rI promise this will get more entertaining as the trip begins, right now we’re just in the pre-funk preparations mode, so I thought I would lay out the ‘how-to’ beforehand just in case someone is actually interested in traveling abroad with three kids, or in case my site is picked up by some mommy blogger who wants to share my story. Mommys?
Hopefully parts 3-5 will pick up the entertainment value as I will be writing a timeline of events. You can also follow me @mylifewith3kids on Twitter. I don’t bite.
The second part of what I hope to be a five-part series is about what to do with your kids, or for your kids to get them ready for the trip.
As always, when traveling with kids, you want/think/hope/pray everything runs smoothly.
As always, with kids it hardly ever does.
Here are some tidbits the wife and I thought might be helpful before you left for your trip:
1 – Documents!
Make sure you plan ahead for all your passports, tickets, etc. We started getting ours about six months in advance. Considering we needed to renew eight of our nine passports (five U.S. passports, four Brazilian passports) we probably should’ve given ourselves more time.
Both consulates had amazing turnaround times and we received all eight just two weeks after they were sent out.
Oh, and make sure you have a fanny pack – yes, a fanny pack – or an easy to access bag so you can deliver everybody’s information all at once and in a timely fashion. Kids are patient when it comes to waiting for Mom to rustle through her fanny pack – yes, a fanny pack.
2 – Exchange Money!
Don’t wait until the airport or when you’re in the foreign country to exchange money.
We exchanged money months in advance (and after watching the exchange rate jump to nearly 4-to-1) this way we had money on hand and didn’t have to worry about getting a lower exchange rate at the airport.
(Plus, the weekend before you leave you pay the kids in the foreign money, and they think it’s super cool they have $20 reais rather than the $5 they normally get paid. Wait until they realize they can’t get anything cool with that!)
3 – Games, Games and Coloring Books!
Okay, so we’re the anti-technology parents who don’t have iPads for our kids, own only one TV that the entire family has to share, doesn’t let our son play his XBox One freely and only in one hour increments every other day, and doesn’t let our kids both have a phone and use our phone while waiting for an appointment so … sucks to be them for 15-hours in the air!
Lukas does have a Nintendo DS that he suckered his grandparents into getting for him but when those batteries run out…it’s Hollywood word searches, reading, journaling and hopefully a good movie on the flight.
We did, however, make sure we hit up the Dollar Store for some miniature games of Connect 4 and more (hey, that rhymed!).
So if you’re old-fashioned and don’t let your kids have any fun like us…then make sure you pack their packs full of games!
4 – Their Own Carry On!
It’s fun for them to pack their own carry on. Their favorite stuffed animals get to make the trek, as do some random, fortunate LEGO people. Lia packed way too many books. We made sure that they had their own batch of snacks. It made it fun for them.
However, beware that they will pack anything and everything that happens to be in front of their faces the day they pack. We get some random crap in their backs, so before they have to get through customs, they have to bypass Mom. And she’s a bit tougher than customs or TSA.
5 – Make it Fun!
But of course! If they aren’t having fun they won’t enjoy the ride.
We made sure to talk it up for the last few weeks (so every day after that they thought was the day we were bailing), but we also wanted to spice it up a bit and turn it into The Amazing Race: Johnson Five Edition.
Every Saturday during The Amazing Race season the five of us would sit down with our Pizza Hut pizza and watch both The Middle and The Amazing Race. We love to pick our teams and then see which one of our team lasts the longest. The kids learn about travel by watching the show, which hopefully will help us as we navigate three airports.
I created five simple tasks that they will need to do at every ‘pit stop’ in hopes that it’ll make things a bit more exciting and fun since we’re traveling one-half of the world.
Sounds fun now but check in with me in a week and I’ll let you know how it turns out.
That’s it…actually, there’s one more!
That’s right a BONUS item!
If you’re not familiar with an airport (and learn you only have a 1 hour, 31 minute layover), then make sure you research how to navigate the airport. We realized that we had not used LAX for an international flight. I pulled up LAX and … wow! It looks a bit complicated.
Thankfully people on the World Wide Web provided a little stress-relief giving us the video-game task of having to navigate two escalators, two long empty tunnels, and three terminals all within 1 hour, 31 minutes in between flights.
Again, check back next time to see how this ends up…