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And when we dragged ourselves through the doors of our Kathmandu hotel, I knew we had made it. We did it. A 28-hour journey between airports, lost luggage, security checks, visas, and one shower. I was so proud of the kids and I…

It’s true that when you cross borders with your family, there’s a feeling that the only aspects worth preparing for involve immigration control, visas, and flight confirmations. But this time, I don’t mean those kinds of details. This time, I’m talking about limits of a different sort, those who have nothing to do with the word “visa.” What about the inner limits? The emotional, mental, and physical limits we all have? Surely, they are just as important.

Before this latest journey to Kathmandu, I was under extreme stress. I had no idea how I was going to manage the impending challenge. How could I possibly handle a journey that starts in Israel, continues to Jordan, and then onward to India, where we will have to wait 12 hours without any visa for the flight to Nepal? Alone, the journey would be arduous enough, but traveling with three kids poses an entirely new set of challenges. I knew the process would take well over 24 hours, and I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to sleep. I also knew that I had no Indian visa, and that the immigration officers would probably create a nightmare for us because of that problem. My close friends and family reassured me. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” they coaxed, although these empty reassurances only made me more anxious. Of course you can say “It’ll be fine!” if you don’t have to go through it! Had I gone too far this time? Had I taken a chance that would prove to be a huge mistake? Had I finally embarked on a journey that I could not safely enjoy with my children? What exactly was I capable of as a mother?

After successfully navigating over 7 years of traveling, I can say with certainty that one of the most important parameters to consider is exactly that: know your limits, whether they are emotional, mental, or physical. In a strange country, with its own laws, language, and unique culture, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Ever. Here are some ideas to think about before you embark on international family travel:

 

1. Do your homework!

Before settling on where you’re going to go, check the weather, health hazards, available healthcare, altitude, sanitation, and most especially the water quality for your top destination choices. How do you and your loved ones fare in cold weather? Humidity? Are there health conditions to be considered? Any germaphobes? Everyone needs to understand and be prepared to accept the differences in cleanliness standards from your home country versus your destination. Preparing for these aspects of travel will expand your hygiene limits!

 

2. Check personal safety levels.

Can you walk around without having to worry about being pick-pocketed or assaulted in other ways? What are the tourist crime rates like? Is there an organized tourist police association? Do you have proper insurance? Make sure you have fall-back plans in case your valuables are stolen, and then at least you can rest easy if you experience crime. Give everyone a copy of emergency phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Mentally prepare yourselves and your children for these contingencies.

 

3. Think about transportation options.

What is the best way for your family to travel? Do your young children need carseats? Do you need a personal driver? Are the kids old enough to handle long, cross-country, bumpy bus rides with unreliable bathroom breaks? What do you need for your brood to be most comfortable during these journeys? Don’t sign up for a bus journey when a flight would quell the concerns of some anxious travelers, and don’t book a flight when a bus ride will keep you within your limited budget. Balance your priorities.

 

4. Communicate with locals.

How many people speak English in the areas you would like your family to visit? Can you or your children learn language basics for your trip to make the visit more seamless? What areas of your destination country offer English speakers? It’s always critical to be able to communicate in some way, especially if you are in need of directions, a restaurant suggestion, or directions to a bathroom. Know what you need to be able to communicate once you arrive.

 

5. Seek advice.

Take advantage of those who have already visited your country of choice! Even if you know someone who has traveled in the country solo or as a couple, he or she certainly has advice or answers regarding your upcoming visit. Does anyone know people where you are going who might welcome guests (have them write down phone numbers!)? Where are the best hidden spots? Places to avoid? Bargain eateries? Even ask those “stupid” questions–don’t be shy! Ask about aspects you are concerned about and see how best to address these issues.

 

6. Ensure a comfortable landing!

Book lodging online at a decent, well-known hotel for the first night or two. That way you can get a first impression of the country from a cozy vantage point and make plans based on what you hear from hotel staff or fellow travelers. In addition, your family will be able to recover from jet-lag and get some good rest before setting into your international venture. Don’t push your limits even more after a tough journey to your destination!

 

7. Be flexible.

Stay flexible emotionally, mentally, and physically. Don’t worry if things don’t go exactly according to plan! Give it a minute, breathe, and check what your best options are. It’s almost never catastrophic, just a part of the trip that you have to get through. Invite a sense of adventure into your traveling, as plans will inevitably change. Celebrate a delayed train with an extra ice-cream run, and calm upset stomachs with another night in a comfy hotel. Take small steps. And even try to have a bit of fun!  I cannot stress this enough: F-L-E-X-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y. That’s the key to pushing through the boundaries you thought you had!

 

8. Choose appropriate activities.

So one kid wants to bungee jump, another wants to take a cooking class, and another is battling an upset stomach. Anticipate the differences in your children’s preferences and prepare for disagreements about how to spend time abroad. No matter what, don’t put yourself or your family in situations that make you feel unsafe. Does your bungee guide seem out of it? Does your driver seem knowledgeable? Don’t rush to remote villages if it terrifies you, and don’t climb high mountains unless you’re sure you are confident to handle any problem that occurs on the way. Don’t put yourself in places where your own insecurity has you cornered. Know yourself and keep your strengths close to your heart, all the while accepting your weaknesses as part of the package. Remember all the reasons you decided to travel with your family in the first place. Then decide your true limits!

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Japan can be overwhelming and overcrowded, especially at high-season. Travelers in Japan often find themselves confused and lost, and so they miss so much of what this incredible country has to offer. These tips will help you cope better as a family, and save a lot of time, effort, ragged nerves, and frustration:

 – Book everything in advance- Large parts of Japan are overcrowded a lot of the time, so many establishments are completely booked out. That extends to more than just the obvious hotels and flights, but also to museums (such as the Hayao Miyazgi/Ghibli museum in Tokyo), other theme/amusement parks, and trains.

For trains, even if you a railway pass (which is highly recommended to buy online before you even get to Japan), you should still book you place in advance. The general rule is that when you get to a new city, if you know how many days you’ll be there, go and book your place on the train to the next city that same day. If you don’t know how long you’ll stay, or where you’ll go to next, do it once you decide.

 – Carry a few plastic bags with you- In Tokyo there are no trash cans in the street, so travelers often find themselves with nowhere for their trash.

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 – Have raincoats with you always- You never know when it’ll start drizzling in Japan, you you don’t your sushi to get wet.

 – Don’t worry about food- If one of your kids is a picky eater- have no fear! in Japan you can always find a McDonald’s or a Starbucks nearby

 – One Samurai castle is enough.

 – Ta-Q-Bin – Is a service that ship your suitcases for you! You go into a convenience store (like 7/11), ask if they have this service (most do), fill a form and pay a small fee, and they’ll ship your suitcases for you to your next destination, straight to your hotel or Airbnb. They’ll even carry it up the stairs for you! This way you don’t have to drag those huge suitcases around the train station.

They will also hold your suitcases for up to a week before shipping them, so you can pack a small bag and stop in a few fun spots on the way to your destination without having to carry a huge bag with you everywhere.

Ta-Q-Bin also operates in many other Asian countries and even carries packages internationally.

 

 

This article was written with the help of Gily Avishay who spent a long time in Japan.

 

Have a kid that likes taking selfies?

Great!

I have one too:-).

And another one on her way to selfie land.

I like to go along with what interests my children. I think that listening to them, but really listening, every day, is a very important personal example to set. It teaches them two vital things, in my opinion:

1. That they’re worth the same as everyone else, as they are. That what interests them is equal to what interests me, and it doesn’t matter if it’s selfies (for my girls) or Greek philosophers (for me, because I’m really intelligent. Well, not really…). No one is judging and criticizing and not giving grades. What ‘counts’ for more and what ‘counts’ for less. Anything is good.

2. That that is the way to act towards anyone. There’s no other way to meet a person, other the one respecting him (or her), accepting each person for what’s inside, in appreciation, equality, love.

For example, if the girl likes shoes (she didn’t get it from me…) I’ll cooperate with her and point out every cute shoe we see in the Main Market in Ladakh. The weird traditional shoes, the woolen slippers, the shoes made from Marmot skin, the shiny heels, and more.

If my little one likes animals, I’ll travel with her and explore the world with her through that field of interest.

Because you can meet the world in a million ways. And not only the way all the guidebooks tell us. Or how we think we ‘need’.

The truth is, when I listen to them, I notice they’re also more open to listen to me. And so we meet the world

together, from all sorts of different angles and perspectives.

So if the girl likes selfies, work with her.
Remind her to take selfies in especially beautiful or interesting places, challenge her to take selfies with interesting people you meet along the way, under signs of places you’ve been, collect and keep them all, and at the end of the trip- you could make a collection of all the pictures, and that can really be exciting.

#DontForgetToJoinTheSelfieYourselfSometime :-).