Travel planning takes time.
What is the best way to get around a foreign country with kids – one needs to take two things into account – the size of the area you plan to visit and the age of your kids.
In a small country such as Israel, Guatemala or many European countries, you’re looking at land transport – local buses and trains, or a rental car.
Buses and trains: I’ve been travelling with my kids on public transport since they were about two years old – kids find trains to be a lot of fun and they can run around as well to a certain degree. Buses depend a lot on the quality of the bus system – in countries like Mexico, Israel, Turkey and parts of South America, the bus system is fabulous and bus travel can be an excellent way to go. In many other countries, I’d be more careful. Your only limitation is timetables and the level of flexibility you want.
Rental cars: By far the most flexible option, rentals are great with babies on board and small kids. But you need to be comfortable driving in foreign countries, becoming used to (very quickly) foreign driving habits, and negotiating the roads. Even if you are in an English speaking country it is not straightforward. The UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia – all drive on the opposite side of the road from North America. You can’t always rely on a GPS system either. I was driving in Sydney, Australia and every time I went in the tunnels that are vital to transport in the city, the GPS switched off. I was totally confused for days until I figured it out!
Long distance: I am all in favour of internal flights when needed. Unless you want to drive vast distances and flights don’t exist, take flights. Budget airlines are becoming more and more popular – they exist in Europe, South Africa, India and across Asia. These days, budget flights are often cheaper than traveling any other way.
Food: Experiencing local food is one of the great joys of travel. Food is a fundamental element of any culture and experiencing local foods is one of the best ways to get a feel of a country and its people. I would go so far as to say that some countries are worth visiting just for their food – while other countries are visited despite their food. Some of my favourite food countries include France, Turkey and Morocco. But I only had one memorable meal once in 3 weeks in Spain, and I can’t remember any memorable meal in a number of other countries. You may also find that the “ethnic” food you eat at home is very different from the food you’ll come across when you are in the actual country. Chinese food from your local neighborhood Chinese restaurant is likely to be very different from what you’ll find in China itself.
Our upcoming trip should be very interesting food wise – we’ll be going to Turkey, one of my all time favourite food countries, and to Georgia, which has a whole cuisine of its own, of which I am totally unfamiliar. I’ll be blogging throughout the trip, so stay tuned.
Visas: Entry requirements vary from country to country and passport to passport – do your research, don’t leave it too late. Many countries will give you a visa on arrival or you may not need one at all – but others will have to be applied fo weeks or months in advance, and if there is no local representation, you may have to send your passport to another city or country.
Health Preparedness: Visit a local travel clinic and find out exactly what, if any, vaccinations you may need. Malaria is prevalent in much of the developing world, and depending on what mosquito is present in your chosen destination, you may or may not have to rethink if you are traveling with kids. If malarone is an option then you may well want to take it as it comes in a pediatric version. Our kids took it in India – they had no side effects and were fine, We worked hard at not being bitten – long clothes (tailor-made for us for almost nothing at one of the myriad tailors all over India) and strong repellant which we brought with us. The only caveat – it is expensive!
I’ll be off on my trip in a few days – follow my blog from the road. First up – South Africa!
PS These days I am helping plan great trips for other families to destinations on five continents. If you’d like to see how I can help you, click here.