How to Prepare Young Children for Travel & Study Abroad

With 45 years of helping families travel abroad, NRCSA has gathered some very useful information about the best ways to prepare young children for the experience. Whether the child is an infant or a preteen, or the family includes multiple children of various ages, parents can make the trip more rewarding and fun for all involved by doing a few simple things before the plane takes off.

Share a Book or Two
Take some time together to browse through a few books at the library about the country or countries you'll be going to, or buy a few that you can look at together while you're on the plane and on your way there. Books with pictures are the best and even for infants a picture book can make a definite impression and may reduce the stress of cultural adjustment. If you're planning on going somewhere in Latin America, NRCSA has a great list of recommended books for young children available, so just ask!

Dance to the Music
The library is a great source for music from around the world and chances are the one near you has some CDs with music indigenous to your planned destination(s). Children are naturally attracted to music of all kinds and they love to dance, so turn it up and do a Tango or a Waltz together in your living room. There are many CDs available for infants as well that include folk songs and lullabies. If you buy the CDs take a CD player for the plane ride.

Go Web Surfing
There's lots of travel and country specific information on the web which usually include pictures, so ride the wave with your kids!

Prepare the Palate
Now, we all know that some children are very particular about what they ingest, while others will eat practically anything placed in front of them or within reach, but since you'll be traveling to a country that most probably will not have everything they're used to, it's important to make an attempt at easing and hopefully educating their young palates before you go. Take your family to a restaurant whose cuisine is specific to the country you'll be visiting and make sure it's not one of those pseudo or hyphenated places. Or, if you're really ambitious, try your hand at some recipes yourself. Don't be too adventurous at first if you're not used to cooking food that's outside your usual fare, go mild and easy to begin with, both for yourself and your family. There's lots of great recipes on the web just waiting for you to take a chance on.

Talk the Talk
Start speaking the language you'll be surrounded by and studying right now, don't wait until you get there. Children are extremely sensitive when it comes to language, especially those which emanate from their parents' mouths, so help them adjust ahead of time by speaking the language to them and around them before you go. If you have friends that speak the language you'll be studying, have them come over to have a chat. If you are a complete beginner, pick up some language tapes or CD-ROMs at the library to practice a little together. If your child is an infant or toddler, play the examples for him/her and repeat what is said yourself so your child can see the different and fascinating facial expressions you make when you speak this new language, and so he/she can become acquainted with the unfamiliar sounds that soon will be flowing easily from your lips. These are some simple ideas to prepare your child and yourself for the exciting and rewarding experience of traveling abroad, and you may think of more things you can do, but whatever you do, Do Something. Your child will appreciate it and you can feel like the skilled and creative parent you always knew yourself to be.