Travelling with Children

Our son, Michael (5) and his friend, Maryam (6) in 2001. In the background - them in 2012

Our son, Michael (5) and his friend, Maryam (6) in Morocco in 2001. In the background – them in December 2012

 

On our first trip to Israel we met a man and his wife when visiting the Nazareth village. They complimented us for travelling as a family. We encouraged them to do the same, but they protested that their family was too big. On our second trip to the Holy Land though, we bumped into them in the Old city of Jerusalem – with their six children!

Since we visited Israel on six occasions – with our son! We were travelling with other friends, who also travel with their children. On our first trip together, their son was only eighteen months old. On the next trip he was three years old and had an eight month-old baby brother. We also travelled with them when their third son was only three months old! On every trip childless couples as well as single people travelled with us travelled and the children brought no extra stress on us. As a matter of fact, we travelled with less worries, because our children were safely with us.The first time my husband and I travelled to another country together, we did it without our then three year-old son, Michael. We went with another couple, whose children, like ours, stayed with their grandparents for the week. We missed our children a lot and we were always on the lookout for telephone booths in every Moroccan town we drove through. Although we knew that Michael was in safe hands, we still worried about him.

While driving one day, both we and the other couple decided not to travel again without our children in future. Back home our son missed us too and he had his own way of letting us know it. He addressed us on our names for weeks, before we decided to ignore him when doing that. Within days we were ‘Pappa’ and ‘Mamma’ again. We knew that our decision not to travel without him in future was the right one.

Two years later we were back in Morocco with Michael and our friends with their three children. We were travelling in a group of 62 South Africans. We were the only two families travelling with children and enjoyed every minute.Travelling is expensive and the costs might be one of the main reasons why couples tend to leave their children at home when taking a trip to another country. We have a one-income household. I am a stay-at-home mum and my husband is serving in the defence force. We really don’t have money to squander, but somehow we manage to fulfil our dream to travel. When we set out on planning a new adventure, we normally start from scratch. We don’t have extra savings to fall back on. We purely pray and believe it will happen. We believe that is how our Creator meant it to be and that He rewards us time and again for our decision to travel as a family.

Our son is sixteen now and has become quite a globetrotter. He has learned in experience what some other children have to learn from books. He is working in the garden, washing the car and doing other odd jobs to help fund his next plane ticket. Our next trip to the Middle East is already in its early planning stages. The preparation is as much fun as the trip itself. We are reading guide books and planning visits to must-see places, while hoping on and believing that a few miracles along the road will get us there.

Travelling as a family doesn’t have to be just a dream. With a bit of faith and lots of courage it is possible to live the dream. We regularly encourage other families to do the same, as it is enriching for both parents and children. If that pastor and his wife could do it with their six children, any family can at least try it at least once!

Here is a list of helpful tips for families to travel together and enjoy it.

Tips for planning a safe and joyful family trip

  • Reinforcing Immunity. Enjoy the locally-produced yogurt upon arrival in the country being visited. The live cultures of the product will help prevent stomach ailments. Also drink bottled water only, even when brushing teeth.
  • Routine. Maintaining a daily routine helps children becoming less tired and irritated in an unknown environment. Ensure that they get enough sleep and plan daily tours and programs accordingly.
  • Medicine. Take enough prescription drugs for the duration of the trip, as it is sometimes difficult to obtain the same products overseas. If your child is using medication for attention-deficit disorders or other related challenges, don’t stop or reduce it, except on doctor’s recommendation, as this will put unnecessary pressure on everyone. Divide the medicine into smaller portions and keep it in different places, to prevent loss and damage of the medicine. Take copies of prescriptions with and keep over-the-counter medicine in their original packaging.
  • Schoolwork. When travelling with school-going children, make arrangements for tests missed during the time away from school. Try to make up for the work missed before and after the trip. If you are taking day flights, take some work with to fill the long hours on the plane.
  • Toys. Let every child take a backpack filled with his favourite games, toys, and books. It will keep them calm and secure to have familiar things with them. Allow them time to play while the adults rest or read. See that they don’t take toy guns, scissors, wires, knives or other restricted items on the plane.
  • Clothes. While adults can cut back, children need more clothes because they mess more. Make sure that they have enough clothes for all weather conditions. A light fleece blanket is handy when flying, at airports, on buses and in hotels.
  • Security. Before leaving home, set up the ground rules for the travels abroad, such as rules on wandering off, talking to strangers and going into public toilets alone. Teach them safety measures if travelling to countries where security threats exist. Make sure that they keep their hand luggage with them at all times and let them carry some form of identity.
  • Let them explore. Explore with them and by using a travel guide, teach them about the country’s people, culture and history. Travelling teaches children things that they do not learn from school textbooks, like empathy towards others and it also broadens their outlook on life.
  • Travelling in the country. Try to travel when it is not too warm. Take precautions against motion sickness, provide enough fluids and keep some fruit and nuts available as snacks. Encourage young children to sleep while travelling and older children to enjoy the changing scenery.
  • Money. Travel costs are probably the most common reason why couples do not travel with their children. Decide as a family to use every opportunity to save. Cut back on renting DVD’s or eating out, get a food stall at a local flea market, start a car washing service in the street you live in or let the boys mow the neighbour’s lawn for pocket money. Teach the children simultaneously to give away a percentage of their earnings to someone in need. Teenagers can contribute to their air tickets by saving some of their monthly allowance, while smaller children can save for their own spending money. Depending on your situation, allow every child to buy something special to remind them of the trip and encourage them to buy small souvenirs for grandparents, teachers or friends. Their contribution will teach them important values and empower them as ‘world travellers’.
  • Photos and journals. Encourage school-going children to keep a travel journal and/or take their own photographs of the trip. This way they will capture things that are important to them and will feel confident to share moments from their point of view.
  • Strengthening family relations. The family as a whole benefits from the experience, as parents are more relaxed having their children at their side and children feel more loved when travelling with their parents. In a world where the family is becoming an extinct phenomenon, travelling together might just be one way of keeping the unit together.

Things to pack in your child’s backpack

  • His Bible or a Bible story book
  • A favourite story book
  • A few of his favourite cars/action figures or her favourite doll/s
  • A board game and/or playing cards
  • A small fleece blanket

 

Must-take items in your first-aid kit

(Remember to keep it in original packaging)

  • Band-aids
  • Cough syrup
  • Paediatric syrup for fever
  • Paediatric syrup for pain
  • Thermometer
  • Paediatric lozenges for sore throat
  • Prescribed medicine – if applicable, together with an original prescription

© 2012 Riëtte de Kock

I am trying hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellent wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful entrepreneur and freelance writer all at the same time! I share a living space in Pretoria, South Africa with my husband, son, mother, four dogs and sometimes the neighbours’ cats – and my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters.

Visit my website at www.thewritingclub.co.za and buy my children’s ebook, Yeovangya, on Amazon Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yeovangya-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0

My Afrikaans blog is available on my website – or just click on this link: http://www.thewritingclub.co.za/writingclub/index.php?option=com_lyftenbloggie&view=lyftenbloggie&category=bloggies&Itemid=66

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