Hurdles to International Travel:
1. Fear. If you did not grow up traveling, like Melissa, traveling outside of the US can be overwhelming and fearful. Listen to Rick Steve's talk about fear of travel.
2. NO International Connections. It can be hard, when you do not have a connection when traveling international. How do you even choose where to go? Melissa suggests befriending internationals in your home town and then discover their hometowns. Or follow your interests, when deciding where to visit.
3. We have put international travel in the bucket of "service trips." Don't throw stones at us for stepping on some toes! However, when your international travel experience has only been in the context of service trips, your perspective of the world is a little skewed. So, taking your kids out of the US seems daunting. Service trips generally only show other cultures in their most challenging and vulnerable circumstances. Usually, you are not seeing the culture's strengths, which they have a lot of! This is not true of all "service trips," BUT it takes a lot of intentionality. Even though it is a hurdle, we both agree this is a main reason why we SHOULD travel with our kids. We want them to see other countries and cultures for their strengths and beauty.
4. Finances. We recognize, international travel is a privilege. Melissa's family makes a lot of sacrifices to prioritize family travel. Melissa suggests finding the cheapest airport hub within driving distance. For us, in Oklahoma, the closest is Houston. She then suggests not traveling during the summer. Lastly, sign up for travelocity and other travel sites. Sign up for emails about low fares to the destinations you are most interested.
5. Time. It can take some time and intentionality to have the time to take your whole family abroad.
Tips for International Travel:
1. Get your mental game ready! It's not all going to be hard, but there will be moments of hard. So, just be ready. You can do it! (Kara makes sure to go to yoga before getting on a plane)
2. Travel Time is not the time to harp on all your family rules. 36 hours of travel to Asia is hard for an adult. It is much harder for children. So, give them grace. Help them sleep when they are tired, let them watch some TV, and find snacks for them when they are hungry....even if they get off their usual schedule.
3. Try to fly a "non-American" airline. For example, try Thai Airways, Ethiopian Air, British Airways, Emarites, etc. Other countries tend to be more favorable toward kids and will usually be more accommodating for families. However, remember, their in air meals may be very different. Pack a lot of snacks OR grab Subway sandwiches before boarding (this is Kara's suggestion from experience).
4. Provide familiarity. Melissa packs ALL THE THINGS! She brings blow up mattresses, their at home sound machine, and black out curtains for her girls. All these things help her girls feel at home. Pack familiar snacks. As Melissa says, "Have your kids try the local food, but be prepared to buy them a plate of french fries!"
5. Be patient with your kids. Your kids will most likely say something rude. Just be gracious and uplifting. As Melissa says, "Encourage them to try the crazy new foods, but also be willing to buy them a plate of french fries!"