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Travelling as a family is an amazing way to build incredible memories together. Exposing children to other countries, cultures and languages can be fantastic to go alongside their regular education, giving them a base to become well-rounded, outward-looking adults.
Some families opt to drop everything and take a ‘family gap year’, but what if you don’t want to put life on hold for a year? Not everybody has the option to put their job on pause, or feel comfortable pulling the children out of school for that long. Instead, if you have toddlers, what about an extended family trip before the kids are in full-time education? Take a sabbatical for a month or two and go and see the world.
Choose Your Destination
Think carefully about where you plan to visit. Toddlers will have different needs to older children when it comes to travel, so make sure you’ve taken that into account. Staying somewhere with access to schools is less important, but you may need to think carefully about medical care where you’re heading. Toddlers may still need standard childhood vaccinations, and if any of those fall while you’re away, you’ll need to make sure you can get the required vaccination safely wherever you are. Toddlers are also pretty accident prone, so knowing there’s a good, english speaking Doctor within easy reach will give you more peace of mind.
You’ll also need somewhere to live when you get there. If you have friends or family who live abroad, could you consider staying with them? If you’re going to stay in the same place, consider renting a home for a few months. There are great online resources to find property abroad whether you’re looking for a studio for rent in Singapore, or a large house in France.
Setting up a good homebase is important to help your toddlers feel some sense of normality, when they might otherwise feel unsettled by all the newness. While packing light for a long trip is important, make sure your little one has some home comforts in the holiday bedroom. Take some favourite toys or the blanket from their bed at home, and try and make the holiday home feel familiar. The last thing you need is a whole load of tantrums. And let’s face it, their meltdowns can be over the most ridiculous things, as you can read here – Toddler and ‘Threenager’ Tantrums To Make You Laugh Out Loud.
Keep A Routine
Routine is important for small children, and that doesn’t change because you’re abroad. A little more flexibility won’t hurt, but try and stick to some routine basics. Try and stay in one central place and make day trips from there, instead of hopping around every night. This should help the kids feel more settled.
Try and keep things like bedtime the same as at home. A well-rested toddler is a happy toddler, so try and make sure you’re not keeping them up because the family is over-excited. Getting up at a familiar time will help too, and stick to any nap times your kids are used to, to make sure they’re in the best state to enjoy the trip.
Be Prepared For Things To Go Wrong
On any trip, things can go wrong, and as any parent of toddlers know, small children can have a unique gift for getting into mishaps. Make sure you’re prepared for any accidents or other issues.
Sort out your travel insurance well before you go, and make sure that any medical needs are covered. Wherever you go, make sure you know where the nearest hospital is and where you can see a Doctor. Have the number for your family doctor saved in your phone, so that a foreign doctor can speak to them if any of them family need medical treatment.
Think about what sort of care you might need. Medical care differs between countries, and with little ones, you’re probably going to want a more Western standard of care. Make sure this is something you can easily access wherever you choose to travel.
Remember that the adults might get sick too, not just the children, so have a plan for that. Looking after small children in a foreign country while you feel unwell isn’t much fine, so be sure to take care of yourself too.
Travel plans can fall through too, so have a back-up plan. Planes get delayed, trains are cancelled or hotels turn out to look nothing like the website. Have an emergency cash fund in case you need to change where you’re staying, or take alternative transport in a hurry. Make sure you research any other travel options, and know where you can find advice on how to get somewhere if plans fall through.
It’s also important to anticipate that travel with young children isn’t always fun. Misbehaviour happens on a trip as well as at home, so don’t worry if you still find yourself having family squabbles or having to discipline the children for fighting with each other. It doesn’t mean the trip is a disaster, it just means you’re being a normal family. And we all know holidays with children are a far cry from what they were like pre-kids. Here’s a tongue-in-cheek reminder in case you’ve forgotten – Five Ways A Holiday Is Never The Same After Kids.
You don’t want to run out of cash part way through the trip. Save hard before you leave and make sure you’re sensible with money while you’re away. There are ways to save cash while you’re enjoying yourself.
If you’re renting a house instead of staying in hotels, try to do most of the cooking at home instead of eating out. You can still experience the local cuisine by using local ingredients, but you’ll save a lot of cash.
Balance out expensive guided trips with days out you can do for free. Many historical sites are free to visit, and of course, activities like walking or trips to the beach are free. Try out some cheaper ways of exploring, like hiring bicycles, so you can see lots of the country without breaking the budget.
If you’re savvy, you can also find great deals for travel. Keep an eye out for sales, good deal websites or offers with train companies, airlines or hotels to save some funds as you travel.
Travelling with young children can certainly be more challenging than with older kids, but there’s no reason toddlers can’t enjoy world travel as much as you do.