Good preparation for a family adventure – especially abroad – matters when it comes to the overall success of the experience. Here's how to do it well. (Part 2 of 5)
In the previous article, I outlined five parts of making a family adventure – travel with kids, especially out-of-country travel – as fabulous and meaningful as it can possibly be.
These areas are Plan, Prepare, Go (!), Re-enter + Reflect, and Follow up.
In Part 1 we dealt with several aspects of planning. Now we turn towards preparation.
Because these articles are overviews and not meant to be comprehensive, we’ve jumped over the process of finding good tickets and the like, instead focusing on how to appropriately involve your kids, ages 3 and up, into the planning process.
Understanding the difference between planning and preparation
Preparation is different. Preparation assumes you have taken care of the following:
- Decided where you’re going to go and for how long;
- Spent some time researching what you’d want to do in that place / those places;
- Outlined and discussed budget;
- Researched flights, transportation and accommodations; and
- Made sure everyone’s voices are heard.
Now, with those essentials in place, we can begin preparing for the trip.
First thing, if you haven’t done it yet, is to develop a timeline for the preparations for the trip. You need to do this in tandem with considering what will be necessary for you, as a family of [X], to travel to [Y] for [Z] days/weeks.
Depending upon how much time you’ll have before you take off, you’ll want to set aside some time each week to work towards your goal. Set that as an unbreakable appointment on your calendar (the exception being sickness or emergency).
You might even announce to the kids something like, “On Sunday afternoons we’re going to devote time to prepare for our trip.” Make this your time to work together to move towards accomplishing some of the following:
- Plane tickets purchased for all legs of the trip?
- Passports needed? Updated? By when?
- Visas needed?
- Shots needed?
- Medications needed? For whom? Order in advance?
- Adapters needed (for overseas)? Check & purchase if so.
- Contact people we know in [Y]? Arrange to visit?
- New suitcases needed? Discuss: Will you check in bags?*
- Appropriate clothing for the season? For the planned activities?
- Other travel items needed?
- Snacks / simple meals for travel?
- Books on Kindles?
- Chargers for electric devices?
- (For contact wearers) Extra set(s) of contacts? Solution? Glasses?
- Extra meds for headaches, bad stomach, prevention of colds, etc.?
- How to get local currency? How to keep money safe?
* All overseas flights offer one free check-in (as of January, 2019). But you should consider if you want to be weighed down by a large bag. For some people, it is no big deal. Others prefer to travel light. Just keep in mind, if you take a large bag, you will have less freedom of movement.
Also, how much the kids can help will likely determine how you can pack. Around 4–6 years old, children get excited about pulling their own suitcases and wearing their own backpacks. This can be a huge help...until they get too tired! So, don’t rely on those kiddie suitcases to be full of much.
Is one (or more) child(ren) still in diapers? Is he/she close to potty training? If the trip is still a few months out, consider this as a time during which you might coax that child to accomplish this all-important goal.
I won’t go into this much, because every child and family situation is different (and there are scores of articles available on how to do this), but realize it will make your travel much easier if your young child no longer needs diapers (and free up some good suitcase space).
Let me suggest two final things when it comes to preparations:
1 | Make it fun! If you bring more laughter and joy into the process, it will not seem so overwhelming and intimidating. Treat it like a fun project you just can’t wait to work on.
2 | And involve the kids as much as you can. The more they participate in the process, the more ownership they’ll have and the better the outcome.
Have you had success with this planning stage, involving your kids? How?