5 Tips for Taking Kids Overseas

We have just returned from our best holiday ever. Without a lie, our very best experience as a family. Which is amazing, considering how worried and stressed we were going in.


The three little bears enjoying the view from the lookout at Lake Taupo

We took a chance and travelled to New Zealand for our first overseas adventure as a family. With two kids on the autism spectrum we were worried that we had taken on too much – that we we would spend most of the trip dealing with meltdowns, upset and stress.

Instead, the preparation we undertook prior to leaving home really helped address some of the natural stress of the trip and led to a very successful, enjoyable and rewarding holiday. This is how we were successful in taking the kids overseas.

So here are 5 tips to make your overseas holiday with your kids a success too:

1. Develop an itinerary for the kids

Nathan prepared an amazing itinerary for the kids in the form of a social story. This laid out exactly what we expected to do each day and allowed them to become familiar with our plans before setting out. The story showed our route visually but also included fun facts to keep them entertained. I have linked to our kids itinerary – NZ Holiday Book-final.

2. Seek their input

We discussed the options for each day and sought the kids input into what we should do. We ensured we made time to see Carter Observatory for Gilbert and Wellington Zoo for Matilda as these fed into their interests. It certainly helps the nervous traveller to have something of their own to look forward to!

3. Invest in noise cancelling headphones

These are a god-send. They take out all the ambient noise of the flight and allow you to concentrate on listening to music or watching a movie or playing a game on the inflight entertainment system.  Our kids didn’t even know that we had taken off, they were so absorbed in what they were listening to with the help of their headphones – well worth the investment!

4. Build rest time into each day

It is so important to build rest time into your itinerary. It can be hard to justify slowing down when you have limited time in a particular country but taking it slowly and not pushing too hard will definitely make the holiday a greater success. We built in a few days where we didn’t have any set plans and having a rest really did pay off for us.

5. Encourage them to document the holiday

While we traversed the North Island we encouraged the kids to make their own memories. Gilbert took video of the different destinations and found comfort in talking to the camera about what he was seeing and experiencing. Matilda wrote each night in her diary and loved sharing this with us each night. We also made sure we talked to Delilah each night about her favourite part of the day. We found this was a really effective way to get the kids excited about each new destination.

These were undoubtedly the most successful approaches we found to help the kids adjust to all the changes that an overseas holiday poses. But I would love to hear your own tips for when we do it all again!


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51 Responses

  1. Lydia C. Lee says:

    I’m glad it was fantastic! I think you need a bit of that stress beforehand to plan it out…then it all goes well. I think a bit for the adults then a bit for the kids is always good. They need to behave for the adult bit to get the kid bit…
    Lydia C. Lee recently posted..First of the Month Fiction – Australia Day edition

    • Kirsty says:

      Exactly – that was our rationale anyway. That is how we got through visiting one of the thermal wonderlands near Rotorua. I made Gilbert do it as it was my treat for the trip. He hated every minute (the smell) but he did it for me. That’s my boy!

  2. Great tips! I would also add – make sure that they can carry some if not all of their own luggage. We havent been overseas, but interstate and just on holidays the girls (9&10) carry a backpack and have their own rolly suitcase.
    Alli @ ducks on the dam recently posted..Taking stock…..

    • Kirsty says:

      Great tip Alli. Our kids had a backpack each which they carried as we travelled around – it definitely added to the sense of adventure and responsibility.

  3. Mystery Case says:

    I always get so very stressed before a holiday even a quick impromptu road trip that I often wonder if it’s worth going at all. Of course each time it is and each time I vow to do less of the stressing and prep beforehand. lol

    Glad you had a great time.
    Mystery Case recently posted..One New Thing a Week Challenge | The Goddess Journey begins…..

  4. Thank you so much for this. We are planning a trip to NZ for Easter (south island). It will be our first o/s trip with the girls and I’m slightly nervous. I think involving them in the planning is a great idea.
    Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me recently posted..All the small things

  5. Kimberley says:

    These are great tips! We haven’t ventured o/s yet but will probably do so in the next couple of years. Some food for thought here! Kim
    Kimberley recently posted..Tilt-shift tutorial in Instagram

    • Kirsty says:

      Glad to help others if I can. I was so uncertain about taking a chance and going but I’m so glad that we did. Good luck in your future adventures Kimberley!

  6. Once we are out of the baby phase, I can’t wait to take our kids overseas. New Zealand is such a beautiful country. I have only been to the South Island so the North Island is on my list of places to go. Thanks for the tips!
    Bec @ The Plumbette recently posted..When life throws a curve ball or two

    • Kirsty says:

      The North is lovely but I would love to see the mountainous beauty of the South – we will have to compare notes one day Bec!

  7. Me says:

    What great tips !! I am so glad that you all had such a good time. I think building in rest days is so important – and something I am going to do more of on our next holiday. I had a mini meltdown during the third week of our holiday in Tassie because it was just go go go – every day a new place and no time to just relax because we wanted to make sure we saw everything we could. In hind-sight, I think having some downtime at the expense of missing out on some things is a better way to go.
    Have a great week !
    Me recently posted..I Know, It’s A Process

    • Kirsty says:

      It’s hard to slow down but it’s so necessary. We ended up spending a hot afternoon in our air conditioned hotel room in Napier just to have a break – it didn’t hurt that the view from the room was divine! Hope there are not meltdowns for you on your next trip!

  8. Great steps! I would love to be able to afford to take my brood overseas!!!! How fortunate! I am dreaming up some kind of vacation now…
    Jody at Six Little Hearts recently posted..The Melbourne Summer Series #2…Gulf Station

    • Kirsty says:

      We’ll be paying this one off for a while, despite my son’s determination to go back to check out the South Islamd! I hope you have the chance to travel with your family sometime soon Jody 🙂

  9. So glad you had a great trip, Kirsty! I think we’re a year or two away from an overseas trip but I will be filing that tip about headphones away for later use for sure.
    Carolyn @ Champagne Cartel recently posted..Nine months on: hurrah, I’m human again!

  10. These are awesome tips Kirsty! I have pinned this post for if we ever get overseas with the girls. #teamIBOT
    Kylez @ A Study in Contradictions recently posted..This is not a post about homebirth…

  11. Thank you for these tips, we’re going to Europe for a month with 3 kiddies so these are invaluable!
    The Fashionable Mum recently posted..Ask the Fashionable Mum – where do I start?

  12. Great tips, I find holidays quite stressful, I might take some of these approaches next time.
    Eleise @ A Very Blended Family recently posted..I am over the school holidays

  13. Awesome tips Kirsty!! Hopefully one day I can borrow them. 🙂
    EssentiallyJess recently posted..Thinking About Quilting #IBOT

  14. Sounds like it was a dream holiday – and what a relief for you! Glad you liked NZ lovely. I’m like Jess, hope I can have the chance to use them one day also x
    Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me recently posted..A break in transmission from cutting remarks, piss-taking and humour – Part Two

  15. Rhianna says:

    they are really great tip lovely. Especially the rest one. It is too easy to do too much while away. So glad you had a wonderful time
    Rhianna recently posted..That was how long ago?

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Rhi – it went better than I could have ever imagined. So good to have lovely memories instead of stressed and unhappy ones 🙂

  16. Cathy says:

    Sooo glad all went well for you! Know you were very worried beforehand. We are thinking of going overseas next year with our three and the thought scares the hell out of me! I’m a nervous flyer as well so an added burden. I like to hear good news travel stories like yours xx
    Cathy recently posted..Daniel & Samuel’s Birthdays

    • Kirsty says:

      You should definitely give it a go. I could hardly sleep the night before, I was so stressed and worried. But after a rough first day (I will share that experience on Friday) it all went so much better than expected. Gilbert already wants to go back to travel to the South Island – I can’t ask for much more than that!

  17. My memories of taking my five kids under eleven years of age on a trip to Europe are part of what inspired me to begin my blog in January last year. The horror of the trip combined with the invaluable times were worth recording! I’m glad to hear you had a great holiday and the ‘rest time’ is an excellent idea!
    Pinky Poinker recently posted..My Fatty Boombah Photos

    • Kirsty says:

      I bow down to you Pinky – 5 kids under 11 on the other side of the world, that would have taken balls! No wonder you were driven to blog…

  18. Sue says:

    Great tips! We’re just back from a big trip to Ireland via Hong Kong and Frankfurt. Our kids are pre-school age so having trunkies that they could sit on to navigate the miles and miles of corridor when transferring between flights was a god send. Big thumbs up for the noise cancelling headphones too.
    Sue recently posted..Coffitivity App – ambient coffee shop sounds to boost productivity – love it!

    • Kirsty says:

      That’s a great tip too Sue. There were times that we had to take turns to carry Delilah as there was QUITE a lot of walking within the airport – will have to consider your suggestion next time! Hope you had an awesome time too on your odyssey!

  19. Tegan says:

    I’m so glad that your holiday was such an awesome experience for you and the kids. I love the tip about noise cancelling headphones and it was something that I had never thought about.
    Tegan recently posted..Stop Hating the Princesses

    • Kirsty says:

      I can totally recommend them – useful not just for the flight but for car rides, etc. They saved our sanity in those times we had multiple devices going in the back seat 😉

  20. Sheridan says:

    We aren’t going overseas but we are going to Tasmania in April. I absolutely love your itinerary! I might have to make something just like this for us.
    Sheridan recently posted..How to Prep for a Rental Inspection

    • Kirsty says:

      My husband is a genius with PDFs and documents like that. I can highly recommend preparing something like this – we went through it every morning and evening with the kids and it really helped lessens their stress and anxiety.

  21. Wow so great to read you had such a wonderful holiday and what amazing planning you both put it. Great tips thank you for sharing!
    SarahD @SnippetsandSpirits recently posted..Give Me All Your Wine

  22. Nathan says:

    Another tip for flying: take chewy lollies for the flight. We were really worried about sore ears and pressure equalization during take off and landing, but in the end had pretty much no problem. We just told the kids to “go for it” and they happily stuffed their face with snakes and jelly babies etc as the plane took off and landed – it really helped. Just make sure you have enough for them to keep chewing!
    Nathan recently posted..Quick Message: FU Yahoo group

    • Kirsty says:

      We definitely learned all about making sure we had enough lollies on the flight – I haven’t seen kids devour lollies that fast before… 😉

  23. Thanks for the tips Kirsty. We’re going to be going o/s with our three kids later this year. We’ve done it before, but this will be the biggest trip, and a lot of road tripping involved too, so all tips are helpful!

    Just popped over from IBOT, by the way 🙂
    Kirsten McCulloch recently posted..Why I’m Giving My Book Away for Free

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Kirsten. We learned quite a lot on this trip – I probably have another post worth of tips to include! Good luck on your upcoming adventure – I hope it is a lot of fun!!!

  24. I’m so glad that you all had a lovely holiday, Kirsty! No doubt the littlies will talk about it for a long time x
    Lisa@RandomActsOfZen recently posted..Wheels I Want on Pinterest

  25. Lisa says:

    Kirsty, I am going to book a trip to NZ just to use Nathan’s PDF…such a wonderful guide book for the kids. Your travel tips are fantastic. So glad you all had a wonderful time xx
    Lisa recently posted..Guest Posting over at yTravel Blog today

  26. Rest time is so important! I was so resistant to do this the first few times we traveled as I loved exploring from dawn to dusk pre-kids. I’ve reframed our trip, whilst slower we actually see more and spend more time actually looking at things.

  1. March 20, 2015

    […] year I wrote about our tips for taking kids overseas based on our experiences in New Zealand and I wanted to expand on those strategies as well as share […]

  2. April 8, 2017

    […] year I wrote about our tips for taking kids overseas based on our experiences in New Zealand and I wanted to expand on those strategies as well as share […]

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