International Travel Tips with Children

Updated on March 01, 2013
L.T. asks from Houston, TX
8 answers

This spring we will be traveling to Europe for vacation/to visit family. I am a little anxious about the long flight/customs, etc. even though I have done it before--but it has been almost 10 years ago and without kids. My children are in elementary and middle school and have flown domestically many times but my daughter is a little worried about the long flight too (it will be 9 hours for one flight and a couple more for the second leg) and jet lag. Does anyone have any tips on how to help make our travels a bit easier? Any thing to bring/not bring for the flight/transfers? Thanks for your help!

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for the tips! Our trip was great and the kids were real troopers. I relaxed the rules on electronics and they thought that was just great. Plus the fact that we each had our own screen to watch whatever we wanted from the choice of movies was enough. They were just excited by the novelty of it all that it worked out great.

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answers from Columbia on

Not sure where you are going.... so this may not apply.

I spent some time talking with my daughter about the differences between how kids act in America and how they act overseas.... for us it was specifically in dealing with airport security. We flew to Indonesia when my daughter was 10 (2 years ago) and my brother had told me that some of the security guards are armed. Like.... not with a handgun armed.... like ARMED. So, I prepared her for that.
Also that if security picked up her stuff she was not to object..... or say "mom, that's my stuff". I sorta briefed her on that the entitlements of an American child are not the entitlements of children everywhere. She's a pretty good kid.... but I wanted her to really know that what she takes for granted here isn't available everywhere.

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answers from Chicago on

My kids (8 and 11) love the long flights to Europe. During travel our regular rules are suspended. They are allowed to play with their iPod and Nintendos as much as they want and that's a big thumbs up for them. I usually have them pack and take their own carry on. They take their iPod and charger, some books and toys with them.
It is very unpredictable how the flight will be. Sometimes my boys fall asleep in the plane before dinner is served, other times the stay up and play games or watch movies almost the entire flight. I don't force them to sleep and now that they are bit older they really try to stay up all night during the flight. I would try to make the first day in Europe an easy one, if that is possible at all, but try to have them stay up until the evening as it takes too long to adjust to the local time if they get to have naps in the afternoon.

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answers from Washington DC on

Yep, handheld devices are great (download FREE classic books onto their devices before you go -- you can find them online) but be sure you have some other forms of entertainment that involve their hands -- kids this age need to do that as well; it engages a different part of their minds. If they do word find puzzles, crossword puzzles, sudoku, any other puzzles, that's great (you can find tons of free, kid-appropriate puzzles online to print out for them). If they like to draw, bring small ringbound drawing pads and good quality colored pencils and sharpeners (do not forget the sharpeners)! Bring real books as well as electronic ones. A portable game they both can play together like a magnetic travel checkers set, if they play together OK. Some form of small craft -- "finger knitting" is terrific because all you need is yarn and nothing else (maybe some blunt kid scissors but check with security).

Remember too that the airlines now have TONS of programming on their in-flight video systems, not just one lousy movie. There is likely an entire channel of all-kid programming for both video and audio, depending on the airline. Take care that it doesn't end up kind of mesmerizing them -- I limit my middle school daughter's watching stuff when we're on the plane so she's not glued to her seat. It is very important that they get up and down at times. And some content may not be what you want for your kids, even on a kids' channel.

Keep them hydrated and walking periodically. You will have to get bottled water after you pass the security checkpoint so do not bring any liquids from home or get them before security; you'll have to dump them.

Bring those germ-killer Clorox wipes -- forget the canister, put them in a ziplock bag. Airplanes are dirty no matter how much they clean them so I always clean the seat armrests, headrests and tray tables, and carry wipes into the bathroom as well to clean there (you have about 50 people per bathroom on a large international flight -- think about it). You don't want the kids doing this cleaning on their own, though.

They and you should avoid greasy or heavy or high-carb foods the whole day of the trip -- you will feel worse if you eat those things and then fly. Eat lightly and have them do the same. Drink water and not soda -- soda is actually dehyrdating! Some fruit juice is good for a pick-me-up when you're close to landing and they have to be more alert to get off the plane, through baggage claim, etc.

We fly to England every year and have since our daughter was born 12 years ago. I hope you have a great time.

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answers from Sacramento on

We're travelling internationally right now. I did a nine hour flight with three boys. It was fine all the way. Best thing were the three iPads we had with us. We loaded them with movies and brought headphones with splitters. Not a problem was encountered. Plenty of snacks and drinks too. Have a great time - we are!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Most jets to Europe have in-seat touch screens with enterntainment features (movies, music, documentaries, news etc) and as far as I know most of the flights to Europe travel at night so usually after dinner is served, most people go to sleep, and I guess your kids will be ok on the flight to Europe. In terms of airport where you have the tranfer, it really depends on the airport. If you fly through Amsterdam, I can tell you this is a great airport with stuff to do for all ages, I love that airport and even when I have a loyover of 4-5 hrs I do not get bored. If you fly through London Heathrow and you have a layover of more than five hrs, kids can get bored if you do not have devices with you (laptop, Ipad, Ipod etc), as you don't have too much to do there. A layover of 2-3 hrs in Heathrow is ok as you have time to make the transfer in time because this is a huge airport. If it's Paris, I heard that again it's not much to do there, compared to Amsterdam. Btw, if you fly through Amsterdam and you have a layover of 6-8 hrs, you could actually take the airport train and get downtown Amsterdam, at the Central Station, in 15-20 minutes, it's very nice, I've done it once and it was really worth. Hope this info helps! Have fun in Europe!

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answers from Washington DC on

Bring a pillow pet or something that will help her sleep. On international flights like that, they turn down the lights so people can rest to try to avoid serious jet lag. My DH could not sleep, but DD and I did and DD traveled the best out of all of us (she was not quite 3). I don't like long flights, either, but bring books, activities, watch a movie, get the kid meal (find out when you need to place that order)...stay hydrated and travel light re: the carry ons. You want to be able to grab and go if you have a transfer. Everyone in our group had a backpack, even DD.


answers from Washington DC on

if possible, get them up to walk up and down the aisle once an hour if they're awake. that should be enough to help the physical discomfort of sitting for that long, yet not be enough to be a nuisance to the other passengers.
get off the plane during the layover and find somewhere they can run around a little. also do try and eat inbetween the flights. airport food is expensive and not always great, but almost certainly better than what's served during the flight.
bring water and snacks, of course. i love happymom's point that if handheld devices normally have sensible limits, suspending those limits will get you several hours of entertained kids. bring a couple of their favorite read-to books so that you can help 'em out if they get tired of entertaining themselves. reading softly to your kids won't disturb the other passengers, they've almost certainly got earbuds.
your best bet, of course, is to get your kids on board already tired so they sleep as much as possible.
enjoy your trip!
:) khairete



answers from New York on

make sure kids have handheld devices, a few of them so if batteries run out in one they have another one.
my kids have been traveling to europe (20+ hrs with layovers) since they were 3. i was always more tired than them. never had a problem. i would recommend eating during a layover because airplane food is not good esp. for kids.

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