A SMART WAY TO TRAVEL
SUBSCRIBE TO RECEIVE PROMOTIONS! CLICK HERE
We don't have to tell you that traveling with children is predictably unpredictable, but if you're prepared, you can have a fun family vacation. It requires some extra planning − especially for international travel − but provides an opportunity to spend quality time with your family, which is often difficult with today's hectic routines. Vacationing with children also offers them an educational experience to discover and appreciate different cultures, their history and traditions.
To help your family vacation go smoothly, follow these important vacation planning details:
1.) Travel Documents
Before traveling, you'll need to obtain the following documents:
· Passports and/or Visas
Prearranged visas for Americans traveling in Mexico less than six months are not required. (Check travel documents required in other countries.) Individual passports for both adults and children are needed for all international travel. Since processing American passports can take over a month, submit your applications well in advance of travel. For U.S. passport requirements, visit the U.S. Department of State.
· Legal Guardianship
To prevent child abductions, if a single parent or legal guardian travels with children, a notarized letter permitting international travel with the other parent or guardian is required. It must include the child's name, date of birth, relationship to adult, parent or guardian consent, parent(s) or guardian(s) name and signature plus copies of their photo ID. Single parents should bring official documents of sole legal custody, birth certificate (with no legal father specified), or a death certificate of the absent parent.
· Travel Insurance
Although rare, accidents and illnesses can happen while traveling, so reducing associated costs is important. Travel insurance should provide all family members with medical and airfare coverage, so everyone can return home if someone gets injured or sick. Coverage is usually reduced for children with those under age two, free. To compare rates, visit SquareMouth.
2.) Air Travel
Flying can be stressful for children if they're not busy, but some things can help keep their (and your) stress level down. Schedule flights during your children's bedtime, so they can sleep during the flight. Consider scheduling connecting flights with a minimum one-hour layover for a useful break. Buy seats for each child since it's safer and more comfortable, and use a car seat if the child weighs under 40 pounds (18.2 kilograms). Many airlines even charge half price for children under age two.
Medical prescriptions for your family must be in official pharmacy packaging, and remember to bring a first-aid kit containing Benadryl (for allergies and insomnia), Tylenol, Neosporin, anti-itch lotion, antiseptic, bandages, thermometer, and electrolyte drinks.
Pack coloring books and crayons, stickers, books, playing cards, dolls, and stuffed animals (avoid toys that are noisy, messy, and have small pieces) in plastic bags so they're easy to collect. Bring enough food so they don't get cranky, such as sandwiches, fruit, vegetables, and their favorite snacks in re-sealable bags − and feed them before boarding the plane!
Sometimes it's difficult to find the public restroom in a foreign country. Add the language challenges and kids' frequent need to use the toilet, and an 'accident' could happen. Since diaper changing tables are not common in some areas, it's a good idea to learn how to change a diaper with the child standing up.
Always bring coins! In many foreign countries, restrooms have attendants who clean them and provide toilet paper, paper towel, and soap for a small fee. Sometimes the fee is set (only a few pesos in Mexico); other times, it's just a tip. Keep in mind, attendants are not very friendly if you don't pay them, and they will not usually make change for you.
Since restrooms are not in easy-to-find places, especially on tours and attractions, it's a good idea to ask before searching for them; in Spanish, "Dónde está el baño, por favor?" If you're in town, you can easily find restrooms in chain restaurants, such as McDonalds, Burger King, etc. For sanitation and hygiene, always bring wet wipes.
4.) Hotel Safety
Having a fun family vacation includes choosing a family friendly resort or hotel with child friendly accommodations, amenities, and activities. Various resorts offer kids' meals, babysitting services, supervised activities, kids' clubs, and children's games and sports.
Ask if hotel rooms have secure terraces and windows. At check-in, survey the room, and look for potential danger spots, such as uncovered electrical outlets (bring covers; use hotel covers or duct tape), loose hardware, sharp objects, heavy sliding doors and windows, etc., and ask the hotel to correct any problems.
Never leave your children alone in the room or allow them to answer the door. Supervise them at the beach, swimming pool, fitness area, store, or any other crowded, open areas where they could get hurt or lost.
To help kids feel comfortable in their 'new' room and to find their way at night, bring night lights for the bedroom, bathroom, and maybe a hallway, depending on the size of your suite.
5.) Food and Restaurants
Families traveling with children sometimes have trouble finding food and restaurants that everyone likes. Adults and older children may need to compromise to keep younger children happy and nourished. If your kids aren't picky eaters, encourage them to try new foods. If they're picky, fast food restaurants and pizza places are available in many destinations, even Mexico.
Research restaurants in travel guidebooks that use kid friendly terms, such as: noisy, busy, casual, outdoor seating, local favorite, comfort food, diner, and buffet. Take a walk in the area and look for restaurants that families attend. If children eat there, it's probably a good option.
The quintessential element of a fun family vacation is having an easygoing attitude. Something will probably go wrong, but instead of being stressed, approach the problem as a project and work together to resolve it. Think of traveling with your children as an adventure. Expect the unexpected, and you'll have a fun family vacation.
About the Author
Christina Famiglietti is a professional writer and editor and with experience in various industries. Her most recent passion is the Mexican Caribbean, where she lives and is inspired to write about her beloved Mexico — its nature, culture, travel, and tourism.