5 Maternal Phases of International Travel Planning

Oh the joys of planning overseas travel for a family of five. I’ve been through it a number of times and it always has the same pattern.

PHASE #1: Everything Is Going to Work Out Perfectly!
It begins with me going into excited and optimistic planning mode. This is going to be fantastic! We live in an amazing time of internet connectivity where everything I need to know about getting my family to other countries is literally at my fingertips. I love airbnb.com! I love travel blogs! Hip hip hurray!

PHASE #2: This Is More Complicated Than I Thought.
As I get into the nitty gritty of travel planning, the optimism transitions into over-analyzing every decision. Will this rental car fit 5 people and 4 suitcases? Is this apartment walking distance to a market? Can we take a bus to this village? I feel like I have to get everything nailed down perfectly and anything we want to do must be booked in advance while I’m sitting at a computer in the U.S.

PHASE #3: What In the Hell Are We Thinking?
The overly analytic behavior of Phase #2 ultimately leads to a brief period of mild panic. My imagination starts envisioning every possible scenario. What if one of us gets sick or injured? Should I take a supply of antibiotics? Are we vaccinated properly? What if we lose our passports? Is this place prone to earthquakes? Fortunately, this phase is brief and usually occurs during a single, sleepless night a few days before our departure.

PHASE #4: Well, Here Goes Nothin’…
This is the stage of surrender. We’re not backing out. There’s nothing else I can do to plan this thing. Zip up the bags, cross our fingers and walk onto the damn plane.

PHASE #5: Everything Has Worked Out Perfectly!
The last and final stage is the one where I look back and laugh at myself for all that planning and worry. What do you know, they have plenty of rental cars. We didn’t have to make a reservation 2 months ago. One of the kids got a cold and it wasn’t the end of world. Who knew?! We might have hit a few bumps in the road, but they weren’t a big deal and if anything just made for a couple funny stories. I knew it would be fantastic all along!

Just Do It
At this point I consider myself a fairly well-seasoned travel mom, yet I still get those periods of uncertainty and worry when we’re going into an international experience. In fact, I’d probably put myself smack dab in the middle of Phase 2 for this around-the-world adventure we will be embarking on in just a couple months. I think this is a common American mentality when it comes to global travel. Generally speaking, our society doesn’t go international as much as other developed nations. Although the number of globe-trotting Americans is increasing, travelling to foreign countries was definitely not part of adolescence for a typical child of the 80s. Now as parents our generation tends to feel like we’re doing this crazy, semi-dangerous thing when we take our young children overseas.

But I can tell you it’s ABSOLUTELY worth it. Exposing our kids to other cultures has been one of our best parenting decisions. We’ve watched our girls walk into new places scared and uncertain, and in a very short time they’re running around playing with other children, learning the language and trying foods they wouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole back home. It builds their confidence and gives them a broader understanding of the world. It’s an experience they may not necessarily remember but they’ll carry the impact of it with them for the rest of their lives.

So don’t let Phase 3 (What the Hell Are We Thinking?) keep you from taking your kids to new countries and experiencing different cultures. Just buy the plane tickets and then have faith that you will soon be in the inevitable Phase 5 where you’re proud and grateful to have given this experience to your family.

About the Author

Tracey Carisch

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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