Last week, I did something that just a few months ago I thought was impossible. We took our 7-month-old daughter on an international vacation — just the three of us, no in-laws or relatives to help. Granted, it was only to Halifax, Nova Scotia, an eight hour drive, but it was an adventure no less.
I was a nervous wreck up until the moment we locked the door behind us, and I knew there was no turning back. I had lists of what to bring. I checked and double checked what we’d need to cross the border, and I tried to anticipate every possible scenario. Thankfully, it was pretty smooth, and I came away with a slough of memories and the confidence to do it again.
Planning to travel internationally with your kids? Here’s what you need to know:
To cross the border: The rules to cross in Canada depend on how you’re going and who you’re bringing with you. If traveling by car, children up to 15 years old only need to have a birth certificate, but adults need passports. If flying, both adults and children need passports. Divorced parents should carry copies of custody documents, and those traveling alone with children should bring a written letter with the other parent’s permission to take the child across the border.
Stay out of hotels: We rented two apartments through the website Airbnb, and it was fantastic. For way less than we would have spent at even a basic hotel, we had a kitchen, living room, patio, bedroom and complimentary breakfast, right in the popular Halifax waterfront area. The extra space meant we could put the baby to bed and enjoy a glass of wine (or two) as the sun went down without worrying about waking her. Check out some of the offerings on Airbnb or the vacation home rental website HomeAway. These businesses act as third parties and vet hosts and vacationers making for more smooth, secure transactions.
Mix up the activities: Find a local library and head to story time, visit a children’s museum or take a picnic lunch to a local park where they can play. Also, don’t underestimate your children — they may be more interested in learning about ancient history or art than you think. Nowadays, more museums are catering toward families with plenty of child-friendly interactive exhibits.
Don’t skip naps: Even if it’s an hour of quiet time, everyone can benefit from a little extra shut-eye on vacation. For infants, everyone will have a better trip if the baby is still on a schedule close to what he or she experiences at home. For us, it meant two naps per day and turning in early for the night.
Avoid rushing: Plan and research 20 activities and expect to do 10, or maybe just five. Even our infant knew when we were pushing it, and her fussing reminded us to take time to relax and just enjoy being together.