tips! Enjoy the culture is my favorite! I grew up overseas, and we had lots of US visitors come through. We could tell you in the first five minutes who was going to have a great time and who wasn’t. The ones that were curious and excited to try the new things were going to have a blast. The ones that were no more off the plane before they were already pointing out (in a negative or frustrated was) how everything was different would be dying for home in no time. It really is all in how you look at things. I hope to pass on to my children the good curiosity!

  12. We haven’t done international traveling with our kids, but we do travel from one side of Canada to the other (I’m from the east coast, he’s from the west). We relax the rules, bring lots and lots of snacks, and allow unlimited screen time. Lots of new apps on the Touch! PLus I stockpile used kids books from yard sales, etc. and hide them away until we travel so there is lots of exciting new reading material for the looooonnnnnnng flight. And you know what? It is always fine.

  13. I especially like tip # 7. We’d much rather have experiences than souvenirs. Come to think of it I don’t think I have any souvenirs from any big trip I’ve taken. And yet I have awesome memories.

  14. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the tips! I have missed travelling abroad and when our littlest one (currently in-utero) is 2ish I’m thinking we’ll get back to it!

  15. All good-to-know tips. Now it’s time to plan our adventure and get going! I’m praying we can do something like this sooner rather than later like you said. Would be so much fun and you hate to wait – for the very fact that it may never have a chance of happening later.

  16. Hey Tshie, the beaches over here in the West of Downunder are spectacular, just so you know for when you’re planning your family visit 😉

  17. We’re planning a summer vacation in Los Angeles, but since we live in Jordan, I am currently gearing up for a LONG flight with four little ones. It takes a lot of lollipops, lots of crayons, and fully charged Nintendos for the bigger two. We take international flights yearly, and I think the best thing you can do is KNOW you won’t get any down time. If you plan on spending the entire time reading or coloring or otherwise entertaining little ones, you won’t get quite as grumpy over the fact that every other person on the plane seems to be napping, reading or relaxing.

    • Very true. I’ve long given up getting anything “done” on a flight with kids. I figure that’ll come back when I’m in a new life stage. 🙂

  18. Our children were born in Europe and we didn’t stop traveling around when we had them. Our daughter has done a lot of European travel because we moved to the US shortly after my son was born. We still take them everywhere, being third culture kids with feet in Europe, Canada and various parts of the States. All your tips are great, especially #7. I would also say to not be afraid to let your kids try some of the local food and activities. I know it sounds silly and that the reason a lot of us travel is to experience new things, but I’ve seen so many anxious parents whip out food brought from home at a restaurant or tell their child they can’t play in a playground with children whose language they don’t speak. True, sometimes there’s safety or health issues, but sometimes we also just want our children to behave well or we want to make a good impression. I love that my daughter has played with children in Prague, Rome, Florence, and all over Germany and France. She also loves deep fried artichokes, parsley potatoes, knoedel, wurst, braised ox and all manner of things we’ve sampled along the way. I know all kids are not as open to new foods and places and people, but it’s awesome when we give them an opportunity to find out in a safe way.

    • I agree! I love that my kids have done “unusual” things, too, like play in playgrounds in Paris, the Middle East, Thailand, etc. Our oldest doesn’t even understand that her experiences have been a little unorthodox for a 7-year-old.

  19. What a great article!! In March I took my 14 month old to Australia…the flight there was a bit of a struggle because she wanted to nurse the entire time and I hadn’t prepared myself for 14 hours of straight nursing LOL. I love LOVE how you encourage people to start travelling while their kids are young…I totally agree!!

  20. These are great tips! My favorite is spend more money on experiences than on souvenirs. I have never been a fan of souvenirs– rushing around the city to find inexpensive trinkets for people who are not even on the trip with you. Sending post cards are fun. I think international travel sparks intrigue and a larger world view for our children and ourselves. Sometimes we get stuck in our current situation, and I think world travel inspires global responsibility.

  21. I can relate to a lot of this. Our family has just spent 14 months travelling and we have another 5 weeks to go before we head back to Canada. We have been based in Finland, Belgium, Greece and Netherlands but have visited 16 countries. Our boys are just turning 10 and 12 in the next few weeks. We have written a lot about our experiences on our blog and are bringing home thousands of pictures rather than lots of souvenirs. I also really enjoyed the Homesick Blog back near the end of April – we were in Italy then and I was just approaching a “big” birthday and feeling a little travel weary and homesick. That podcast really “hit the spot”

  22. We have six children, ages 16mos. to 12 yrs., and we LOVE to travel. Of course, everyone we know thinks we are nuts. But we have also found it true that it’s best to start young, and they’ll catch the travel bug also. So glad to find someone else who would rather spend their cash on travel than a big house!

  23. We took our twins to Europe when they were 4 and 7–great experiences both times. My #1 tip: Stay in family camping resorts. It’s where Europeans vacation with their families. You can tent-camp (which we didn’t do), but you can also rent small manufactured homes. These are like little villages, with grocery stores, discos, restaurants, pools, etc. Two things made us love them: 1) Room for the kids to run around at the beginning and end of the day; 2) We got to meet lots of other European families. We rarely saw Americans in these places; at one camp with about 1,000 guests, we were the only Americans. (This was in 2002 and 2005.) It was great to watch our kids playing with other kids, where different languages presented no barriers. Kids laugh and play in one language, I think. (Oh, and a place to easily cook is a big bonus, too.)

    • “Kids laugh and play in one language, I think.” Love this! So very true. I have this great picture of my 2-year-old daughter playing with Greek children that she just met in an ice cream shop on the island of Samos. It didn’t cross their minds at all that they spoke different languages.

      And thanks for the tip about family camping resorts! I’ve never heard of that.

  24. Excellent advice! We LOVE to travel with kids, too, because it helps them grow up understanding that the world is larger than our small town, and that we don’t have a monopoly on the “right” things to eat or wear, or even behave. It’s such an invaluable experience for kids. Thanks for the tips on how to make it easier on ourselves next time!

  25. We were blessed to travel from California to Switzerland for my husband’s work over twenty years ago, when the kids were 2, 3, 5 and 6. We spent four-and-a-half months in Europe. Before the trip, we gathered interesting toys, games, books for each child and put them in their own small covered tub, which was their carry-on. They got to decorate the outside, but couldn’t look inside until we were on the plane. Then they got to take out one thing at a time. We flew the major portion at night, so they did sleep some. We traveled every weekend and visited many countries. We used a Christian travel directory of folks who offer hospitality to travelers, and were able to stay in a pastor’s home in Germany, a Christian film-maker in England, a kindergarten teacher in the Netherlands, and a junior high teacher in Sweden. Our neighbor in Switzerland spoke English and loved kids. It was an awesome trip.

  26. Great post. I’m British originally, my husband is American. We’ve done quite a bit of travelling with our now 4 year old. His first international flight when he was only 10 months old, we moved from Texas to live in Germany for 3 years. Then very recently we’ve just flown from Chicago (where we live now) to England to visit my family.

    My son loves to travel. Loves planes, we have a few plane-themed toys that come with us on every flight 🙂 He also thoroughly enjoys the different cultures we’ve been blessed to have been able to be a part of.

  27. My parents took me traveling a lot as a young child, and I think they succeeded by letting us eat whatever we wanted! The real blessing, though, was that we always had empty planes (which are rare these days) so we could spread out. My brother would always head up to first class and charm the attendants. As for when we got there, we never did anything dubbed “kid-friendly” but always left time for nap. I can’t wait to take my children abroad, but as a broke family of five, it won’t be anytime soon.

  28. A very timely post. We are heading to Oz from North Carolina in 5 days time with a 6 year old, 3 year old and 1 year old. Half our family are Australian by birth so we are cool about the cultural stuff but I am very worried about the ride over.
    I liked your tip about not worrying about anyone else on the plane. My kids are pretty noisy by nature so I’ll take your advise and smile at people and shrug my shoulders (of course after asking my kids to keep to normal levels)
    My husband bought two ipads this week. The 6 and 3 year olds were introduced to them yesterday and loved some of the apps. I am hoping this will make our various layovers in airports a little more fun. And I’m packing a small soccer ball for some airport fun.
    Agree about experiences versus souvenirs! The big highlight for the trip is we are having a birthday party for my 3 year old in Sydney at a small zoo where he gets to have a koala visit with him. I can’t wait to get a photo of him petting the koala. I love experiences too – so much better than buying a stuffed toy koala.

  29. Oh, Tim Tams!! Vegemite never did much for me, but when I was a student teacher near Perth I fell in love with TimTams. Now whenever family members visit Australia they bring me back a package. The ones you sometimes find in the U.S. are just not the same.

    As for travel advice…my oldest was born in Hawaii and took his first transoceanic flight at four months old. I was a nervous wreck wondering how I was going to survive the plane ride to Michigan with him. Honestly, the worst part was juggling the luggage, stroller, and baby all at once. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to ask for a ride through the airport on one of the little golf carts. Just relax and know that the trip will likely end up being way less stressful than you expect. And if things do go badly, at least you are unlikely to ever see your fellow passengers again. 🙂

  30. Great post! I’m with you on embracing the food. I haven’t taken my kids on an international trip yet, but looking forward to it. I do, however, bring some local/regional candy from some grocery store back from the trips I have taken. People seem to find that more interesting than another key chain…

  31. We plan to start traveling internationally with the kids (ages 4 and 8) in a couple years after my 4 year old starts Kindergarten. Better to spend the $3k per month traveling than on summer day camp for 2 kids!

    My husband and I did a lot of traveling before having kids. We went to Australia and New Zealand for our honeymoon. Loved it! Speaking of Vegemite, all the Australians thought I was a local because I’d eat my toast slathered with Vegemite. I couldn’t get enough!

    Of course, now that I’m grain-free I can no longer eat it. I miss it.

  32. Great article! We did Noosa Lakes in Queensland in 2003 with a 2 yr old. The trip was easy and we travelled frequently with a young child. We went in Sept. which was a great time to go. I totally agree about cheap souvies. One thing we do like to buy though is a good book from the areas we visit. It might be a children’s book ( we bought several about Australia’s animals) or a book of culture or landscapes with awesome photography.

  33. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to go to Australia! It’s my home country and I travel back every chance I get (which is every three years or so). We live on one small income, but scrape everything we can so we can go and visit family.

    My oldest has been traveling there since she was one and is now an excellent traveler (she’s 10). She even sleeps on the plane! Woo hoo.

    My last trip was the most challenging since I had a newly walking toddler 🙂 But it was worth all the effort. I spent a good portion of the flight standing in the back of the plane with her.

    I don’t have any magical tips for traveling with kids, just plan and prepare the best you can and don’t expect everything to go perfectly. I find high expectations usually cause me trouble.

    I hope you get back to Australia with your family soon, Tsh. It’s a wonderful place to visit.

  34. Fantastic article Tsh! It was such a pleasure to spend some time with you in Queensland and I look forward to hopefully welcoming you back with the whole family in the not too distant future : )


  35. My kids have been on more plane trips than they have road trips. My big lifesavers are planning, babywearing (and toddlerwearing – LOL), and relaxing all the “rules” (snacks, tv, juice, etc.). We’re going to be spending three weeks on our medical ship in Papua New Guinea in Aug/Sept so that will be a new learning curve for us – ship travel!! 😀

  36. Great post! I’ll be headed to Germany next summer with my (will be then!!) 10 month old. I’m already thinking ahead about how to make it easier ( simplify the packing) but this list is fantastic!

  37. catlin Evans says:

    Great post – you never regret money spent on travel experiences, do you? I especially enjoyed it since I’m an American living in Queensland with my family. It’s an amazing place – I just wish it wasn’t so far for my friends and family in the States to visit!

  38. Hi there, I absolutely love the comment about doing life together. That sums up our family too. It just doesn’t quite feel right without them. We live in rural Queensland on a cotton and grain property just 3 hours west of Bris. If you want a farm stay when you travel to Qld you’d be most welcome.

  39. Fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing your top tips! I’d like to hear more about your international experiences with small children.

    For example, have you flown overseas with a baby (or babies)? If so, where did you go and how did your little ones do?

    Also: How many places have you traveled WITH your kids and how old were each of your kids for each trip? Perhaps that could be a blog post in and of itself…

    Thanks again!

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  41. Tsh, it’s so cool to hear about your trip to Queensland. I live in Cairns and I am not surprised that you had a great time here, it’s a great place to holiday OR live! If you come again with the kids, there are absolutely loads of things to do with the whole family here.
    And the language…doesn’t everyone shorten their words?!? And about swimming costumes. They are also called ‘bathers’ or ‘swimmers’ depending on where you come from, or ‘boardies’ if you’re a bloke.
    And Tsh, I reckon you’d be safe from nicknames if you lived here. Every bloke gets their name shortened, but if you’re a sheila, then you’re not likely to get a nickname.
    Glad to hear Australia was good to you.

  42. Vegemite is a fine art to people not from Australia. You need to slather on the butter and then SCRAPE on a small amount of vegemite. NOTHING like how you would add peanut butter or jam to toast. The vegemite doesn’t even need to cover all of the bread. However to us natives, we do prefer to have it a bit thicker.

  43. I’m a single mum with three kids 5 and under, one with autism and we have done a fair amount of domestic travel. I was a little unsure at first but seeing the changes in him that came out of our first travel experience – it blew all my expectations away. He had a wonderful time doing so many new things, meeting new people, eating new food, sleeping in lots of different places. I always try to have some new books/puzzles/toys for the kids while we are in flight. But the best thing I do is to make a photo book of our trip so that we can continue to talk about the people and places we have been.
    Also, in northern Australia there are two seasons – the wet (october to march) and the dry (april to september) or round about. During the dry, you are guaranteed brilliant weather every day.

  44. I love this post and reading the comments – so fun. We travelled to Australia (from South Africa) 8 years ago, pre-kids, and I would love to get back.

    PS when are you coming to South Africa??? 🙂

  45. Love your advice about starting young and it’s easier. I think that applies to the parents as much as the kids! Don’t let anyone in the family get set in their ways and think travel is “too hard.” As for souvenirs, I only buy a souvenir if it will fit as a decoration for our Christmas tree. So our memories of international trips come out once a year, and our tree is a rich mix of cultures!

  46. I took Miss 6 and Miss 10 overseas for 5 months, a few years ago. Hubby joined us after the first month but we had 4 weeks on our own. The plane trip to Europe from Australia is 23 hours – I think we were in transit for 33 hours altogether before we arrived. Some things that worked were to plan plan PLAN for the flight in particular. The girls got used to packing their own bags (everything with wheels) and I snuck in some gifts for them too – they chose some and I chose some, then I wrapped them up and they had 4 each. I told them when to open a gift, and they chose which to open. We also bought “trayblecloths” so that they could personalise their spaces – these worked really well. For my younger daughter, we splashed out on a Trunki suitcase which she could sit on and ride when she was tired. For souvenirs, we bought those sew-on patches everywhere we went. The plan is to sew them onto a blanket for each of the girls, which they can then maintain as their own personal travel memento.
    Clothes and t-shirts also make great souvenirs – try to buy a size or two larger than usual – they can still wear them now, and they will last longer.
    And don’t be afraid to splash out on one or two really amazing things that you will use and love everyday. I bought a beautiful leather bag in Rome that cost about 90 Euros, but every time I use it I am happy.

  47. I love your timing (I just did a post on travel with little ones). We do almost all the same things you do, and my kids also don’t sleep on planes … well, they do, sometimes, just not until the last 10 minutes of a 20+ hour journey. I’m loving all the extra tips and tricks as we can always use something new up our sleeves. Some of our favorites: Color Wonder stickers. My son asks for them every time we get on an airplane – he can color them, then stick them on the wall, window, seat back, etc. – we only pull our Color Wonders for travel so they stay special. Memory (the game) is also very small and portable and you can just pull out as many matches as fit on the tray table. Lufthansa gave us a set of 2 piece puzzles on one flight, “similars” on one side and “opposites” on the other and we bring those along on all our trips. Oh, and ask for an extra blanket , lay it down at your feet and let the kids hide or have a picnic on the floor or whatever they want to do. It’s cooler down there and always exciting to do stuff nobody else is doing.

    Lastly, for us we’ve learned it’s better to NOT pre-board. Planes are constricted space, for our high energy kids it’s better to let them run and climb and play in the waiting area as long as possible. We keep our carry ons to under-the-seat level so we don’t worry about fighting for space in the overheads.

  48. Thanks Tsh,
    All above the 7 tips remind when you traveling with your children. I love that post… San Diego zoo, Aerospace Museum, Sea World in San Diego are famous and having lots of things that kids enjoy.

  49. I totally agree that a long flight is the ideal place to let go of normal rules and routines like whether or not he can have soda.

    Another tip I recommend is getting a book about the place you are traveling to ahead of time. You could get it from the library, but the book could also be good to have on the flight. (Plus you don’t want to lose a library book on a trip, which we have done.) I find my son enjoys places more when he knows something about them.

  50. Thanks for the post Tsh, I love the point you make about the linguistics of Australians, especially what you said about everyone needing a nickname – it is SO true!

  51. We traveled earlier this year with 4 of our kids (ages 12, 9, 7 and 7) to Ethiopia. One of the best things we have ever done together as a family. We were in Ethiopia for 2 weeks-about 4 days in the city and the rest in the countryside. Our main purposes in being there was for adoption court proceedings, visiting our daughter’s birth family, and our bio kids being able to see and experience where their siblings were born and lived. We live on one income and don’t have a lot of “miscellaneous money”, especially in the midst of an adoption, but we ended up being able to purchase buy one-get one free tickets (!!!) and couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
    Our longest single flight was 18 hours-they actually did great. We allowed them as much time as they wanted with the movies/games on the flight (they have very limited when we’re at home), but no screen time at all in country-we need to be present where we are! 🙂
    We spent a lot of our time traveling in the countryside and enjoying the outdoors-so much beauty!
    After this, travel will be a much bigger priority as we look ahead for our family. There is so much richness in learning about and experiencing other cultures…and I think our kids have caught the travel bug too. 🙂

  52. G’day! Greetings from Oz!
    Great to read how highly Australia rates in your view of places to visit. Yes, we are unique but we happen to think we live in the best place on God’s great earth. We love our vegemite, wear thongs in summer and wear our cozzies to the beach but that’s okay. And we happen to think we are mostly a pretty friendly happy bunch.

  53. Great post. These are very useful tips. It is very important to keep in mind these tips so that kids would enjoy on the holiday vacation. Kids would surely love taking vacation because they could relax and unwind on the getaway.

  54. Since my daughter is already 15 years old we did already scuba diving last month and we enjoyed our time having fun under water adventure. The feeling is so great to have my daughter together with me. It is her first in scuba diving that is why she still felt afraid but I gave her moral support so she enjoyed on her first scuba diving…

  55. We plan to visit the country as part of our round-the-world trip.

  56. This is very useful post. It really gives a lot of tips to bring kids traveling overseas. I will follow your tips.

  57. I love travelling with my kids (3 and 5), and Australia is one of our absolute favourite places to visit, definitely worth the long flight. We went to Sydney, and couldn’t have done the trip, or the long flight, without our Ipads. There is an app called Bound Round that I would recommend to all the parents taking kids to Australia, that tells them all the great things there are to do in Australia, has games to play and offers discounts for the parents. Perfect! Definitely worth having to get the full Sydney experience.

  58. Katie Owen says:

    Tsh, old room mate! Long time no see!
    I stumbled onto your post as I was researching for my family’s move from Texas to the UK. Great ideas! One suggestion that I have to from our trip to China a few years ago is, gifts… just little presents (something new and entertaining) at intervals throughout the travel day. We use small travel games, activity books, stickers, books, etc… just the novelty is exciting and breaks up the monotony of the trip and if they get involved in making/drawing/playing time flies by, plus they have something to look forward to.
    Thx for the post!

  59. Yup, I agree carrying packed food to Australia can lead to packed food open for investigations and you might have to throw it later!>.. they are BIG TIME PARANOID about food..

    Rest I think road trip with family across Australia is just what u want 🙂 Capervans are fun if you wanna take 10 days road trip to NZ!

  60. Glad to see someone else who loves looking in supermarkets when travelling…It’s a great way to find out about a culture – and I’ve found some good presents too that way. Hope all your plans are gradually coming together for your big family trip as well.

  61. Melissa says:

    We visit my home country (Turkey) with the kids about every year. One of my favorite things to do is make sure my two boys (now 6 and 4) bring their own backpacks. I fill them with small and lightweight items – mainly small boxes of crayons, scrap paper, random things from the dollar store, snacks, and of course their loveys. Also, I ALWAYS include a lightweight shawl or sweatshirt or something, either in their bags or my own, because some of the shorter flights do not offer pillows/blankets and they always get cold…so do I. The boys like being in charge of their own backpacks – they are Montessori kids so they like being self sufficient and independent in their little prepared environment, their own backpack kind of extends that for travel. I keep the bags light enough so they can carry them easily, but when the inevitable “I’m tired of carrying my backpack” whining starts, it’s not a big deal for my husband or me to grab them. Also: in Turkey and many large European hubs, they don’t always park the plane by the terminal and utilize a jetway. We end up using the rolling staircase thing and then go on to shuttles. We once traveled with the kids when they had these cute little rollerbags and that made it soooo difficult, especially on crowded shuttles where people had no concept of personal space or helping children (Istanbul.) So keep your bag on your body. Also: iPads are such a big help for us. The kids even do “homework” on them, and it provides one more activity for them.

  62. Hi Tsh,

    Great blog post! Awesome to hear you had such a great time in our little patch of paradise.

    Congratz on being brave enough to try Vegemite as well:)



  63. Hi Tsh,
    Love and travel by every bit of advice here! Can’t wait to check out your upcoming book.

  64. I know this post is from last year, but wondering this: At what ages would you consider taking your children to a 3rd world country, such as Uganda or Kenya? Considering different short-term mission ventures and would love feedback on others who have done this sort of traveling, with littles. Mine would be 5 & 7. Thanks!

  65. Thanks for the tips! Start with your bucket list. Select 3-4 ideas, and write them down. Don’t try to choose one just yet. That’s what you’ll work on in the next steps.

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