If you have read this page about me, you will know that one of my goals in writing this blog is to encourage others that you can take the "hard and far" trips with your children. It is not easy, but it IS worth it, and I am here to help! I will be getting into a few very specific items to bring and things to do in this post, but I'm going to start with the most important thing you need to have to make travel successful (with anyone) and I want you to hear me out: A good, adventure-seeking attitude. That is the secret.
If you can only bring one thing from this post, bring an attitude that is ready for the journey, not just the destination and it will revolutionize the way you travel.
I know--believe me I know--that delays and frustrating events happen during travel and it is impossible to actually be happy about all of them. However, if you are prepared for some bumps along the way, it will certainly help.
As for your kids, they are going to pick up your travel attitude. On our recent trip to Uganda, we did not tell Petunia that unfortunately we had very long flights, but if we could just suffer through them, we would have fun when we arrived. Not at all! We told her about the exciting things that were going to happen because we got to take such a long flight.
On those long flights, you will get to your seat to find a little gift waiting for you. On Emirates, which we flew to Uganda, there is a little zippered case with socks, toothbrush, and even an eyemask! Now, you may not get that excited about such gifts, naturally, but why not? Get to your seat and unpack it with your kiddo. Share the awe that you are getting a present before you even take off!
One of the greatest advances in international travel in recent years is the onboard entertainment. In my teens, I crossed the Pacific many a time when my entertainment consisted of the books I brought on board and the two, chosen-for-everyone, firmly scheduled movies that would be shown during the flight. And you know what? I survived! (I did not know any better, but I digress...)
Now, international flights with kids are a breeze. On the several major ocean-crossing airlines I have been on the last several years, there are individual screens so you can watch movies, television series, play games and listen to music to your heart's content.
There was a very wide choice of movie options appropriate for her and, on our longest flight, she watched four. That certainly helped the time go by.
We also make sure to travel with at least a couple books and some kind of pen and paper. You could certainly get delayed either in an airport (no personal screen!) or on board at a time when the entertainment system cannot be turned on. Be prepared to kick it old-school and read, write or play games. Also, use that paper and pen to make your old-enough-to-write kids jot down a few thoughts from every day. It is hard to slow down enough to do that while you're having fun, but you will all be grateful later!
Covering all our bases, we usually also try to travel with a Kindle Fire that is loaded up with a few games and shows. Something like that comes in handy for the non-traveling part of trips where you may want kids to wind down or be still. We love our Kindles in our house and they are quite inexpensive now. Petunia pretty much played all day every day in Uganda, but sometimes watched a short show while laying down getting settled to sleep.
Find out if your airline does anything special for kids flying with you. Emirates was great at this! As you can see here under "Young Flyers", they do go out of their way to make the flying experience fun and memorable for kids. Between the many flights, Petunia got to collect a few monsters, several World Cup wrist bands, and got attention from the crew like this:
One final thing to say about that airline, between meals you could walk to the back and help yourself to water, juice, fruit and full-size candy bars! That was a favorite flight feature! Still, be prepared like a scout and bring some yummy, healthy things your family can eat in case everyone sleeps during a meal or is hungry for the munchies during one of those great movies.
When we returned home and exited our second 15 hour flight of the trip, Petunia's aunt asked her right away, "How was the flight?" Her answer: "FUN!" That speaks volumes about the airline, our preparation, and hopefully, our attitude.
So, you have made it! Welcome to your destination which may present some challenging situations. If you travel to Africa, you do just have to be prepared that some things we take for granted may not always be available. How do you keep your family as safe, clean and comfortable as possible? Have some wet wipes and hand sanitizer in your bag if you are going anywhere you will be eating and may not have running water. I hate that some foreign travelers make such a big display of using this that hand sanitizer is sometimes called "mzungu soap." No need to make a show, but you want to stay healthy. Wipe your hands with a wet cloth to remove any dirt--in Uganda it is the beloved but ubiquitous red clay--and then use a little sanitizer.
Traveling where there may be malaria? By all means, take your malaria pills! As an added precaution, I use a little of this essential oil (Purification by Young Living) to help keep the mosquitos away. It has citronella and other natural oils in it and works wonderfully. I don't like to spray myself down with a chemical-laden repellant unless I know we will really be going somewhere heavily infested and that would be a good choice.
Even under our mosquito net we would hear a buzz some nights. I got up and put a couple drops of this oil on our exposed body parts like ears and wrists. The buzzing went away!
Here is one of about 3 bags of oils I traveled with. I love several essential oils and used them for fighting infection, staying calm while traveling, tummy issues, and so many things!
A reality in traveling to the more rugged destinations is that you may encounter bathrooms (or squatty potties) without toilet paper. I used to prepare for this by just tearing a bit off and putting it in a small ziplock. But I am glad I discovered Tissue on the Go! The rolls are small and do not take up much room, but helps the paper stay cleaner and dispense easier. Definitely worth the few dollars it costs, in my opinion.
Similar to the wipes above, but a little more specific, be prepared with some facial wipes and enough wet, disposable cloths that you can use for other strategic cleaning areas, too. Let's just say that you may go a few days without water or electricity and bathing can become a challenge, if you are someone that loves to go to bed feeling clean. (<---- me)
Of course, part of the experience and adventure (remember the attitude part?) is embracing things that arise. In that vein, Petunia certainly will be keeping a strong memory of a very cold shower she just had to take after a couple days of playing with friends, dirt and goats with everything she had.
I hope some of these tips and products may be helpful in your next adventures. If you have more, please share! I would love to expand my bag of tricks!