International Travel with Kids: 5 Tips And Lessons Learned

This is the longest absence I’ve gone without blogging since 2012 (two weeks is an eternity in the blogging world), but with good reason! When I created my vision board in December 2014, it included goals of traveling more for business and international travel with my family. I have a quote on the personal side of my board that says “see some world” and then I wrote in “family travel” next to it. I absolutely had no plans in place or even knew how or when that would come into fruition. But I knew my only responsibility was to believe it would happen and keep working hard to make it a reality. The rest was up to God and my faith in Him.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I was asked to manage the social media for the Steve Harvey SOAR Retreat (recap post to come but tune in to the replays from Doreen Rainey’s Periscope account) from October 16-18th, and then asked to attend an invitation only social media conference in Turks and Caicos a few days later. This trip was the first time my kids were all on a plane (that they can remember), and it just happened to be an international trip. I’ll be sharing a lot more about Social Media on the Sand (SMOTS) in later posts, but I figured I would start with some travel tips, especially international travel. Here are some lessons and tips I learned about international travel with kids.

Don’t wait until the last minute to purchase passports

If you already have your passports then you can skip this. But if you don’t, then read on. I got my invitation to SMOTS in July. And even though the conference wasn’t until the end of October, my husband and I applied for all three of their passports by August. After fees, etc, we paid a total of $321.71. If we had waited and needed to get them rushed, we would’ve had to pay an additional $180 + rush delivery fees. It adds up. So go out and get the passports even before you know you’ll need them, so it’s one less thing to worry about.

US Passport - momsncharge

Arrive at the airport an hour earlier than you think you need to be there

Let me tell you how TSA tried to put a dent in our travel plans before we even got started! We had a 6:59AM flight so we arrived at the airport at 4:15AM because we wanted to change our seating on our connection flight. They told us to get there as early as possible. That means we had three kids up and out the door by 3:30AM. We get in line, one of the attendants told us it would be faster to do everything at the kiosk because the line was so long. Ok. I enter in all five of our passport and personal ID info into the kiosk…15 or so minutes later, it wouldn’t take our info. Long story short, we waited and waited for someone else to help us. Finally after at least 45 minutes, we were off to TSA to get through security…or so we thought. We get through the line for them to check our boarding passes and passports and not ONE of our boarding passes would scan. What did they do? They sent us back upstair to check-in with all three kids to get them to reprint our passes. So yeah, thank God we had gotten there extra early. And thankfully the kids were too excited about getting on the plane to be bothered with the tomfoolery.

Pay close attention to connection flights

This sounds pretty straight forward. But we learned a big lesson on connection flights between international and domestic destinations. Going to Turks and Caicos we had a connection in Miami so no problems there. Coming back from Turks and Caicos was the issue. We had a connection flight in Charlotte from Turks and Caicos, which means re-entry into the US. Do you know what that means? It means we had to get off the plane, go through customs, collect our baggage, re-check our bags, go back through TSA, find our gates and then wait to board our connection flight. Oh and keep in mind that gates change all the time, and ours did at the last minute, which added on an extra 10-15 min to find the new one. We had less than an hour between connection flights to get this all done and thankfully we made it. Otherwise, we would’ve had to wait another 3 hours for the last flight into DC.

Pack activities to keep the kids entertained

Travel can always be sketchy, especially when you’re relying on sources outside of your control. There were several people from SMOTS who had to get redirected and travel extended due to bad weather, and many were traveling with kids. While shopping for the Pack for Purpose event for the Sandals Foundation, I also picked up a few items from Five Below for the kids (mini color books that came with mini markers, and some flash cards). In addition, we made sure to pre-load and personalize each of their LeapPad Platinums they were gifted by the fab folks over at Leap Frog. I truly appreciate them because they went out of their way to replace the two defective LeapPads we received and made sure we got them before we left for the trip (will be doing a review of them soon as well). We picked up some kid-friendly headphones for each of them, and they were good to go! These were absolutely perfect for our trip.

St.Vil leappad platinum travel 2

Have a loose schedule in place prior to leaving

While the primary reason we went to Turks and Caicos was for SMOTS, we added on four extra days so we could really enjoy the island and our trip. We knew there would be activities and had prepared for some ahead of time. But we also had a loose enough schedule that as other things came up, we could adjust accordingly. I’m so glad we did because the kids were glued to the kids’ camps at Beaches Resorts (more on that in a later post). There were so many activities so we were able to get an idea of the things we wanted to do ahead of time and plan accordingly. But when things came up we didn’t know about (like baking cookies with THE Cookie Monster), we weren’t thrown off track.

cookie monster beaches resorts 2

cookie monster beaches resorts 1

* BONUS* Give them each their own small suitcase or backpack

My kids felt so empowered and in charge when they got to pack their own backpacks and carry them around on their own. It really is the little things. Inside each of their backpacks, they had: headphones, LeapPad Platinum, coloring book with markers, a blanket, snacks and other small games or toys. We made sure not to over pack them so they wouldn’t get tired of holding them. And in fact, we had to beg them to put them down when we got to the resort as we waited for our room LOL. I wanted to find a small suitcase their size with rollers, but honestly, their backpacks worked out perfectly for what they carried in them.

St.Vil leappad platinum travel

There are many more things that I enjoyed and learned on our trip to Turks and Caicos, so I will definitely be sharing more. But I wanted to start out with these tips! You can also follow me on Instagram for more pics as well as the #BeachesMoms hashtag.

What say you? Have you traveled internationally with your kids? What tips would you add to the list?

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Samantha
    October 31, 2015 at 6:33 AM

    Hi Christine,
    I loved these tips and you look like you had a great time. I especially liked the kids having their own back pack. I know my son would love that. Thanks for the great tips

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      November 1, 2015 at 8:40 PM

      Hi Samantha! Thanks so much for sharing! I’m sure your son will love to have and pack his own backpack too 🙂

  • Reply
    Mimi "MimiCuteLips" Green
    October 31, 2015 at 4:56 PM

    Great tips, we’ve yet to fly as a family of four. My daughter keeps asking and I would love to take her. Whenever we go anywhere the kids always pack their own back packs and that makes life much easier.

    I love those headphones, I need to get some for Nori.
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    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      November 1, 2015 at 8:39 PM

      Yes Mimi, this was our first big family trip, and it was a load of fun for all of us. Isn’t it amazing how much empowerment it gives them to pack their own backpack? 🙂 Oh and yes, the headphones came in handy and for $5, couldn’t beat it LOL

  • Reply
    kita
    November 1, 2015 at 1:19 AM

    I haven’t been out of the country so I know my kids would love to go. I know we will need a passport so I gotta get ready. Great tips!
    kita would like you to check out…Top 10 with Kokoa: October 31stMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      November 1, 2015 at 8:38 PM

      Yes Kita! Get them before you’ll need them, sometimes it’s about manifesting what it is you want 🙂

  • Reply
    Ty
    November 1, 2015 at 9:46 AM

    Looks like you all had an awesome time!! These tips are great. It’s not easy traveling with kids and you have to have a plan.

    Thanks!
    Ty would like you to check out…13 Ways To Know For Sure That You Are A Side ChickMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      November 1, 2015 at 8:37 PM

      Thanks Ty! It really isn’t easy but it was so much fun, especially once we got past the shenanigans LOL

  • Reply
    Josselyne
    November 1, 2015 at 9:49 PM

    Yup. Tell me about those incoming international connecting flights..uurgh! Try it with 2kids under 5. Yes. I missed my connecting flight to ATL whilst in NJ, coming from UK…anywho, leave a 2hour or 3gap when reentering the USA. ..aside tgat, all great tips sis.

  • Reply
    Chasing Joy
    November 1, 2015 at 10:24 PM

    like the tip about kids pack. Makes the kids feel empowdered.

  • Reply
    Jonna Scott-Blakes
    November 1, 2015 at 11:57 PM

    I don’t have a passport yet. The whole experience just seems like it’s scary lol. Everything travel security related makes my palms sweat lol.
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  • Reply
    Jaye@Curvatude
    November 2, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    Umm…your kids are adorable! Great tips Christine and I love those little leapads.
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  • Reply
    Shawana
    November 2, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    Turks & Caicos is such a beautiful place. These are some great tips that could easily be applied to anyone traveling on an international level. Traveling with children can be difficult, but it looks like you were very organized and prepared.
    Shawana would like you to check out…Being Grateful for the Little ThingsMy Profile

  • Reply
    Stacie
    November 2, 2015 at 11:50 AM

    How cool for your kids to be able to say that they have been out of the country! Passport and all! One day I hope to be able to travel to a beautiful island. One day! 😉
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  • Reply
    Vashti (veepeejay.com)
    November 2, 2015 at 9:50 PM

    Those are really great tips Christine especially the one about getting there extra early! I’m glad you guys didn’t miss your flight because of the TSA Tomfoolery lol. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip.
    Vashti (veepeejay.com) would like you to check out…10 Takeaways from the Steve Harvey SOAR RetreatMy Profile

  • Reply
    Tyra
    November 3, 2015 at 10:00 AM

    Great tips! In my recent roundup polling mom bloggers with tips for traveling with kids, they mentioned some of the same things, like having plenty of activities for the kids. I love the idea of allowing them to pack a small bag themselves as well.
    Tyra would like you to check out…5 Reasons to Visit Belize NowMy Profile

  • Reply
    Joanna
    November 3, 2015 at 1:18 PM

    I LOVED this! I took my first trip abroad when I was 8 and have been a frequent jetsetter for about 3 years now. You may get a better deal with a connecting flight, but I try to go direct as much as possible. I had a crazy experience going through Miami customs recently and just wanted to go home so bad. Thankfully I was able to fly on standby for the flight back home.
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  • Reply
    Nicole (Nicole's Lifestyle Lounge)
    November 4, 2015 at 8:42 AM

    Awesome tips! When my older daughter’s passport expired about 11 year ago I never did renew it. Now I have toddler. I should definitely apply for passport for them.
    Nicole (Nicole’s Lifestyle Lounge) would like you to check out…How To Personally Brand Your ResumeMy Profile

  • Reply
    Melissa
    November 16, 2015 at 3:56 PM

    LOVE these tips! As a travel consultant and a Sandals and Beaches specialist, I would only add one thing to your list!…Use a travel consultant, especially when booking international travel. When you have small hiccups (or big ones, as well), you keep enjoying your kids and making sure they are stress free and let your consultant handle anything that may come your way. PLUS, there are tons of things I would’ve told you NOT to miss at Beaches! Travel Consultants who specialize in family travel LOVE Beaches Resorts! Thanks for these tips! It looks like you love Beaches, too!

  • Reply
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