Guest Spot: Elyse from Kauffman Tànxiǎn 探险 Blog Offers Her Advice on Traveling with Kids

My sweet, and brave, friend Elyse has been living in China with her husband and two young, adorable, little girls, for over a year now. She has had the opportunity to help her little people adjust to and explore a new country as well as travel the region, which has given her an insight into traveling, exploring, and learning with little people. Luckily for us, she has been been kind enough to share her expertise with Three Kids and a Car. You can read her top 8 tips for traveling with little people below and then check out some of her amazing adventures on her blog: Kauffman Tànxiǎn 探险 Blog.

When we told family and friends we were going to move to China for my husband’s work we received these top three questions: 1. What about the girls (at the time our girls were 3 years old and 9 months old)? 2. What will you eat? 3. Do you know how to speak Chinese?
Fair questions. (Sorta). Our answers: 1. Clearly, we were bringing our girls with us. They were in for an experience of a lifetime! 2. We’d eat what the other six million people ate in China. (Nine months later I’d like to report that we are in love with Chinese food. It’s so fresh and healthy. We’ve actually both lost about 5-10 pounds each even though we are enjoying a ton of yummies!) 3. My (lifetime learner) husband had been studying Chinese for nine months before we left on our one-way flight. I chose to wait and learn the language until I was immersed into it. Sink or swim.
My husband and I had traveled many times as a couple before we had children, and a few bonus trips afterwards for super special occasions, so we agreed that a temporary move to China (two to three years) would be a great opportunity to continue to see the big, beautiful world we live in while our girls were young.
We got split reactions from everyone. It was either “you’re crazy, I could never do that” or “that’s amazing! I wish I could do something Ike that!” The truth is. You CAN do it. ANYONE can. I promise. Before you start rolling your eyes and stop reading, hear me out. Sure, it takes some serious planning and patience, but it’s totally worth it. And, let’s be clear. I don’t mean “move to China.” But if you have the opportunity to do that, please take it!
I am specifically talking about traveling with kids. My dear friend, Jennifer, asked me to share some top tips and suggestions for traveling with the littles. I (think) I could write a book on the topic, but I’ll just share some big ones to get you started and confident!

1. Just go!

Stop talking about it. Stop wavering. Stop going to the same beach resort or city every summer and try something new. Ask friends for recommendations. Do some research. And go! With Facebook, Trip Advisor, and blogs like this one, you are bound to find every single piece of information you’ll need to make a good decision on a new, exciting trip!

2. Start talking about it with your kids.

Give them some time to get used to the idea that you’re going to explore a new place. We used the word “adventure!” with our three year old. Whatever works.

3. As you travel to and from your destination, tell you’re kids what’s coming up next.

And next. And next. “We’re going to go through the security check now.” “We’re going to get on the plane now.” No matter how young; they understand. They don’t like surprises. Talk them through every step of the way.

4. Feed them.

Over feed them, in fact. They will get tired and hungry much quicker than you. Have their favorite snacks and drinks on hand as a comfort.

5. Take photos.

Your kids will remember this trip forever. Document the big things. The little things. Everything. It will also help encourage them to want to make another trip, like the first, over and over again (to new destinations, of course)!

6. Over plan.

With kids, it’s especially important to plan out every single day. Where you’ll go. What you’ll do. Where you’ll eat. Transportation. Directions. You name it. Plan ahead. Plan for downtime, too. If you’ve traveled before kids, like us, be prepared for a different type of traveling. One where you’ll learn to enjoy your trip from yours kids perspective. It’s just as fun. I promise.

7. Learn some useful phrases.

In case you are traveling to a foreign country, due some due diligence and try your best to learn some words you may need on your way. The locals will appreciate your willingness to try even if your pronunciation is terrible.

8. Keep a journal while you’re gone.

At the end of each day, jot down some interesting or funny things you experienced that day. Especially if you’re going on a long trip, you’ll quickly forget what happened just a few days before because it’s all new and exciting!
Since we have moved to China, we have taken the opportunity to go on a weekend get away every month (anywhere from 90 minutes to a four-hour drive) as well as two two-weeklong trips out of the country to Japan and Thailand. Each trip has included tons of exploring such as trying new foods and meeting different people. Every single “adventure” has had a bump, but nothing we couldn’t learn from (or laugh about). And, certainly not a big enough bump that we didn’t look forward to and plan the next one.
We are continuing to enjoy our time in China, but we’ve already talked about what happens when we move home to America. The (dreaded) four hour car ride or six hour plane ride will seem like nothing as we continue to encourage our girls to be curious about our world. Life is too short to take the same vacation.