Strategies I learned from my recent travel with the littles to Costa Rica and Ghana. Here are 15 stress-reducing strategies from planning your trip to when you land and have to deal with the practicalities from the travel.
Planning the Trip
1. Travel Documents Check
Make sure that your family passports' expiry date is still good at least 3 months after you arrive home from your travels. Every country has their own policy, but Authorities, depending on the country, demands that your passport valid for several weeks or even months after you have already arrived home. Some families have made the mistake of thinking that as long as their passport expire shortly after they were expected to come home, it shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, some airlines would not let you board for that very reason.
2. Send a Digital Copy of Your Travel Documents to Your Email
Take a photo or scan a copy of your passports, visas, green card, and birth certificates to your email. In case you lose them on your travel, it will save you a lot of time and stress having to replace them.
3. Travel with One Major Credit and Debit Card
Bring the cash currency of the country you are traveling to, but also bring a major credit card and debit card, in case you run out of cash. In foreign countries, your debit card may not work at a corner store but it may work at an ATM at a bank and vice versa. Just like some tourist companies may accept major credit cards while others don’t. So, your best bet is to notify your credit card company that you will be traveling, take multiple cards with you, and keep your receipts.
4. Pack First to Second Day Worth of Essentials in Your Carry-On Bag
Trust me, traveling with or without the kids, this advice is good for everyone. Anything can happen and more often than not bags do get lost and delayed, especially with transfer flights. If that happens, the last thing you want to be hunting for in between flights or when you arrive in a new city is a clean change of clothes. My advice, pack up to two days worth of clothes, some snacks, minor entertainment, travel documents, and money, in your carry-on case, and you should be good to go.
5. Do a bag count
It is easy to forget the how many bags and carry-on you packed. So, before you leave the house, do a bag count. When you hop in the car to the airport do bag count, make sure it’s all there. Do another at the airport and when you arrive at your destination. If you start with 5 bag and 2 carry-ons, then you should have a total of 7 each time you do the count for a check-in. This is a great opportunity to involve the kids. Have the kids double check the count with you.
Realities of the Travel
6. Assign Roles
Leave one parent the role of packing, while the other takes the role of booking flights, hotel and other arrangements that may require confirmation. Having two people responsible for the same task, like packing may bring confusion to where things actually are.
7. Let the Force be With You…in Airport Security
Airport security at times can feel like an assembly line. It can force a parent to pack efficiently and light. I suggest, your carry-on includes everything you need minus the unnecessary. Security checkpoints have a limit on the amount of liquids in a bottle you can bring on the plan. I recommend purchasing travel size bottles (100ml or less) for your liquids and creams from the dollar store and placing them in Ziploc bags. Confirm with the airline if you are planning to bring breastmilk or formula.
8. Reserve Seating When Possible
Would your kids love the window seat? Great! Reserve it. On most airlines, there is zero cost to reserving the seating arrangements for the family in economy class. So, take advantage of it and avoid lining up early to board.
9. Hire a Drive (if possible)
If you’re traveling to a foreign country where your mother tongue is not generally spoken there, consider hiring a driving rather than driving yourself. The cost of the driver can be reasonable and you may be able to haggle the price down a few dollars. The best part is the driver will know the roads, the route, and various tourist attractions. On my travels, the cost of a driver lower than the cost of Uber or major taxi service.
10. Ditch the Heavy-Duty Strollers for a Baby Carrier
Baby carriers are lifesavers with the little ones. Some baby carriers versatile that it comes with adjustable straps and allows you to carry the baby 4 ways (facing the world or facing you on your front and back). Going up the stairs, trekking on a guided tour, taking longs walks, and traveling to the airport and train stations, just got easier.
11. Plan Your Days
Go out and do something active. Bet the jet lag. Go online or get a pamphlet of the tourist attractions of things to do. This is also helpful for your driver if you hired on to ensure s/he is available for the pick-up and drop off. If you are struggling to decide on what to do or where to eat ask your driver, hotel concierge or Airbnb host.
12. Avoid Overdoing it or not doing enough
I found it easier to plan the week we were away while still being flexible. It easier to plan too much in one day that the kids are exhausted. So, plan a rest day or a light activity day in between the more intense days.
13. Run Down Fire and Pool Safety
With the family learn the exits and escape routes. Talk with your kids about the rules at the swimming pool like no one in the pool without getting Mommy or Daddy’s permission.
14. Get Your Shots
Consult with your family doctor on your travels. There may be some necessary vaccines you may need to prior to your departure. Now, some vaccines may need multiple visits so go early and avoid the hassle.
15. Have Fun and Stay Positive!
Remember your family is about to embark on an amazing journey. Document it. Take lots of video and pictures, but also be present. Focus on what is important, try new things, be patient, ask questions, and meet new people.