Road trips are one thing, but an overseas jaunt with juniors? You’re going to want to read this expert guide first!
The thought of travelling overseas with kids is one laced with both joy and jitters. But at the 11th hour, we felt we all needed some respite and a flight - not a car trip - was in order. The question was, how were us parents to do that with kids in tow?
Here’s what I learnt about travelling overseas with kids, what the experts have to say about the benefits and why I'll be doing it again ASAP!
Don’t overthink it
Generally, kids want open space and sunshine, water and sports. And if they’re not inclined to get into the great outdoors at home, then holidays are the best time to re-introduce this into their routine. So a destination that caters to kids in this way is a great idea. We actually didn’t dip into the kids activities offered at the resort we visited as much as we thought, but the fact that there were so many kids around this kid-friendly destination gave ours so much confidence to connect, interact and blend in with children of other nationalities and ages. It was beautiful to watch…(and a great lesson in itself!)
Image: Club Med, Bintan Island
Don’t put it off: There will never be a ‘right’ age
“Traveling overseas is really beneficial for children from a very young age, especially around two when they start being really aware of what’s going around them and can interact with their environment,” explains Marine Blanchetier, Spokesperson for Club Med Australia and New Zealand “In addition, traveling together is one of the best bonding activities you can do as a family. You get surprised, discover new things together, and it makes for unique memories during one of the most important times in a child’s life.”
Consider the benefits
Kids under two years of age can travel on your lap for the heavily reduced fare, explains Mark van Huisstede, a director of iTalkTravel. “On international flights the seats in the front of each section allow for a bassinet on the wall which allows for them to sleep whilst flying at altitude," he adds. However, the bassinets must be booked and these seats allocated, which is best done when booking with a travel agent. Did you know that kids can also gain Frequent Flyer points which can be personally beneficial to them or transferred to family members. "Points expire in most programs but points often can be used for other shopping, so it can be a win-win," notes Mark.
Image: Club Med, Bintan Island
Jet off with a journal
Our kids are old enough to draw and write about their adventures, so we made it a must-do. Each day the kids kept a record of their adventures which not only served as much needed downtime for them after a day on the go, but allowed them to explore what they were seeing and learning about. This also gave us a beautiful moment in time to connect, chat about our gorgeous day and tap into the ways in which the kids were observing their new environment.
Turn of Tech
We didn’t pack an iPad or an iPhone, PC or DS. Nothing. On the flight over, the kids went for their lives watching as many cartoons and movies as they liked, but once we landed it was eyes up, open and focused on fresh adventure. For our family, this was not a big deal – or even discussed – as we don’t rely much on tech at all anyway. The kids purchased a book at the airport newsagent and set themselves a task to finish it by the time they got home. Again, making something like reading into a game gave the idea legs and the absence of screens thrust them into some incredible adventures.
Educate your kids out of school
We took our primary school aged kids of school for two weeks. They’re young and the education they got overseas was huge. As Marine notes, there are several ways you can ensure they learn something whilst traveling if you choose to use an overseas destination as your classroom:
• "Develop their curiosity in a different way than school through practical experience," she says. Visit cultural centres, sample the foods, try the craft, do maths with the currency, learn to order your dinner in the language and so on.
• Gain confidence through expanding their comfort zone by trying something new. "That can be challenging them with more physical activities, or creatively with new projects," Marine suggests.
• Develop an open mind and make them aware that that the world is wide and rich through meeting new people and discovering new ways of living and doing things. We definitely saw this as they played with children of all races and religions.
Work commitments saw us travel outside of school holidays, but it proved a blessing as Mark explains. “Good rates are always going to be outside of school holidays, as there are less people traveling and generally resorts are looking for families to fill their resorts," he says. "Also, rather than booking interconnecting rooms, sleep in one room with a sofa bed or a roll away. This will depend on the child’s age but this will give you the best rate."