Some family vacations are weeklong sprints; others—involving more days and more far-flung stops—feel like The Amazing Race. And while the basic tips for foreign travel with kids still apply, the latter does require extra prep work. Whether the aim is to make the most of a school break, maximize a career break, or simply enjoy extreme bonding time, you’ll want your adventure go as smoothly as possible. So here are some lessons that I learned from my own round-the-world family marathon.
1. Avoid "been there, done that" syndrome by covering diverse destinations. Alternate urban with rural locales and iconic ones with new discoveries. Picking spots with similar climates is a bonus, though, because it lets you pare back on packing.
2. Ease kids in—and out—of culture shock by positioning the most exotic (read: challenging) areas mid trip. To ensure they aren’t too extreme visit the Department of State travel site. It has info on safety issues, entry requirements, and more.
3. Since costs add up fast when flying as a family, you should overcome any budget airline bias and explore all options. Attitude Travel has the low-down on low-fare carriers that allow you to affordably connect the dots on your itinerary.
4. For some kids, repeated take-offs aren’t just tedious: they’re painful. If ear discomfort is an issue for anyone in your brood, buy specially-designed plugs called Ear Planes. Children’s sizes are available at pharmacies for around $6.
5. Where you stay is as important as where you go. I frequently choose vacation rentals over conventional hotels. Savings aside, rental digs offer families privacy, space, and the freedom to move at your own pace. HomeAway is my go-to site.
6. In less developed places, where you benefit from having staff for support, I prefer intimate boutique hotels or eco-lodges. My best deal? At Eco Hotels of the World I found the magical Rivertime Resort in Laos for $38 a night!
7. To help offset any lost school time, intersperse independent outings with excursions guided by local experts. I love the ones offered worldwide by Urban Adventures. Free tours led by the volunteers from Global Greeters come highly recommended too.
8. Finally, you should always pack a first aid kit. However, on long trips more than Pepto Bismol and Band-Aids may be needed. For parental peace of mind, check IAMAT: it includes details on vaccinations plus an international doctor database.
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A full-time travel writer for over 10 years, frequent Fodor’s contributor Susan MacCallum-Whitcomb escaped the cold this past winter by circling the globe with her family in tow. The foursome ticked off five continents in two months.
Photo Credit: naphtalina / iStockPhoto, Susan MacCallum-Whitcomb