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How do you prepare your children for international travel?

Guest Post by Terumi Pong

“Can you find Iceland on the map?  I’ll give you a hint, it’s in the North and it’s in the Atlantic Ocean.”

We’ve been traveling since our kids were very small and now that my twin boys are nearly six, we’re finding it’s getting a lot easier and a lot more fun… and they’re really curious about where we’re going to go next!  Our last trip was a European trip which included Iceland and Denmark that were new to both my husband and me, we weren’t sure what to expect.  But, that is the adventure in traveling with our family and all of us learn a lot along the way.  For me, the toughest part of packing is realizing I can’t bring 5 pairs of shoes or outfits that I “might” wear… that space goes to an extra pair of shoes for the kids or a just-in-case outfit for them if they spill or have an accident.  We like to travel lightly so that we can take public transportation and walk with our luggage if we have to.  But every family travels differently!  For us, here are a few of our favorite tips and maybe they might be helpful to you too:

The first thing we do when we book a trip is find it with our kids on a map we have in our office.  We talk about how many hours it will take to get there by plane or train and discuss where it is in comparison to other places we’ve been.  We wonder together if it will be hot or cold and if there will be swimming pools or animals to see.  We think about the food that is grown there and what we might like to eat.

Then we buy books.  Sometimes I buy them online so they show up when we first start talking about a trip, or the kids and I go to the library or bookstore to pick them up together.  We like picture books that are set in the place we’re visiting or travel books about the place.  If we can find a family-friendly DVD we do that too.  For our recent Iceland trip, my guys enjoyed the travel clips on the Tourism Bureau’s website. We also like the Dodsworth books by Tim Egan -we’ve read them for Paris and Tokyo and we’re curious where Dodsworth will travel next.

If the country speaks a different language we make sure we know at least “hello” and “thank you”.  Dover Publications makes coloring books that are in French, Spanish and English and Usborne Books have great 1000 words books in many languages too.  We’ve found that if the kids can say “hello” and “thank you”, many people are much more receptive to us bringing our kids almost anywhere.

A couple days before the airport we buy a small toy that’s under $10.  This saves the panic of having to find souvenirs or treats for the kids when we get somewhere to entertain them, and it gives them something to look forward to after they nap on the plane, or get to the airport or whatever the agreed pact is for opening the toy.

And when the travel day arrives, we think of some kind of walking/running/energy-burning activity before the flight – especially if it’s a long one! We wake up extra early if we want don’t want a late night in our destination or we nap if we want to keep them up to get our family on a new time schedule if we cross a couple time zones.  We’ve found that walking and taking public transit to the airport from our home in Seattle gets a lot of pre-trip energy out and saves us a few extra dollars for coffee at the airport.  Which is definitely another travel must for my husband and I!

And then we go…

 

Terumi is a 30-something Seattle mom of twin boys. You can learn more about her and her family’s travels on her blog, An Emerald City Life.

Riding Trains in Germany

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Esther, who handles catalogs and emails here at Tea, traveled with her family to Germany to catch up with relatives.

Every summer, my husband and I take our kids (now 8 and 7) to Germany to visit our families. The kids always look forward to seeing their Omas and Opas, aunts, uncles and cousins in Bonn and Cologne. It is important to us that our children are immersed in the culture of their parents’ native country, that they get to experience German traditions and learn to appreciate the similarities and differences between countries and cultures.

Germany

Every year while in Europe, we go on little adventures. We have taken the children on quick trips to Paris, Brussels and Berlin. Always by train – their favorite means of transportation. The ICE train travels at up to 300 km/h (186 mph). It often runs parallel to the freeway and the children love being faster than the cars – especially when there is no speed limit on a particular stretch of Autobahn!

On German trains, children under 15 ride free when traveling with an adult. During the summer months, there are special kids’ tickets, which can be exchanged for goodies on the train. In the past two years, children received a free Popsicle. This year, the goodies were a coloring book, colored pencils and a toy ICE train.

Riding Trains In Germany

Our 2013 adventure took us to Nuremberg, where we strolled through the old streets, marveled at the medieval castle and its almost fully intact wall (with moat!), and enjoyed the local specialty of Nürnberger Rostbratwurst. To satisfy the children’s need for playtime, we went to the Playmobil FunPark, adjacent to the original Playmobil factory.

On the way back to Cologne, we opted against the high-speed ICE trains and chose to take the scenic route through the picturesque Rhine Gorge instead. If you asked my kids, they would say it’s “the river with all the castles”. They don’t understand the meaning of UNESCO World Heritage Site yet.

Loreli -  Rhine near St. Goarshausen, Germany

The train ride along the Rhine Gorge also took us past the Lorelei. This rock soars high above the water where the Rhine is at its narrowest. A strong current and rocks just below the waterline have caused many boats to sink here. Our children of course wondered why I was taking a picture of a rock. I told them the legend of the Lorelei, who sits on the cliff, brushing her golden hair, singing an enchanting melody, distracting shipmen and causing them to crash on the rocks. I’m sure someday they will understand the beauty of the poem.

As we were getting off the train in Cologne, the kids asked what our adventure is going to be next year. That’s when we knew we had done something right.

Activities: Make a Dragon Mask

free coloring book page

Tea staff member Marjorie has her two children create dragon masks inspired by Korea.

Supplies:
a. Dragon printout
b. Markers, crayons, colored pencils, etc.
c. String
d. Hole punch
e. printer

Directions:

Free Coloring book page

1. Download our Dragon outline from our Activity Book.
2. Using a projector, resize the image until the dragon head will fit your child’s head as a mask.

coloring book contest
3. Print the mask and use markers, colored pencils, or paint to fill in the design.
4. Cut out the mask. Use a hole punch to put holes on each side of the mask.
5. Have your child hold the mask in front of the eyes. Tie the string on one hole and wrap it around the back of their head, resting the string on their ears and tie the other side of the string to the opposite hole.

free coloring book mask

As your children are wearing their masks, snap a few pics and enter them in our “Around the World Activity Contest” for your chance to win one of our 10 weekly prizes and be entered into a sweepstakes to win a $500 Tea gift certificate. Contest ends 7/31/2012. Visit www.facebook.com/teacollection to enter.

This activity was inspired by the Sejong Dragon Pant which first debuted in Destination: Korea in Spring 2010.

Sejong Dragon Boys Pants

Named for the king who invented the Korean written alphabet, these pants feature an embroidered dragon graphic on a cargo pant style.

Activity Printout: Katut Motorbike

Did we see a rooster riding a motorbike when we stopped by Katut’s shop? In Bali, many fourth-born children are named Katut. This means you could have the same name as many of your friends!

free coloring book pageDownload your cultural activity printout here: Katut Motorbike

Once you’re done, submit your creation to blog@teacollection.com for your chance to win a $100 Tea gift certificate! Every month, Tea staff will pick one artistic little citizen to win!  Honorable mentions will also be uploaded into their own featured blog post. Let your creative juices flow and show us your inner artist!

 

Cultural Activity Printout: Surf Break

Looking to take a break? How about a Surf Break?

Free Coloring Book Page

Download your cultural activity printout here: Surf Break

Once you’re done, submit your creation to blog@teacollection.com for your chance to win a $100 Tea gift certificate! Every month, Tea staff will pick one artistic little citizen to win!  Honorable mentions will also be uploaded into their own featured blog post. Let your creative juices flow and show us your inner artist!

 

Cultural Activity Printout: Connect the Dots

Looking for a little Bali surf adventure? Connect the Dots in this week’s cultural activity printout to discover what’s riding the Kuta Beach waves alongside your board.

Free Coloring Book Page

Download your cultural activity printout here: Connect the Dots

Once you’re done, submit your creation to blog@teacollection.com for your chance to win a $100 Tea gift certificate! Every month, Tea staff will pick one artistic little citizen to win!  Honorable mentions will also be uploaded into their own featured blog post. Let your creative juices flow and show us your inner artist! To see past submissions, visit our Flickr page.

Cultural Activity Printout: Bali Butterfly Park

Tickle your creative side by coloring each butterfly wing in a new color and pattern. We can’t wait to see what you create!

Free coloring book page

Download your cultural activity printout here: Bali Butterfly Park

Once you’re done, submit your creation to blog@teacollection.com for your chance to win a $100 Tea gift certificate! Every month, Tea staff will pick one artistic little citizen to win!  Honorable mentions will also be uploaded into their own featured blog post. Let your creative juices flow and show us your inner artist!