How to Prepare Kids for Travel Abroad

Travel Abroad Kids

Many adults are overwhelmed when planning a vacation two hours away, let alone heading to a country half way across the world. Imagine how a child feels when then are told they will be traveling to a foreign country. Children thrive on routine, so imagine the anxiety when they are told they will be leaving the comforts of home to visit a new place where people don’t speak their language, and live a lifestyle different from their own. There are many ways to prepare your children for what they will experience, hopefully alaying their fears well before heading to the airport.

1.   Find the destination on a map

As soon as you have your destination in mind, show your child the destination on a map. Show them where you live. Discuss the distance between the two places. How will you get there? How long will it take to reach your final destination? What modes of transportation will you use? Is there a time change? Start a dialogue and answer as many questions as you can.

2.   Involve your children in planning

Head to the library and research the country (or countries) you will visit. Check out non-fiction books from the library about the countries or find fictional books that are set in that country. Headed to France? Read Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Visiting Greece?  Try Hour of the Olympics by Mary Pope Osborne. Kids love to hear stories of fictional characters that take place in cities they will be visiting. Talk about the people, food, landscape, climate, and landmarks you will see. Use the internet to answer questions as needed.

Library Books

Books from the local library are a great source for information!

3.   Purchase foreign currency and discuss it with the kids

We find it helpful to have a small amount of local currency upon arrival at our destination. It also provides a good teaching opportunity for the kids. We teach them about the exchange rates, what things will cost, how we set a budget for the trip. Basically, a math lesson without complaints!

4.   Expose your children to the language

Before you leave, look for opportunities to teach your children a few key phrases. There are several ways to do this. Our children have taken language classes at the local language school, where they could enroll on a monthly basis. We found classes through our local school district. If you have relatives or friends that speak a foreign language ask them to teach the kids a few words. You can also find bilingual Bingo games, flash cards, or a bilingual picture dictionary. You can even make your own flash cards by looking up words on the internet.

Flash cards are very useful when teaching a new language!

Flash cards are very useful when teaching a new language!

5.  Learn about the cuisine

Find recipes or food from the country you will visit and try out a few recipes at home before you travel. When you expose children to new foods in the comfort of their own home, it                        seems they are more willing to sample the food when they finally encounter it on the road.

6.  Watch travel shows

There should be a variety of travel show DVDs available at your local library. You may also be able to find some shows on television. Our children happen to be partial to “House Hunters     International”. The show doesn’t matter as long as it exposes your child to life in another country.

7.  Listen to music from that country

Most kids love to listen to music and this is a great introduction to a foreign culture. Let them listen to what you can find on the internet. If a country has a particular style of music that is special to that country, for example: “Fado” in Portugal, find some examples of Fado music and share it with your children. Discuss the history of Fado in Portugal and its importance to the Portuguese people.

Like most things, children need reassurance when faced with the unknown. When you prepare your children for traveling abroad, you are helping to make the unfamiliar, familiar. Travel is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child, but adequately preparing your child for the adventure of a lifetime is a gift for everyone.

How do you teach your kids about a new destination or a vacation to a foreign land?

This post may contain affiliate links, however, all recommendations are my own.

8 comments on “How to Prepare Kids for Travel Abroad

  1. Nice post! We write about this very issue in our book (Explore The World With Your Kids!) published to iPad/iBooks in June. The key is to focus on age-appropriate engagement with the kids. We provide details there. If you read the book we would LOVE your feedback on it.

    We like your cuisine idea. Not sure we could manage to master a new cuisine at home, and I am hard-pressed to think about how one would approach “American” cuisine since most of our cuisine here is either imported/adapted from other nations or trends towards the junk food. Taking the cuisine option for us would more likely involve dining out than attempting the home-cooked version.

    Glad to know we are not alone in thinking about these issues.

  2. I love the idea of involving children in the planning. We’ve always done this and the kids love reading through our family travel guidebooks and picking out a few things they want to see. Watching shows like House Hunters International is a great tip, too! Thanks for another informative post 🙂

  3. I love this and we follow the same guidelines before our international trips. I agree with Anna that House Hunters International is a nice way to get interested and exposed to other cultures. My daughter loves to pore over guidebooks and practice language with Duolingo.

  4. Great tips – we all get involved in the planning of our trips, sometimes that is almost as much fun as the trip itself!! We also do a similar thing with the foreign currency which seems to work very well. The cuisine is getting easier (a bit) as our son gets older but still not without challenges! Not sure how to get around that one…

  5. Great ideas! I especially like the one on learning about the local food ahead of time in the comfort of your own home. Hmmm, I think a lot of these tips would work well for Me before visiting a new country. 😉

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