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Holiday planning can be stressful enough when there’s just adults involved. Throw kids into the mix and it takes on a whole new level of potential overwhelm!
But it doesn’t need to be so daunting! Our mini globetrotters have taught us a thing or two over the years, along with our own trial and error experiences. So we wanted to share our best tips for planning your first overseas holiday with kids… so that you can skip the disasters!
A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO PLANNING YOUR FIRST OVERSEAS HOLIDAY WITH KIDS
Travel is one of the most rewarding experiences you can offer your child. There are many things you can’t learn in a classroom quite so well as you can out in the real world.
Culture, diversity, history… and one of my favourites, resilience!
Yes in a former life I was a psychologist and I do love this life skill more than most. Resilience building through the changes in routine and the unexpected things that happen as you travel is something that will help your kids in all areas of life.
So if you’re still fence-sitting about whether to take your kids travelling, it’s time to get off that fence. Let’s get planning!
When Do You Want To Go and For How Long?
One of the first things we always do before locking in an overseas trip is to work out our availability for holidays. This gets trickier when you are working on dates that are going to suit every member of the family.
Not only do you have work leave to consider, but school aged children mean school term dates and working out if you are happy to travel during the term or only during school holidays.
Make sure you check the calendar for any important dates coming up. You don’t want to miss Aunt Dorothy’s 3rd wedding! Or do you?
With picking dates, you also need to work out how long you can afford to be away for. This often comes down to a mix of available leave and budget.
How Much Do You Want to Spend?
Working out your budget early on in your planning process is a smart idea, because otherwise you can end up blowing your budget before you really get started on the planning.
Determine how much you are willing to spend, how much flexibility you have and make sure any other adults involved in the planning agree! We’re all about stress-free planning, team!
Now you know how long you can travel for, during what approximate dates and how much you can spend. This is going to help you determine the types of destinations and holidays will fit into those requirements. You essentially just made a short list and that alone helps with planning an overseas trip drastically!
Where Do You Want To Go?
Now it’s time to narrow down where you want to go. You may have a specific destination in mind already, whether it’s due to a special event or occasion, or simply somewhere you are eager to visit.
If you haven’t decided on a destination for your first overseas holiday with children yet, your best starting point is to decide what type of holiday you want to take. Not all types of holidays suit all families.
If you and your family hate the cold, don’t go booking a ski trip unless you’re certain that type of out of comfort zone experience is something you’re ready for! Stick to something you know you will enjoy.
Same goes for if you are travelling with a baby, you aren’t likely to book an adrenaline junkie mountain climbing expedition. So make a short list of the things you want on your holiday and focus in on some destinations that suit.
Get the kids involved in this one. It’s a huge help knowing the type of holiday they would love, even if you don’t go with their pick (sorry kids… we can’t go to Disneyland for every holiday).
Do You Have Any Special Needs or Considerations?
Travelling with kids means you do need to have a little extra consideration of their needs and safety. Not to say you wouldn’t take care without travelling with kids, but there are certain places or types of holidays that aren’t ideal for children.
Also, if your child (or yourself) have any medical or health issues for example, this needs extra planning and may strongly influence the types of places you choose to travel. This should certainly be something you identify early on in your planning process if needed.
Disabilities, physical or mental health concerns, significant food intolerances, religious needs… all important and have the potential to impact your destination choices.
Where Can You Find the Best Deals?
At this stage we have the what, where, when side of things roughly drafted, so the fun part begins – finding your perfect holiday deal!
Now you can absolutely walk into your local travel agent and ask them to put together a package for you in your budget. There’s a good chance they will squeeze some extra cash out of you though because typically they work with specific partners only and they do not always have the best deals.
These days booking online, either direct or through comparison and deal websites means saving you more money. The reason for this is that there are no in store overheads for them, so their running costs are lower and this means they can pass on bigger savings to the consumers – you.
Find our favourite flight hacks to save big on airline tickets.
We typically book our entire international holidays online each time we travel these days. Although I’m a little bit cheeky as I always get a travel agent quote just to get that benchmark when I first start planning.
Plus it’s pretty amazing to see how huge the savings can be when we find a similar deal ourselves online for much less. WOOHOO!
Here are some of our favourite tools:
Flights are often the biggest chunk of your trip expenses so finding sale fares at the time you want to travel is always a HUGE WIN! We use Skyscanner for flight research when we first start planning. My favourite thing about Skyscanner is that you can set up price change alerts for set routes and dates, so if there’s a big drop or there seems to be an increase, you can lock in a good price. They compare several different airlines and booking websites in one place.
While it is tempting to go with the cheapest deal, when it comes to flying, always do your research on safety before booking an unknown airline. I will choose a more expensive option if it is a brand I know and trust. After all, travelling with kids means your most precious cargo is on there.
For this reason, we also subscribe to our favourite airlines so if they do have a sale on, it comes straight to our inbox. Virgin Australia is one of favourites, as well as Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and Air New Zealand.
While we have not flown with them yet, Qatar Airlines, Emirates and Etihad are all very highly rated as well, which can mean a little on the higher price side, but all inclusive with baggage and meals.
Related Reading: 17 Ways to Save Money on Flights
Flight Booking Tips
Many budget or sale fares do not include checked baggage or meals, so if you are flying long haul or travelling for an extended period, those cheap fares may not be so great once you add on all the extras.
In saying that, we are pretty much masters of packing light (more on that to come), so if you can manage with carry on only, it can be a great way to travel. A good budget airline is Scoot Airlines who are owned by Singapore Airlines and they do cheap deals around Asia Pacific.
Our top tips for getting great flight deals:
- Know your dates as early as possible
- Set up a flight price alert with Skyscanner
- Be flexible with dates and times if you can
- Get on the email list for your favourite airlines
When travelling with kids, you really can’t go past AirBnb for that home away from home comfort. Airbnb are essentially private rentals, including apartments, houses or rooms for short stays.
The best thing about Airbnb is the fact that they are usually self-contained and often work out cheaper than having to get extra large hotel rooms or two rooms, because not everywhere caters to families. We often book private homes when travelling with extended family too, as some places can sleep 6-10 people easily.
Check out our beginners guide to Airbnb which includes a link to get you bonus credit for your first stay.
For hotel bookings, our first point of call is usually Booking.com which is a hotel comparison site that searches available properties globally.
The best thing about this website is the fact that you can often book accommodation without a deposit and with free cancellation up to a certain point before you travel.
Sometimes when we aren’t completely sure on our plans or if we are still on the lookout for the perfect accommodation, I might lock in a free cancellation option as a back up plan then cancel it ASAP if we no longer need it.
Just make sure if you are doing this, it definitely has a free cancellation option and that you cancel before the cut off date, otherwise you will get charged.
Tripadvisor is another we refer to for accommodation deals and especially for reviews for hotels too.
Sometimes a package deal can be a great way to get both your flights and accommodation for less. While this is not always the case, they are worth checking out.
We love a bargain. Seriously, why ever pay full price if you can avoid it?
This is my favourite thing about package deals, when we have no specific destination or dates locked in, they can be a great way to have a luxury escape on a backpacker budget… well almost!
And sometimes you can get a great package deal for the dates and location you want too, so you don’t always just need to be looking for a surprise next trip!
There are many great package deal websites that have exceptional bargains, often with flights, accommodation, transfers and sometimes even meals and other add ins. Sometimes these are last minute deals with travel in the near future, or they may be off-season deals to drum up some extra guests when things are slow. Sometimes they are just a random awesome package.
Most travel agencies will offer their own version of package deals, however, in our experience these are usually much higher than the ones you can get elsewhere. The advertised prices very rarely match the final quote. But you can still enquire.
The Best Places to Get Package Deals
One of our favourites is Luxury Escapes which means luxury holidays usually for less than half the price, most of which include flights and accommodation and loads of extras. They have heaps suitable for families too, like our stay at Sunrise Hoi An Resort.
Tripadeal is another favourite. Make sure you jump on their email list for the latest deals.
Our top Tips for booking package deals:
- Read the fine print
- Check the availability
- Make sure the package deal is suitable for your family size (many are just 2 adults, or plus 2 kids)
- Ensure you are using a reputable booking company
Yay! That’s the basics sorted. Now what?
What Do You Want To Do?
Once you’ve locked in the dates, travel and accommodation for your trip, it’s time to start planning your itinerary.
Now here’s our biggest hot tip for travelling with kiddos – DO NOT FILL EVERY SECOND OF YOUR TRIP. Just don’t do it. You will likely regret it or be disappointed when some of it does not go to plan.
Kids get tired, especially if you’re having an on the go sightseeing holiday. They also get overstimulated easier than we do. So make sure you’ve got some downtime planned every day.
Now we’ve got that sorted, let’s talk activities and touristy stuff.
Depending on where we are going, we do not always book tours, however, when taking kids overseas, it can sometimes be nice to feel a little more prepared with organising the day to day schedule for your trip. There is usually one or two big things we have as our must-see when we visit a new destination and as we usually rely on public transport with the kids overseas, a day tour can be a perfect option for getting somewhere a bit trickier outside the city area.
If you have a hire car, you can find your own way and either purchase any entry tickets you need at the gate or grab them online before you travel.
The Best Tour and Activity Booking Sites
We have a few favourite booking and tour websites that we use to research and book experiences when we travel internationally. They each have different benefits or region specialities, so it is worth checking them all out to find the perfect option for your family and trip.
- GetYourGuide – Great for booking Europe, Australia, USA & NZ experiences and tours
- Klook – Best for tours in Asia
- Viator – Lots of options globally for tours and attractions globally
When booking tours that include transfers, make sure they are suitable for your children’s ages. Babies and toddlers may require appropriate child restraints if travelling via private car. This is typically not essential on buses, however some will have the option if you request.
This was the case with our day trip from Dubrovnik to Mostar, even though it was a full size bus. It was a nice extra reassurance and allowed our toddler to sleep comfortably.
These sites are also great for booking airport transfers to and from your accommodation as well.
What Do We Need To Do Before We Leave?
Travelling overseas is a much bigger process than a quick trip down the coast for a weekend. You need to consider a few extra things to allow you to even leave the country. And that means you need time to plan!
Passport processing time differs in each country, so as a rule of thumb, aim to have your passports sorted a couple of months before you leave. Here in Australia it takes about 2 weeks after the application is submitted, but sometimes you run into issues with things like photo not being approved, so you want some extra time just to be on the safe side.
Again, each country is different with Visa requirements so there is no blanket rule with this. Make sure you look into Visa requirements for the countries you are visiting before you leave. In some cases, you can organise these at the airport, however some need to be at least 48 hours before you leave the country so you need to make sure you have this done or risk delaying your trip. Check your local government website for Visa information.
While immunisations are not usually compulsory, they can be a very good idea for certain destinations. This is especially the case if you are travelling to a country that has risks such as zika virus, yellow fever or malaria, as just a few examples. Find out more about vaccinations.
It is worth booking an appointment with your doctor at least 3 months before you leave if you are requiring vaccinations, as some involve more than one over a period of time. They will be able to tell you which ones they recommend, if any.
This is also a good time to get extra scripts filled for medication yourself or your children use, and a letter from your doctor confirming you are approved to travel with the medications in case you have any issues at customs in your arrival country.
Don’t skimp on travel insurance. You might be thinking ‘Nothing bad will happen’ or ‘It’s just a waste of money’, but what if you do need it? While we’ve never had any health issues that were significant enough to seek medical attention while travelling, we have had family members who have.
Personally we have had lost luggage and delayed transport.
You just never know what could happen and when you are travelling with your children, you want to make sure you are covered. It is peace of mind that is worth the cost!
What Do We Pack?
Packing for an overseas holiday can be quite the ordeal. You will likely be worried you’ve forgotten something and there’s a chance maybe you will. But most things are easily replaced when you arrive at your destination.
For the really important stuff, start a list at least a few days before you start packing and add to it as you think of things.
There are certain essentials you won’t want to be without and the essentials list is likely longer with kids in tow. Especially if you are travelling with a baby or toddler aged child.
Things like nappies, wipes, formula and baby food are usually available at your destination, unless you’re going right off the grid. If this is the case, or if your kids are prone to reactions or allergies, take enough with you for the trip.
I actually loved this about travelling with babies. Load up the suitcase with just enough nappies for a day or two more than we need, and then replace the room you make with souvenirs and shopping… LOL Okay, maybe sometimes!
Read next: Check out our mammoth South East Asia Packing List for some great packing tips!
The Best Luggage
Having good quality luggage is going to make your trip a lot less stress free. Trust me, we’ve been there. Arriving at LAX with a suitcase that had a completely busted zipper was pretty stressful when we still had another flight connection. At least there were no undies on the luggage carousel like in the movies.
We are expects at packing light and can often fit up to a week worth of clothes and toiletries for our family of 4 into carry on luggage only. Or, at most we travel with 2 suitcases with our belongings packed between them. Less to lug when you’ve got 2 potentially exhausted children to get to a hotel as well, so if we can keep the luggage to one or two cases at most, we will.
The total game change for us is packing cubes! They save so much space and keep suitcases organised throughout your trip. By packing each of our clothes into different coloured packing cubes, it also makes it easy to know who’s is whos when we are all sharing one or two suitcases. Seriously! GET PACKING CUBES!
We also love using hard cases for our suitcases these days. They offer better protection for your belongings than soft cases and they are often lighter and roomier too. Although my favourite feature is the middle zipper so you can essentially section your suitcase in half.
This again is perfect when travelling with a partner or kids and sharing a suitcase. Or in cases when zippers bust and you have all your important stuff in the zippered section so nothing falls out! Lifesaver!
Strollers and Car Seats
If you are travelling with younger children or babies, you may want to take your own car safety restraints or strollers when you travel. Most airlines allow these items on top of your standard luggage allowances, however it is worth checking with the airline before you fly.
Alternatively you may wish to hire these items at your destination. If you are hiring a car, you can usually add on a car seat for an extra cost at the time of booking online.
We have a compact travel stroller that is small enough to carry on board when we fly. It is actually our everyday stroller, but the compact size when folded down is a nice bonus!
Alternatively, you may consider taking a baby carrier instead, which helps with being hands free when you are lugging suitcases and a small child!
Free Travel Planner
Travelling with your family overseas is a rewarding and exciting experience that does not need to feel overwhelming! That’s not to say it will be a completely stress free experience, but we do hope this guide helps you to know where to start and to know some of the best options available to help you with planning your first overseas holiday with kids.
And just to make sure your planning is even easier, we have a pretty cool freebie for you too! Grab our printable travel planner to help you keep your first (or next) trip organised.
It includes a before you travel timeline planner, packing list, accommodation and flight detail trackers so you can have everything in one easy place.
Click the image to get your free travel planner printable:
Be sure to share our tips for traveling abroad first time with kids with your friends and family so they can enjoy exploring the big wide world sooner too! Travel is for everyone, of all ages!