Tips for International Travel With Preschoolersby Nina Makofsky
Whether your vision of an international trip is lazing in a hammock at the beach or climbing archaeological ruins, the experience is fundamentally changed when traveling with a preschooler. That is not to say that preschoolers cannot make international travel fun, interesting and rewarding, just that you must make an itinerary with a child's interests and stamina in mind. With a few simple guidelines, the vacation can be enjoyable for preschoolers and adults alike.
An international destination means that your preschooler will not only be far from the comforts of home, but also from the comforts of his home culture. Some preschoolers hardly notice shifts in language, currency and local dress, while others are fascinated and still others are dismissive. You can transform culture shock into cultural engagement by bringing along some familiar items, such as stuffed animals, a blanket or a favorite shirt, but also making a stop at your destination's market or toy shop upon arrival.
Gone are the days where you could hit the Louvre in the morning and the Pompidou in the afternoon. Traveling with a preschooler does not have to mean giving up a museum or shopping habit, but it does mean one of those museums should be a children's museum or a natural history museum and one of those shops should involve souvenirs or candy. Before you hit the Pompidou Museum, you'll have to spend ample time at its nearby fountain or stop at a cafe for French lemonade.
Walking through international neighborhoods is wonderful with preschoolers, who typically take interest in every little shop window, busker performance or bakery display. But their little legs tire out quickly, so plan some diversions such as relaxing at a green space, hopping on a boat tour or taking a double-decker bus on a spin around town. Keep up a child's interest by playing "I Spy" or creating a walking scavenger hunt of items to seek.
In the interest of keeping a preschooler placated, it can be tempting to purchase many ice cream cones or lollipops. If your picky eater will not try foreign cuisine, ask locals for family-friendly spots that have children's menus. Some international markets have clean and delicious food stalls. Look where the crowds are forming and follow suit. If your child misses some home food, seek out a grocery store where he can pick out a favorite snack.