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When can I start taking my kids overseas and actually enjoy the trip?

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
I miss traveling, like real airplane travel, exotic travel! I was actually contemplating doing a road trip near where we live for the sake of convenience and as I looked at the rates of vacation rentals, I started to wonder why I would want to pay $250/night for scenery that is just so familiar, so domestic, so blaaah. My kids are 2 and 4. We took them 2 weeks ago to New York City (we live 1.5 hours from there) and it was exhausting. We were going to stay overnight but just couldn't stand the idea of another day. I miss going to Europe and Asia. I don't have any family over there although my parents offered that we could all go together to China in September for the World Expo in Shanghai. DH is excited about this, but my mother and I have started to have trepidations about the flight (14 hours) and once we get there, negotiating the city with the kiddies. It'll be like New York only more crowded, and three weeks long. I mean it's not like I have to go, there's no wedding I need to attend, no relative I promised to show the kids to. Should I go or wait until they are older, and how much older?
post #2 of 43
There's no reason why you can't do Europe or Asia with kids.

My parents never stopped taking interesting vacations after they had kids. They simply changed how they did it.

We'd go to Europe and they'd rent a condo for a week in each place. It was normally the same price as a similar hotel room, but it would have 2 bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. It was a great place to have downtime and cook our own food.
post #3 of 43
I think once kids can handle the flight, travel is fantastic. You just have to pick a place and commit to staying put for a few days to a week at a time instead of hopping around.

Have a home base and eat there, sleep there and see sights in the immediate vicinity of that home-base. A hotel room does not make a good home-base unless it has a kitchen. A suite with a kitchen or a little apartment is much better.

You need a door that shuts for nap time and your own food storage and prep area. If we have that, my kids do really well. If we try to cram into one hotel room, we all get cranky.

14 hours to China is a long time....but there is a time and a place for movies on a mini DVD player. A flight to China is one of those times and places.
post #4 of 43
I don't see why you can't. Well 14 hours is a ridiculously long flight, but if you're close to NYC, then London is only 6 hours, Paris maybe a bit more, Amsterdam, Munich, Lisbon... they're all in the same area. Just make sure you plan in time to rest.
I've taken my kiddo all over, he's only 4 and has been in 4 countries. He loves going around and seeing the sights. For some reason he loves cathedrals, it's cute.

Def agree about staying somewhere with your own kitchen!
post #5 of 43
We've lived overseas since our eldest was 3, so our kids have grown up being international travelers.

We've changed our approach to travel, but we continue to travel multiple times in a year. Honestly, we've all got a bit of 'culture fatigue' so museums aren't top priority for us. We do try to immerse ourselves in the local culture wherever we are. We don't plan too many things in one day & give ourselves a lot of downtime during each day. My kids have learned to nap anywhere & are great plane travellers. I don't find longhaul flights to be anymore challenging then short ones; the stress of flying is the checking in/waiting to board/disembarking/waiting for luggage part. Once my kids are on the plane, they just eat, sleep, or play.

Travelling with kids is different then traveling as an adult, but it still is a whole lot of fun.
post #6 of 43
really depends on your child's personality.

i have been travelling with dd as a two month old both nationally and internationally and she has the perfect personality for travel. i've been on 18 hour flights when dd was 8 month and again when she was 3 years old. i had no problems. what i did was plan long layovers so we got the time and space to run around. so after our 18 hour flight we had an overnight. then another 7 hour flight.

however you have to factor in their curiosity level, esp. as a toddler. having just one i found it fun to travel with her. what helped is she is a high energy girl who didnt know the meaning of over stimulation and who didnt need a lot of structure. the main thing she needed was the first few days to transition to the time change.

every single time we have travelled i have noticed it has changed her personality. and i am not the only one saying it. i have met families who have travelled with infants to visit family and they say their children are different after they come back - friendlier, not so scared of strangers.

also my dd was open to eating any food. trying anything new. so that helped a great deal since i didnt have the option of cooking our own meals.

if you do a search here you will find lots of threads about how to keep a child occupied on long flights.

absolutely you can do it as long as you make exceptions for the children.
post #7 of 43
Personally, I think the earlier you start, the better they learn to adjust. We started when dd was 5 mos old. By the time she was 6, she had been to 12 countries in Europe and Asia with a dozen trans-atlantic flights under her belt. If you have the means and the desire to go, I would just do it. You certainly can't have the same kind of trip that you do when you're childless, but as long as you stay flexible, it's usually not difficult. With the time change, dd actually would always adjust better than we do... and she's not a good sleeper, either.

We lived in Europe when dd was a toddler and it was always easy to travel by train when we lived there. Dd loved the overnight train trips. If you want to visit a few different European countries, I'd advise this means of travel as it's fun and exciting, and easy for you (less headache than airports).

We have thoroughly enjoyed all of our trips with dd at every age. This year we'll be going to Spain and Turkey with her and are very much looking forward to it.
post #8 of 43
Travelling with kids is certainly different to travelling on your own as an adult, & I think it is more exhausting but it is so much fun. Seriously. I love taking long overseas trips with our kids, they seem to learn & grow so much in the space of a few weeks. DD took her first long-haul flight at 6 months, DS at 8 months. We had our first non-family overseas holiday (4 weeks camping in NZ) when they were 5 & 3 and they still remember it well. I agree with other pps, don't worry about age just go for it & have a great time.
post #9 of 43
My 2cents is:

1. the longer you have to go, the longer you need to stay. I've flown to USA and only stayed a week, and that was just too short. We are going again in June and staying 3 weeks, seeing 3 states. That way the airplane part isn't too bad.

2. Alternate adult and kid activities. If there is a special castle, museum... you want to see but the kids will be bored after an hour, do something really kid oriented the previous day. Go to the beach, to an amusement park... then they last longer the next day at "your" event. I find the more kids things I have, the more fun I have as well.

3. Don't fill every day with something. Every few days have a gap day where you can just sit at a pool at the hotel or only go out for ice cream.... a recuperate day. If no one is tired, then you can add something in. But if they are tired, then a day to relax with recharge everyone for the next days.

4. Actual location is not important. My kids are 3 and 5, and they don't care where we are exactly. We have been to the ocean in Turkey, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, Florida... they LOVE it. But a beach is a beach to them. So if you have one closer, save time, money and air time by going more local and the kids will be just as happy. Of course it makes ME happy to see a different beach.

5. Airports are fun for young kids. The flights are too - for the 1st 2 hours. After that, they often want OFF and it can get tiring for everyone. If I have to deal with that, I am going for an extended time so we can enjoy stuff once we are there. If we do a 3-5 hour flight, we can stay a week. If we are doing a 12 hour flight, we stay several weeks.
post #10 of 43
What happened in NYC that made you hate it? We LOVE to travel to NYC. We take the train. Last year when they were 1 1/2 and 3 1/2 the my older one walked and the baby stayed in a carrier. We used a backpack for diapers and such. We had a ball. We walked mostly and took the subway.

So I guess maybe if you could tell us what didn't work in a setting like that we could help more.

And... you aren't all that far from me. There are so beautiful and fun places to stay/see/do all around me. I wonder why you think it is blah.
post #11 of 43
It always amazes me how much the kids actually remember about airports! They focus on things that seem obscure to me, such as the time they bought funny looking milk cartons in Tokyo, or when I had my DD to order coffee for me in Frankfurt because she had learned a bit of German in her primary school class (the only German words I know are 'please' & 'thank you'). We have some great kids-in-airport photos, too.
post #12 of 43
We are travellers too.

Because I am the one that can't stand flights more than 4 hours, we haven't returned to Europe or gone anywhere really exotic since DS was born.

What about Iceland? That would be a short flight from the East Coast and it seems family friendly. You could go to the thermal pools and do outdoor stuff with the kids. Iceland is on my list. DH is less than thrilled but we will go.

We have been going to the Caribbean and renting houses for the past several years. We went to Virgin Gorda last year. While not terribly exotic, it was fantastic. The West Indian islanders were so engaging. The beaches are beautiful with rocks and caves for exploring.

There are many, many charter companies based in the VIs so if sailing interests you, that might be an option. See a different island each day.

A friend of mine did a family trip to somewhere in PR where they stayed in the rain forest and did all sorts of hikes, swimming under water falls and the like. She said it was great, everywhere they went there were tons of kids for her little ones to play with. I could find out the exact location.
post #13 of 43
Thread Starter 
Wow, after all that input, I think we might go after all! But I'm still hesitant about a few things. Let's take the NYC trip as an example. I hadn't planned out the day too much in my head except that I knew I was going to take the kids to FAO Shwarz and the Times Square Toys R US. What I thought went wrong was that I wasn't sure if FAO and TRU would be fun for them, I just assumed it would be. It turns out they didn't find FAO fun at all (the store is set up only with no almost no demo toys) and they found TRU only slightly more engaging. And I had no idea where we were gonna eat but had brought along some fruit and thin-sliced chicken. But since we were in the middle of Manhattan, DH and I weren't satisfied eating cold-cuts out of a tote bag. So we wasted a lot of time looking for a place to eat that didn't have a long wait for a table or for food, but that turned up only the most casual places where the kids ate nothing but french fries. So long story short, with kids, especially younger ones, I feel like you have to really find out beforehand what kinds of activities there are and two either from having been there before or from a person that can give you the scoop, and you have to plan out what/where you're gonna eat. This isn't so hard if you're going to a resort and stayin put there (which is why I guess a lot of families opt for this) but what if you are going to an urban environment where you can't just stay put in one place all day?
post #14 of 43
My kids aren't thrilled with window shopping at toy stores. Toys are meant to be bought at stores, so just looking is torture. They like experiential things, so parks, piers, beaches, zoos, kids museums, aquariums, etc are fun places for them. Outdoor places where they can run around and be free are fun outings.

As far as restaurants, sometimes all they eat is french fries; that won't kill them once in awhile. We are traveling in south east Asia right now & my son has ordered spaghetti at every restaurant we've been to. He is missing out on fantastic local fare, but such is life. Sometimes we pack lunch for the kids & let them eat it before the restaurant, and then order them a special treat to eat while we eat our meals. I also always pack pens & paper for them to draw with wherever we are.

I bet if you had googled "NYC kids travel" before you went, you would have had a dozen recommendations for good kid friendly restaurants. I try to map out places to eat close to where we are visiting so we don't spend long hunting for a place to eat.
post #15 of 43
Originally Posted by mommyshoppinghabit View Post
This isn't so hard if you're going to a resort and stayin put there (which is why I guess a lot of families opt for this) but what if you are going to an urban environment where you can't just stay put in one place all day?
We are almost always in an urban area. We once went to a Turkish resort and it was so boring we were just ready to go. I don't think the resort scene works for us at all.

I think the key is to have just one activity per day, don't make it a long day, and be prepared to spend some time in your room just vegging out.

One particularly enjoyable trip with dd was a couple of years ago to London. We're in the midwest, so a short flight with a plane change on the eastern seaboard, and a short trans-atlantic flight. Then when there, we didn't do a bunch every day, just kind of hung out. One day all we did was do the London Eye (the large "ferris wheel") and then walk over to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. That was it. Another day we just went to the Tower of London. That was fun because a group of Korean students just fell in love with dd and they all wanted to have their pictures taken with her. Dd ate it up and we had so much fun that day just talking with the students! We didn't have to be anywhere, so it didn't disrupt any schedule we had. Each day we would eat outdoors at a pub or get take out from Pret a Manger and go to a park to just hang out. The key was that it was very, very laid back with no particular schedule.
post #16 of 43
We had an amazing trip two years ago to Germany with kids ages 6 months and 4.5. We're going back this summer, now ages 2.5 and 6.5. We were in Berlin for a month and took two significant train trips w/in Germany.

I thought I'd speak to the food issue, since you are getting a lot of feedback otherwise. I've actually spent time in middle of Manhattan wandering around looking for a place I wanted to eat and getting frustrated even without kids. I mean, I also don't want to wait in a long line, spend a ton of money or get stuck at McDonald's. Some of that problem might not be about being out and about w/kids. I also find that the food issues get a lot easier if you are traveling at a slower pace. The first day you might be frustrated because you aren't finding anywhere good to eat. The second day, you've spotted some good cafes. By the third day, you've got your favorite ice cream store, etc.

Our time in Berlin was so great because we often didn't have much of an agenda. Alternating kid days with grown-up days is another good plan. Still, one of my favorite memories from that trip is the first morning. I took DS with me to get bakery rolls. I've spent a lot of time in Germany and while I love it, I also don't really "see" it anymore. That first morning it probably took us 15 minutes to walk half a block because DS had to examine the different bricks in the sidewalk, the different kinds of cars, the different store windows and OF COURSE the street car and its track. Sometimes travel with kids is just plain better than travel w/o kids.

I really didn't worry about whether he was experiencing particular parts of the culture. He experienced the parts that were accessible to him. Another great memory: The German/English attempts between our son and the guy who ran our favorite cafe as they attempted to create something resembling a peanut butter sandwich from ingredients on hand in the cafe. It certainly wasn't German food and it wasn't really American either but they came up with something DS ate many days that month and they probably both learned something in the process.

Sigh. We are going back July 3rd. I can NOT WAIT!
post #17 of 43
My son was born in Japan and we lived there for his first 2 years travelling around Japan and to Hong Kong, New Zealand, and the US during that time. We live in Hawaii now and our last big vacation was a ski trip to Whistler (DS just turned 3 and was old enough for ski-school). I also had friends come to visit us here in Hawaii with their kids and we all had a great time.

Before we had kids we used to backpack all around Europe and Asia so I understand where you are coming from. I agree that you just have to do it differently now. Pick a place that is child-friendly, stay for a week or more in one location with maybe smaller excursions out. If you are doing sight-seeing don't count on hitting more than one thing a day.

When we spent a month backpacking around India we met a Swedish couple travelling with 3 kids under 7 years-old by train! It is possible. They spent most of their time on the beaches of Goa and just moved slowly the rest of the time. They said food was sometimes a problem but their kids would usually eat eggs and rice which isn't going to kill them for a month. It was really inspiring to get to talk to them.
post #18 of 43
I'm so envious! How is everyone affording all this travel?!? The time to get to Europe is one thing but the price for 3 and in two years 4 tickets is more than we can afford yet alone a place to stay while both LOs need ft care

We are visiting family in OC this summer but can only afford it because we have miles to use...
post #19 of 43
My parents took my and my sis to Saudi when we were baby/toddler. We traveled around while we were there. My mom says the plane trip is hell, but you just have to remember, It does end! Just make it through that and you're set.
post #20 of 43
We live in Japan, and we mostly travel around the country or to the nearby ones. We're spending 2 weeks in India and 1 week in Sri Lanka this summer, becuase we don't have much $$$ to go and visit my family in Sweden.

This is going to be my DS's first travel, he's never been out of Japan and I'm nervous. We went to Tokyo last month and he seemed to like car traveling but I'm nervous how he will react by plane. He rarely cries and I hope he doesnt decide to do it by plane.

I've thought about NY when they're much older, but I don't know the US doesnt caught my attention. Our summer 2009 trip was a big FAIL, my DD was bored during the whole trip. And I didn't really enjoyed it either... Maybe it was my Bil's wife fault LOL

Well, we can afford to travel becuase we raise a certain amount each year for traveling and we find good plans. We don't look for luxury or anything.
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