I’m covered in vomit. She’s covered in vomit. We have been awake for what seems like an eternity. Seven time zones, three planes, two car rides, two trams, and one minivan later, we are finally home. Worth it? Absolutely. And here’s why and how we did international travel with kids.
Love of Travel
I distinctly remember when I got bit by the travel bug. It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me, and literally changed my life!
Since then, I have made travel a priority and hoped that one day that I would be able to share this love with my kids. To teach them resiliency, flexibility, and how to simply roll with the punches.
The summer of 2019, my husband and I decided to go for it. We had gathered all of the required items for the children to get their passports. In great fashion, they showed up to the post office in their pajamas because (of course) it was pajama day at daycare, and this made for an even more adorable photo session.
When their passports arrived weeks later, it was fun explaining to them what that little tiny booklet meant. For us, it meant dreams becoming a reality. The freedom to explore unknown places and have adventures as a family.
Now, Where to Go?
I have family overseas who had always extended a warm welcome. So, instead of a warm beach in the Caribbean or white sand off the coast of the Pacific, we decided to fly east to Vienna, Austria with two kids under the age of four, because why not?
None of us had been to this part of Europe; my kids had never even left the country. And my husband and I wondered: what could we say to get a two-year old and a four-year old interested in a country they had never even heard of before?
But we figured that the commonalities we shared were enough for them to find comfort, and then we could spark their curiosity to try new things.
The toughest part of doing a transatlantic trip with two kids under four was most definitely the time change and airplane ride. It’s tough for an adult to sit through that long plane ride, and it sure is a tall order for a child.
To prepare, I looked up every possible hack possible to ensure we would have peace on the plane.
Tips for International Travel with Kids
Each kid had a cosmetic bag purchased from the thrift store for $0.99, because it was compact and could hang off the seat for easy access. And I filled each bag with surprises from the dollar store, all small items (for example: a slinky, Post-It notes, crayons, etc.). Each child had that small bag and their tablet — oh, thank the world for that tablet!
It was a last minute purchase at Best Buy the night before and I figured this would be a game changer. It was, it helped us get through everything!
The last few items the kids had on the plane included a small blanket, extra pair of clothes, stuffed animal, and a water bottle.
We had the kids traveling in their comfy pajamas, one less thing to pack and then they were ready for bed once we departed the States.
I was very adamant about packing light, streamlining the best we could as a family of four. Our only carry-ons were two backpacks, one accessible tote, and my purse. This was very intentional, as from personal experience when traveling — less is best!
We only had one checked bag. I determined that everything we needed for 10 days for four people was going to fit into this bag. Guess what, I nailed it with room to spare!
How? Easy! Keep it simple while packing, especially if you have access to a washer and dryer (which we did). And three was my magic number! Everyone was allowed three of each article of clothing. Warm coats and hats were worn on the plane and each person wore their one allotted pair of shoes.
Stick to Routine, If Possible
We did our best to stick to our normal bedtime routine, as best we could while on a plane with 100 other people. The kids drifted off at an absurdly late time (around midnight or 1:00 a.m.) and I remember looking at my husband as we both breathed a sigh of relief. Like we did it, go team!
When they woke up, we were still in the air, making our way to our European connection in London, before landing at our final destination in Austria.
The kids put on a lot of miles walking through those airports, but they both did it with smiles, and we just deemed it part of our adventure.
Once we finally arrived in Vienna, my family awaited us with open arms, balloons, and— McDonalds! I never knew the power of a Happy Meal until we went overseas with children. It was an instant comfort, a taste of home.
After jet lag subsided, and we set out to explore. We really had no set agenda. This allowed us to be flexible with our time, allowing us gauge how the kids were doing and adapt. Overall, our relaxed schedule kept everything positive and not too strenuous.
We also stuck to a familiar morning routine. Beginning each day eating breakfast and watching cartoons like we would at home. Then we packed our day bags and set off.
We were able to get around and explore. Mainly by using Uber and walking. We toured the oldest zoo in the world, visited parks, and museums.
Why We Do International Travel with Kids
One day we went to a children’s museum. They began with story time for the children that was all read in German, my kids are not fluent in German, but were equally engaged and excited to hear the story and see the puppets. That right there is why we feel travel is so important for kids. Giving our children exposure to new sights, sounds, language, and overall culture was HUGE for us.
Another great memory from our trip was the day we decided to take a daytrip to Budapest. Although it started off like a bad movie, both kids had motion sickness and proceeded to vomit all over the Uber. This then caused us to miss our train. We had no backup plans (or backup clothes), just tenacity.
We finally made the train, and again McDonalds saved us when we arrived! Parent win! The next day before we headed back, we found an old Turkish bath house hosting 20 different geothermal pools to relax in. Feeling weary and exhausted, this was exactly what we needed.
The kids could have stayed there forever. It was so fun watching how the local Hungarians interacted with my kids. Such a stoic culture in general, but to see them not able to hide their smiles while watching my children swim was heartwarming. These are the moments I will remember.
An Adventure to Remember
It has been so rewarding for my husband and me to pass our love of travel along to our children.
International travel with kids is rarely glamorous, but part of what makes traveling so fun is that it’s ALWAYS an adventure! Kids are resilient, and they vibe off of your energy, positive or negative. So we tried to keep this in mind no matter what the circumstances.
Our youngest will likely not remember this trip, and our oldest hopefully clings to those few memories without them fading. However, we have zero regrets. We felt they gained so much more than memories. We hope to foster future opportunities for them to grow and experience the world around them and expand on their point of view.
If you get the opportunity to do international travel with kids, I say DO IT! It will be something you remember forever.
For more helpful advice for traveling with kids, see 7 Tips for Flying with Babies & Little Kids.