Preparing Kids for International Travel
What better way to raise world citizens then by traveling with your kids? If your are with me and your trip is booked, now what? How do you prepare children for travel? Kids are adaptable and most are easy travellers. But preparation will enhance the experience for everyone. One thing I like to do for my clients is to send a couple of emails to prepare them for their trip. Since I have the detailed itineraries, I try to send them information about history, culture, weather and even some trivia concerning their destinations. This is the same way I prepare my own children for travel.
Discuss the history of the country you are planning on visiting. Maybe you are visiting Canada from the US, and there is not a huge cultural difference to discuss but my kids found it fascinating that Canada is part of the British Empire. We talked about how they still have the English queen on their money. This gave them something to look for when we got there. It also facilitates some of my end goal it taking them to other countries which is to highlight how our countries history is unique to us and other cultures have very different stories and so different perspectives.
Language is a great way to learn about different cultures. In my opinion, it is polite as a visitor to learn some of the language of your host country. “Hello” “good bye” “please” “thank you” as a basic minimum. The vast majority of people you meet in a different country will be pleased by visitors who take the time to learn the language. Children get that treatment tenfold. Parents get looks of appreciation from the locals for this show of respect. Even local language differences, as in the UK where you should say “trousers” instead of “pants.” Most Brits know that if we have an American accent that we are not discussing underwear when we say “pants,” but I think they still giggle if we say it in public.
I am not talking about taking the kids to Paris or Milan to for some haute couture. Clothing and fashion are forms of communication in a culture. Much as we use uniforms to communicate professions (ie white coats for doctors, suits for business, robes for judges ect.) we also see some differences in what fashion choices might mean to communicate in a different cultures. Pink is generally speaking a way to communicate femininity in the US, but this is not true in Italy. If you happen upon a person in a white wig and robe in the UK, they are probably not actors in a play but likely a type of lawyer. This can be a very fun way to discuss other cultures by looking at the current and historical fashion from that region.
Oh how I have struggled with my kids and food. They are picky and we are working on it. In advance of any trip, we talk about the local food options. We talk about the need to be willing to try new things. I have found that when we are in a restaurant in a new country that they are more willing to try new foods. This alone makes the trip worth it. If I have my way we will continue to travel just to ensure our family’s future gastronomic successes.
Health and Safety
The CDC travel website contains all the information you need to know about any given destinations health concerns. They give recommendations for travelers to get certain vaccinations and warned about the health risks in that country. I recommend avoiding the Congo during Ebola outbreaks or traveling to Zika country while pregnant. The CDC will make this information clear for any destination you would like to research. General safety is a touchy subject in the travel world. Some areas, like Mexico, the news is reporting danger but millions of people vacation there unharmed. Read the travel warnings, talk to your travel advisor and remember that all travel has some inherent risk but so does staying at home. If you are uncomfortable, pick somewhere else, it’s a big world.
Pack your bags, you and your family are ready to go!