9 tips for international travel with kids
Lesego Matabane offers her hot tips for hassle-free international travel with kids.
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I am a mother to a handsome little man Rorisang, Rori for short. Being a working single mom, time is a valuable commodity and holiday time is the most ideal for giving my son undivided attention. We get to play, watch cartoons, eat out and just really get the best of each other. I live for those moments.

I’ve been thinking about travelling internationally with Rori in the next few years. I am looking forward to opening his mind to a world of places, experiences, cultures and people. I know that travelling with children is no easy feat but at seven, he is able to remember trips and holidays and his tantrums are less frequent, although no less dramatic.

I know now that there’s no one formula to keeping your little ones in check. I also know and understand the feeling of desperation when it seems that your child will not calm down especially in a confined space. It can be rough! But because Rori is a bit older, the iPad, PSP games, are very handy in long haul trips. So in preparation for the many voyages my boy and I will take this year and beyond, I’ve done some research and tapped into my own parenting experience for tips on planning for international travel with kids. Here are nine of them:

1.    Choose a Child-Friendly Destination

Child friendly destinations are safe and secure with accessible amenities and a laid back vibe. Another equally important attribute of child friendly destinations is other families holidaying. I want my boy to meet people from diverse backgrounds and cultures and be worldly, open minded and accepting of others; and giving him the space and opportunity to make friends with kids from other countries is one sure way of doing this. Think less electric streets of Hong Kong and more beach holidays in Mauritius or Turkey.

2.    Start the Excitement Early

It helps to start building anticipation and excitement before the trip. Pull out a map and give your kids an idea of the destination. Telling Rori of our trips gets him animated to find out more and gives him something really exciting to look forward to. It also cements my commitment to making the trip happen, come what may because when I promise my boy something, I have to deliver. And then, I get to use the trip as an incentive for him when he does his mini-chores around the house. It works like a charm!

3.    Plan a Daily Itinerary for Every Day

With Rori knowing and all excited about the trip, I have found that planning a daily itinerary should start much early on. Getting him involved keeps the momentum and excitement up for much longer.

4.    Bring Help Along. Or Not

It takes a village to raise a child and sometimes, to take a child with on a holiday. Travelling with a nanny is very convenient but can be very costly. I am inclined to use airlines that have in-house help and to choose destinations that have dedicated child-care facilities. For example I would fly Etihad, which has ‘flying nannies’, to destinations like family friendly Club Med resorts with kids clubs and child minding services. It’s easier on the pocket and there is much less admin.

5.    Pack Heavy. Or Not

I always take Rori’s toys with when we travel. On a road trip, it’s easy to do so but on an international flight, it may cost you with the baggage restrictions. So most parents pack one or two toys that the kids love but what about when they scream for the figurines you didn’t pack? The trick for this is to choose a child friendly resort, well equipped and not pack any toys at all. So from the time you announce the holiday, let the kids know that they will have other toys to play with while on holiday, and not their usual ones. Let that be part of the anticipation for the new place, new friends and new toys. It works all the time when Rori goes for sleepovers.

6.    Ditch the first aid kit. Keep it simple with a medicine box

When Rori was much younger, I used to worry about possible medical emergencies and over and above locating local doctors in those towns, I would carry a first aid kit with. The older he’s grown, the more relaxed I have become. A box of medicinal supplies has replaced the first aid kit. In the box are basics like pain medication, antihistamines, a few bandages and dressings for wounds and scratches. That, combined with destinations that come with an infirmary is great for the just in case situations, and guaranteed peace of mind. When traveling abroad with medication, be sure that to take a letter from the paediatrician or pharmacist in case of any security issues at ports of entry and exit.

7.    Align flights with the kids’ daily routines

If you can, get flights that will depart in the evenings to coincide with the kids’ sleeping times. And then ensure that they have a full day of activity before the flight so that when you board, all they want to do is sleep.

8.    Sugar – If you must, only in the morning

If as an adult, I am allowed to eat and drink as much as I want, then so should the kids, to a limit. Ice-cream, candy and other treats in moderation. From my experience, it is best to give them these treats in the morning so they expend the extra energy before dinner time.

9.    Keep the healthy snacks flowing

Rori is an active little champ and needs a good burst of energy to keep up throughout the day so he snacks with healthy treats. There is nothing wrong with continuing with that on the holiday because the kids will actually need energy to run around, play, swim and do other kiddies stuff. Knowing how costly food can be on holiday, I would definitely prefer places that have a steady supply of food and drink throughout our stay. If it’s all included, that’s one thing I can tick off from my long to-do list.

As a parent, I know that there is absolutely no standard formula for, actually, many things. You open yourself up to learning from other mothers, from books, television and yes, Google and my most trusted source - my mom. You pick and choose what works and you stick with it; because parenting is challenging; but it also by far the most rewarding experience of my life. So I hope these tips will help make the first (or next) time you travel abroad with your little ones even more fulfilling.

Lesego Matabane is the Marketing Manager for Club Med South Africa

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