How can you prepare your kids for your next trip while on lockdown? Many of us are itching to travel as soon as possible and are hoping our children will be okay with it, though the experience of children returning to school or kindergarten after months at home makes us wonder. So what can we do now to prepare our children for future travel?
Many countries are still in lockdown. We are lucky: in Germany, the restrictions are slowly lifting. Next week, border controls within the EU will lift, allowing Europeans to travel within most of Europe unless there are large-scale lockdowns in those countries (i.e. still no travel to the UK). A ban on travel to and from non-EU countries will continue to apply until 31 August 2020.
While the corona lockdowns may be the reason why we want to prepare our kids for travel now, you can take these steps to prepare your child for a trip any time you are planning a long flight or family holiday to a new country.
1. Work out where you are going
While the ‘when’ may be influenced by current and future lockdowns, you can still decide on the where. Involve your children in the selection (make a shortlist first) and be specific. What are you going to see and do there?
Make a visual board with inspirational images of what you are planning to do there. Get your kids to help with the research. Print out pictures and pin them to a pinboard or glue them to a large piece of cardboard for all to see.
If you are planning a longer trip, you might also want to write down all that you want to do in a bucket list. Grab our fun bucket list template!
2. Check your passports
Will your passports still be valid? Have you checked? Most countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months upon entry to the country.
Do your children have passports? If they are entitled to dual citizenship, have you applied for it yet? Do you have the second passport, too? I can tell you from experience, it is much easier to have both passports if you child is entitled to them and avoids the problems with no visas but no passport at check in and immigration.
Each country has different requirements as far as getting a passport for a child is concerned. Some require both parents and the child to be present to apply. Others have a list of professions and anybody who has known the child for at least one year and who is a member of that profession can certify the identification. Check the requirements for your country(ies).
On our last trip, we were also asked to update Miss M’s German passport. In the photo she was about 9 months old – we got it shortly before her first trip to Australia. Now that she is almost 5, she looks a little different. The immigration official requested that we have the photo replaced. This should be a free process and is something we can definitely do while we are unable to travel. We just need to have photos taken…
If your passports are all in order, you might like to make a fun passport with your children. Subscribe to our emails and grab the free template, then personalise to your heart’s content.
3. Learn the language
If the people in your intended destination speak another language, take the time to learn some. Most small children are language sponges and enjoy learning another language. There are also a number of benefits to being bilingual. While I am not suggesting that you need to become fluent in the other language, knowing how to say hello, goodbye and thank you and ask where the toilet is in the country you are visiting is helpful and polite.
Sign up for an online language course, such as Rosetta Stone or Duo Lingo. Alternatively, try an app like HelloTalk to speak to native speakers from all corners of the world. Practice some of the useful words and phrases and laugh at each other’s accent.
Get our free list of helpful words and phrases. These are the words I try and learn in the language of the place we are going. Work out what they are in your target language and set to work, trying to commit them to memory.
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4. Make a meal
One fun way to prepare your kids for your next trip in advance is to cook some of the foods that are native to the country you will be visiting. Let them be your sous chef! Not only is basic cooking a good skill for children to learn, but this will help familiarize them with the spices and tastes of the food of the region. This will make it easier for your children to find foods that they like in a menu full of unknowns.
If you are visiting somewhere that doesn’t traditionally eat with a knife and fork, get your kids to practice eating they way the locals do. This might be with your hands or with chopsticks. These are a great tool for teaching small children to use chopsticks. I am still surprised at the number of people who cannot eat pizza if they don’t have a knife and fork.
If you are looking for recipes for Germany, we have a few to share.
5. Practice packing
Prepare for the big trip and practice packing. Check that you have all you need. We had to get Miss M a new suitcase before our latest trip because she had grown and my old carry-on suitcase was no longer big enough. How are your bags?
What about your travel essentials? Have you got all of them or do you need a new torch? A new hat? Adapters? A new journal? Let your children pack so you can see what they consider essential and which clothes they would like to pack.
Are you planning to pack light? Practice packing to get the right mix of things you need, without overpacking.
6. Experience strange beds
When you are travelling, you are likely to be sleeping in some different beds, or at least a car or airplane seat. Get your kids used to different sleeping arrangements.
Let them sleep on the couch. Do you have a tent? Pitch it in the backyard or even in your living room. Try sharing a room. Try sleeping on a thin mattress or a few blankets on the floor or under a table to emulate bunk beds. Try sleeping under the stars. Make it an adventure!
If you are looking for accommodation for your trip, we recommend booking.com for great prices and the most variety. While some other booking platforms seem to concentrate only on inner-city hotels, booking.com has houseboats, little farm stays, guest houses and apartments, which can be very useful when travelling with kids. We used them to book our accommodation on a farm near Verona, for example.
7. Experience your destination virtually
So many museums and zoos are now providing virtual tours or live cameras. Pick some from your destination and have a look. This will help you work out what you want to do when you get to your destination. It will also help get your kids excited about your trip while you are still on lockdown.
8. Practice walks and hikes
When we are on holiday, we tend to do a lot more walking than we do at home. I think the difference would be even more extreme at present – lockdown has made us rather sedentary. To prepare your kids for your next trip and break up the monotony of lockdown, go for walks and hikes.
If you a planning a city trip, put on your most comfortable shoes and go for a walk around your town or a nearby city (depending on your restrictions). Add lots of stairs and take some breaks too. How are your shoes holding up?
If you are planning to go on hikes or visit a lookout, go for a hike in your area. Try one with lots of hills. How did you all go with the hike?
Try out your daypack, too. Was it practical? Did it fit everything you need? Did you have suitable water bottles? Was it too heavy?
9. Practice photography
While you are out on your walks, practice your photography. Miss M loves taking photos with our iPhones or instax camera and now has her own to use too. With practice, you might even want to elevate them to ‘official photographer’ for your next trip – they will love the importance (and it doesn’t stop you from taking photos as well).
If you have time (which we can’t all claim to have) use lockdown to take a mini photography course or read a photography book and practice so that you are ready when you take your trip. You will notice the difference.
10. Read books and watch movies
Finally, prepare your kids for your next trip by teaching them more about where you will be visiting. Find appropriate books and movies set in the place you will be visiting. Watch or read them with your kids and talk about what you learnt about your destination from them. Find out more about any sites mentioned that sound like things you might like to visit.
Prepare your kids for your next trip now!
Even while we are still on lockdown or travel restrictions apply, you can try these 10 things to prepare your kids for your next trip. Getting them excited and feeling comfortable about what is to come will make your trip go much smoother and make for a much more enjoyable experience for all. And these tip work even when you are not on lockdown!