When going on a trip with kids, you can never prepare enough. Right? Wrong!
While taking ten extra sets of clothing, extra shoes, every emergency medication imaginable and toys that could fill a village might seem like a good idea when you’re at home, you’ll regret it the minute you step out the door and realise that you have way too much stuff. A general rule for any type of travel is to take less than you think you’ll need. You can always buy things at your destination, and even in remote undeveloped areas you’ll be able to find most of the basics.
There are, however, a few things that you should make sure to take with you.
If you’re on any sort of prescription, make sure to take more than enough for the trip. It’s also a good idea to keep it in the prescription bottle so that you don’t get into any sort of trouble at airport security. Basic painkillers, anti-nausea medication or anything you’re unlikely to find at your destination are also good ideas. (I always take my little tubes of homeopathic remedies in my suitcase.) Check if you need any vaccinations or malaria medication a good few months before your trip, and keep your medications in various places in your bags — both carry-on and checked luggage — in case a bag gets lost in transit somewhere.
If your kid is less than five years old, take a stroller. Even if you never use one at home, having a set of wheels for a sleepy tyke can save an afternoon, and enable you to keep on exploring a city while your son or daughter takes a much-needed nap. Strollers are also a great aid for rapid airport navigation, as keeping your kid strapped in will help you to make it to your gate in time for boarding.
3) Travel Insurance
Don’t question it. Just buy it. While nine time out of ten you won’t need to have insurance for anything, on that tenth trip, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you bought it. Whether it’s a bug bite that goes septic or an airline strike that leaves you stranded, it’s worth making sure to have cancellation and interruption insurance as well as medical for the whole family. If you already have medical insurance, be sure to check what the criteria are for overseas travel — you often won’t need to double up, but be sure to have all of the necessary phone numbers and information booklets on hand in case of emergency.
In the age of iPads and pocket-sized high-definition cameras, you’d kick yourself if you forgot your charger. A good idea is to take a backup charger with you in case you accidentally leave yours plugged into the wall somewhere and only realise when you’re hundreds of miles away (been there, done that). For long flights or train trips, tablets and laptops can be a great way for a tired parent to take a break. While books and other activities are crucial, having a movie or two on-hand can be a life saver.
Also, when it comes to cameras, think about where you’re travelling to. While I’ve seen plenty of tourists carrying around massive SLR cameras in impoverished nations, do you want to be that person? Might it not make sense to buy something a bit more compact when going to a place where ten dollars is the average weekly wage? The same can be said for any electronic gadgets you might want to carry around with you. If you’re going to Europe no problem — just be careful of the professional pickpockets. In less developed places, however, be mindful of what you’ve got with you and who sees it. Getting mugged or robbed is a pretty good way to ruin a trip (and once again, I know from experience).
5) Guide Books
With dozens of travel guides to choose from, how do you know what to buy? I’ve found that the best way to get a travel guide you like is going into an actual bookstore and flipping through the books. Take an hour one afternoon when the kids are at school or daycare and visit your local bookstore (or if there is one a travel bookstore is even better!). I like Lonely Planet for their guides to countries, but find that Time Out often has the best city guides around. Eye Witness guides are really pretty and filled with great pictures, but sometimes have less information about practicalities on the ground. Figure out where you’re going and what you need, and take it from there. That said, leaving it to the last minute and looking for a guidebook when you arrive at your destination can sometimes cause extra headaches. However, if you’re backpacking around Asia, for instance, you’ll be able to trade guidebooks with other travellers at various hostels and guesthouses, or usually find them at markets, especially in the more touristy areas.