Everyone knows that traveling can be complicated and expensive. Moving to and settling into a foreign country can often soak up a big portion of your budget. In an ideal world, I would sit and prepare each destination thoroughly–I would apply for visas, have passports at the ready, obtain foreign currency, research where to sleep, check bus schedules, purchase flights, brush up on sanitation standards, make a list of important contacts, pack all the essentials, talk to the kids about street smarts, plan activities for the kids, buy travel insurance, stock up on medicines, and more, and more… But with kids, things never happen the way you imagine they will. A week before setting off, one of them wakes up with a fever or a rash. Or you get a phone call that ruins everything. Or one of the kids has a birthday two days before the flight. Or the weather decides to mess with you. Suddenly, the fantasy of quiet and peaceful preparations evaporates.
The last few days before embarking on your family’s journey will challenge the nerves and patience of the whole brood… or maybe it’s just us! In any case, my advice would be to take under consideration that there will be complications and prepare (and react) accordingly.
1. Plan in advance!
Make up your mind about your destination a long time in advance. Do your homework and check everything you need with plenty of time left. Don’t wait for the last moment (and I say this from experience… I have never once decided my next destination with enough time left! I make decisions three days before my visa runs out, and I usually get lucky). A lot of times, you have to be careful when managing your time. If you have to apply for visa in advance, how long does it take for the document to process? Sometimes you have to show a flight ticket out of the country at immigration, or there are other details you need to know. What about your budget? The first few days in any new place are not easy, and they will always cost more money. Make sure you have done your research.
2. Return to your favorite places.
As your family begins to travel, there will be certain restaurants, hotels, cities, and entire countries you’ll connect with. Strengthening these bonds will further your family’s establishment as global citizens. Returning to a loved location, where I already know the cost of a taxi from the airport, where to sleep for the first few nights, and get coffee in the morning, is a relief and a joy. That’s why I prefer to include some places we are familiar with in our itinerary.
3. Prepare and take care of your bodies.
A few days before you relocate, make sure you eat nutritious meals! Take special care that you’re eating things that help the body make serotonin, which has a calming effect. Because relocating creates temporary unbalance, consider the chances of illness, allergies, and emotional sensitivity increasing. It’s vital that you watch yourself and your energy levels. From the parent’s perspective, settling into a new country doesn’t end when the luggage arrive at baggage claim–it ends when your lifestyles are comfortable. Never forget about jet-lag, even when the time difference is negligible. Until then, just try to establish regular sleeping hours and meals.
4. Take your time.
When I get to a new place, I don’t explore everything as soon as possible. I take my time. First, I dedicate two or three days to physical and mental recovery. I hang near my house, discover the neighborhood slowly, and let the kids get used to the surroundings. Traveling long-term is different to a short vacation, because you have the luxury to blend in slowly. Take in the atmosphere and settle in at your own pace.
5. Celebrate your accomplishments!
Relocating challenges your abilities as families and individuals. Recognize the strides each member of the family makes as travelers. When I look at my kids and see how the handle themselves in the busy streets of Manila, Kathmandu, or Saigon a day after we landed there, ready to explore and experience and taste without batting an eyebrow, I understand just how traveling is a wonderful gift I am sharing with them.
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