Over the jet lag and onboard a flight to Tokyo — Photo courtesy of Katie Dillon
Traveling overseas with kids provides an extra layer of planning to ensure a smooth trip. Here are 10 tips for happier travels:
1. Manage expectations
Tell the kids what to expect from the time you leave your house to arrival at the final destination. For instance, remind them that electronics will need to be turned off during take-off and landing. Explain what they can do during this time and make everything sound fun, fun, fun!
2. Handle inflight ear pressure and fuss
Lollipops solve both problems. Ask your doctor about over-the-counter medications for ear pressure as leaving it untreated can ruin an entire flight. Surprise gifts (wrapped in multiple layers to drag out the process, if you like) that can double as activities onboard also reset cranky moods.
3. Prepare for them to get sick
Despite your best efforts to sanitize, kids pick up germs in transit. Bring over-the-counter medications they are familiar with. The same medications might be available at your destination, but dosage and flavor may differ and the directions might require translation. Tip: Take a wet wipe or sanitizing spray and wipe down their arm rests and everything else they could possibly touch on the plane.
4. Prepare for other medical emergencies
Learn how to dial the country's emergency code and identify in advance where you'd seek medical treatment if given the option. A small first aid kit that can fit in a handbag is helpful for skinned knees and other minor mishaps while on the go.
Walking down the jetway at Hong Kong International Airport — Photo courtesy of Katie Dillon
5. Make sure you're covered
Check your medical insurance for overseas coverage and buy a supplement, if necessary.
6. Check vaccinations
Though most destinations don't require additional vaccinations, tell your pediatrician where you're going. He or she can check to see if your kid's current vaccinations are up to date and whether or not additional ones are required.
7. Even babies need passports
In most countries, such as the United States and Australia, a passport is necessary whether a child is 5 days old or 5 years old and it's issued only with consent of everyone who has parental responsibility.
8. Invest in helpful gear
Have a look at toddler travel beds if junior is too big for a hotel-provided crib and too small for a real bed. The Ride-On Carry-On converts carry-on luggage into a stroller and seat on-demand. Kid-safe headphones drown out the hum of airplane engines and plug into almost any digital device. The list goes on.
9. Tackle jet lag like a champ
Taking care of a kid with jet lag is miserable when you have it too, so it pays to have a plan. On the day after landing, when everyone is exhausted, plan an activity just for the kids that will allow them to play through their exhaustion. Try to adjust their schedule to the new time zone immediately after landing.
10. Schedule plenty of down time
As tempting as it might be to tour the Tower of London, British Museum and Buckingham Palace in one day, don't push the kids too far. They'll get cranky and everyone will suffer. Plan your itinerary accordingly.
Seeing the world through the eyes of a child makes the long flight and jet lag completely worth the journey.