The other night, Ty brought up that we have lived in 9 different countries. He differentiated between living somewhere and just visiting based on whether we hung out at least one month. I was driving at the time, with my mind on the pitch black windy backroad and I questioned him absentmindedly... but then he laid it all out. USA (obviously), Japan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, France, England, Ireland, and now Scotland. Damn. But even with all these countries behind us, all bets were off as we prepared for the big jump over here with kids.
In September 2014, we left our home in the San Francisco bay for their very first big adventure. The Goober was 3 and sad to leave his preschool. Little Biscuit was 10 months and *this* close to his first steps. To say I was stressed would be putting things mildly... but I digress. You can read all about the epic upheaval over here.
In this post, I'll share my list of 10 tips for traveling with small kids; including several that can apply to long-term holidays or relocations such as ours.
1) Keep food familiar
Little bodies can react negatively to too much change all at once, and no matter where you may roam, basics are basics. Bread, eggs, milk, cereals, meats, fresh veg... (peanut butter, FYI, can be tricky). Keeping kids' dietary staples simple and familiar can soothe little tummies and big emotions in times of uncertainty. This might require some extra forethought for those with specific nutritional or dietary needs. By all means, introduce them to new foods but keep routines in place, especially for breakfast & times when emotions are high.
2) Pack extra vitamins & supplements
Don't assume you'll be able to find your go-to brands abroad. Be sure to pack plenty of vitamins & supplements for the whole family if you're unable or unwilling to substitute. If you are flexible however, I have found there are loads of great options for the entire family in France, Ireland and Scotland.
3) Research vaccines
Some childhood vaccinations need to be administered at very specific times, so pay close attention to the schedule you've adhered to so far. During our transition, The Goober was within a 2 year window for his next round of shots and Little Biscuit needed a few pokes in the 12-15 month range. There are many parallels between the vaccination schedules for the US and UK, but some differences worth noting.
4) Make your own first aid kit
Go ahead and start with a ready-made kit from Target if you want to, but GUT the thing and take mental inventory of what you will have available in case of an emergency (or minor boo-boo). Chances are, you'll want to add some things specific to your family's needs. I chose to start from scratch with an Orla Kiely clutch, since I knew I'd be carrying it with me for a while and I wanted to actually like it. Aside from the basics, I chose to include:
- Ibuprofen AND acetaminophen fever reducers for the kids. So glad I did, as these were needed suddenly in the middle of the night in Ireland.
- Motion sickness wristbands for myself and The Goober. FWIW they only work for him.
- Fun bandaids & stickers.
- Be Kool gel packs. LOVE these things. My boys won't tolerate them while conscious, but they help with otherwise restless, feverish nights.
5) Quick fixes with an iron
Most hotels and AirBnB's include clothes irons, which can be super useful if you've packed fuse tape and iron-on patches.
6) Hot water bottles
Even before kids, I got in the habit of always traveling with a water bottle. You never know when you'll be stuck in a chilly hotel room, and hot water is easy to come by. It's amazing how much comfort cozy toes can bring! Recently, I've also been reminded just how convenient they can be when treating sore muscles.
7) Buy the right travel bed
In Ireland, the house came with this massive, heavy & hideous Travel Lite (hah!) by Graco. It's must have been at least 10 years old. Don't get me wrong, I was so grateful for it. The extra bed gave us 2 different cozy spots for Little Biscuit in different areas of the house. Anyway, I can't imagine the pure unfiltered Hell of lugging that thing through an airport. Good news is travel sleep / play / baby containment systems have come a long way since the Graco beast burdened parents on the go. Do yourself (your back, and your marriage) a favor and splurge on a nice travel crib. Just do it. This isn't the place to scrimp.
As mentioned in my previous post, we chose the Lotus Travel Crib (play yard) by Guava Family and have used it *everywhere*. We purchased the crib about a month before leaving the states and put it to work immediately. I don't have a single complaint.
Not only has it helped us put the Biscuit down at friend's houses, numerous hotels and holiday rentals, but The Goober loves hanging out in it too. Toss a throw over the top for an instant clubhouse, or add a pack of cheap balloons for an awesome toddler mosh pit. Imagine ferrets in a box of packing peanuts; it's pretty much exactly like that.
8) Let them sleep
Jetlag sucks for everyone, no way around that. We had a plan for fighting the lag with the kids - and miraculously it worked. The plan: get to the hotel, black out the windows and go straight to sleep until we were rested and on schedule with the rest of civilization.
Oh, and remember how the Biscuit was just about walking? Well he decided to take his first real steps at that hotel in Paris ^_^
9) Make lots of time for fun
Sillyness, being the official language of young kids, goes a looooong way when surroundings are unfamiliar, routines (despite our best efforts) struggle to take hold and littles get grumpy. I've found there's no better way to perk up even the poutiest of pouts than to kick the silly up a few. Some of The Goober's favorites are my "dancing finger people" who always slip on a tissue (the anticipation on his face is priceless), and the classic random object on my head.
10) Home is wherever I'm with you
In our case, we literally sold off our entire household with the exception of select toys, books, some decor, scrapbooks, art, clothing and coveted kitchenware. This process was certainly confusing for The Goober; seeing the only home he's ever known be whittled away down to nothing more than a stack of boxes for freight. We made it through by jumping on opportunities to demonstrate how "home" is not a house, or a place. Home is family, and we're sticking together!