I’ve just gotten back from a globe-trotting adventure with my two young sons. It was simultaneously wonderful and stressful. Fortunately for you, I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Now, all my pain and suffering will pay off as I share my life lessons with you.

1. Organize Your Passports

Traveling internationally with kids (or heck, even going to the grocery store) demands a lot of stuff. Those of us who live by the “be prepared for anything” motto tend to have a lot of luggage.

But technically, you could leave every earthly possession at home — except one. You won’t make it far if you don’t have your passport. Get organized before you even leave the house.

Obviously, there was no way I was entrusting the passports to the kids (or even my husband). I was voted Most Likely to Manage Important Travel Documents, and I rose to the title majestically.

I used a coupon organizer to store all our passports in one place. Each passenger had a different slot. After customs and immigration forms were issued, those went into the respective slots too. Boarding passes? Luggage claim tags? Everything went into the coupon organizer.

There was even extra space at the back to hold our itinerary and pens (a necessary addition to have on hand when it comes time to fill out forms).

2. You Can Never Have Too Many Bags

Bags, of all shapes and all sizes, are my best friend while traveling. I don’t mean suitcases. I mean bags. I put bags inside of bags inside of bags and everything works out wonderfully.

I put bags…

Inside My Carry-On

Imagine the following scenario. We were mulling around the gate, getting ready to board in the next 20 minutes. One kid was begging for toys, the other was pleading for food.

I reached into my carry-on and grabbed the brown bag, which contained several small toys. I handed that to my oldest. Then, I reached into my carry-on and pulled out the purple bag, which contained the snacks.

While Big Boy was entertaining himself, I grabbed a food item for Little Boy, shoved the snack bag back into my carry-on and fed the little munchkin. Later when it was time to board, Big Boy stowed his toys back in his little bag and handed it to me. It went into the carry-on, ready to be quickly retrieved the next time entertainment was necessary.

I didn’t have to dig all the way down to the bottom of my carry-on to find the one and only toy that would satisfy my son. I didn’t have to worry about crumbs spilling all over the contents of my luggage. Everything was contained.

I also had bags for extra clothing and diaper changes. Rather than lug my entire carry-on back to the minuscule airplane bathroom, I just grabbed the little blue bag that contained wipes, a diaper, a changing table cover, and an extra set of britches.

Inside My Suitcases

With limited access to laundry facilities while traveling, I needed to make sure we had enough clothes to last the duration. I wanted to make sure we all had clean, matching clothes on the first day, last day, and every day in between.

Rather than sort clothing by family member, I sorted by day. Then, once I had enough clothes gathered for each day, I put them in bags. Everything we would need for Monday went into a large trash bag. Everything we needed for Tuesday went into a second bag. After everything was labeled carefully, it all went into a suitcase.

I also had bags for random items that would be needed multiple days, like swimming gear and jackets.

3. Gather the Necessary Paperwork

Before leaving home, I made copies of all our passports — just in case. I packed these in our checked bags in case we got separated from the originals in our carry-on.

I also took copies of our kids’ birth certificates. Now, I know this is borderline paranoia, but I like being prepared.

I once traveled internationally with my sons by myself while my husband stayed home. When I arrived at my final destination and went through security, the immigration officer questioned my travel situation. Why was I traveling without my spouse? Was I on the run with these kids, smuggling them out of the country? In that situation, I had planned ahead and obtained a notarized letter of permission from my husband (which parents must do if they are traveling without the kids’ other parent).

When my husband travels with me, there isn’t as much suspicion — but there could be. I’m always ready to provide documentation proving those minors belong in my company.

4. Practice Eating Local Foods

Unless you have really adventurous eaters, meals could be challenging while traveling abroad.

Try to prepare their palates a little. Before setting out, visit some local restaurants. See if you can find any authentic foods from the countries you plan to visit. At the very least, try to prepare some of them yourself at home.

5. Pack Kid-Friendly Essentials

There are lots of things that I wish I had thought to bring. There were others that I’m glad I had.

Medicines

Traveling is stressful, especially for little bodies. Illnesses can break out at the most inconvenient times. Bring all the over-the-counter medicines you might need to treat unexpected conditions: colds, fevers, runny noses, diarrhea, blisters, bug bites, etc.

Don’t forget the little droppers and measuring cups. I also took a dash of dish soap in a travel-size container to wash those measuring cups in the hotel bathroom if necessary.

Reusable Water Bottles

Access to safe drinking water isn’t a guarantee everywhere in the world. Pack a sturdy, plastic water bottle that can be reused each day of your trip. Make sure you have plenty of water each day before setting out to explore your surroundings.

Again, packing a dash of dish soap allows you to keep those bottles clean and healthy as you travel.

Laundry Soap

Even though I thought I had plenty of clothes, it was nice to have a little laundry soap on hand. I was able to wash items that the kids needed to reuse; for example, my son dropped his ice cream cone on his jacket and didn’t want to wear that sticky mess the next day.

I had a little laundry soap in a travel-size container and cleaned things up, washing them by hand in the bathroom sink.

A Plastic Cup

The hotel room only had a glass drinking cup. I was fearful of dropping and breaking that cup when it was wet and slippery. It would have been nice to have something plastic to use while washing the kids’ hair in the bathtub.

Hangers

Hangers are especially helpful during beach vacations. Families always have wet things that need to hang up to dry. Hotels are notorious for providing custom-built wood hangers that can only be used in the closet. This makes it impossible to hang things in the bathroom to dry.

It was nice to hang things on the shower curtain rod and let them drip-dry into the bathtub.

6. Have a Backup Plan

Sometimes, young travelers cannot stand being a tourist for one more second. Have a backup plan for when they just need some normalcy.

Is there a McDonald's or other restaurant nearby that would have food they are accustomed to? Can you visit a good old fashioned park and spend some time going down the slides?

7. Have Fun!

Unless you are unbelievably wealthy, international travel probably isn’t something your kids will get to do on a regular basis. Relax. Have fun. And enjoy the moment.

If you have any additional tips, be sure to let us know!

 

Please join @ParentingSquad on FacebookTwitterInstagramGoogle+, and Pinterest. Have a funny, touching or interesting story to share about kids and parenting? Email us at Editor (at) ParentingSquad.com.