Up, up, and away: five timely travel tips for moms and families
From flight delays to complex baggage regulations to enhanced security issues, international travel presents a real challenge to any traveler, much less those traveling with kids. Last spring, I crossed the pond for the first time with my eight-year-old daughter in tow. We came home with incredible memories, a little bit of jetlag, and a few mom-friendly travelers’ tips:
1. Don’t get hung up on direct flights. I can’t remember the last time I had a direct flight, so I didn’t flinch when we had a layover at Heathrow before we pressed on to Portugal. We teed up a Harry Potter movie for the London flight and scheduled sleep for the next leg. We also ate two seriously fabulous meals at Heathrow – coming and going – so changing planes resulted in a memorable dining experience, despite the venue.
2. Figure out what’s right for you and your body clock. My husband swears that you have to get yourself immediately onto your destination time while traveling internationally and always stays awake until nightfall. I, however, learned my lesson after literally falling asleep sitting upright at an ages-ago lunch in Rome.
On this trip, my daughter and I both fell asleep in the cab from the airport to the hotel and happily took a two-hour nap as soon as we checked in. We woke up refreshed enough to enjoy dinner (or whatever meal that was), as well as a stroll afterwards.
3. Eat early and often. The rest of the world eats far later than most Americans, which means that the European early bird meal takes place just around bedtime for most US kids. We adjusted by scheduling a hearty snack around 4 or 5 pm after we returned from sightseeing, followed by dinner around 7:30 or 8 pm. And we were always the first ones at the restaurant!
4. More thoughts on food. My husband and I live for mealtimes while on vacation, but we both admitted to being a bit leery of our daughter’s reaction to Portuguese cuisine. Fortunately, the hotel buffet featured a colorful array of fruits each morning, plus breakfast cereal, and we quickly discovered most restaurants served pasta Bolognese, which became her go-to meal. And on one of our last nights in Lisbon, our daughter ordered mango mousse for dessert – easily one of the best dishes of the trip.
5. Adjust expectations. On previous overseas trips, my husband and I combed through endless museums in Rome, climbed the stairs to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica, walked off the map in Florence, wound our way through various arrondissements in Paris, and toured the wineries of southern France. Not so much this time around!
Instead, we found sites and attractions our daughter would like, as well as scheduled time at the hotel pool and kid space. Then, we balanced it out with kid-tolerable attractions that appealed to Mom and Dad. It took a bit extra research, but proved an effective way to keep everyone happy.
Stephanie Kaufman spends her days as part of the Mom Central team. Her next trip is a Caribbean cruise with her family.