So, how do you go about preparing for your first trip abroad with children in tow?
Well there is certainly an abundance of information out there, that’s for sure. However, I found it somewhat difficult to find information concerning backpacking with children. One of my favorite sites Vagabond Family has lots of information on traveling families, but these are usually long term, and not quite the budget style we were looking for. As for traditional backpacking sites they are typically geared to a younger set and definitely sans kids, but they do offer quite a bit of information.
Not only did I do the traditional internet research I went to a good old fashioned library. I started by checking out every book on travel in Latin America that they had and skimmed through until I found a few that I liked. I settled on Lonely Planet’s Central America on a Shoestring, which by the way almost every backpacker down south has this book, and Rough Guides Central America. There are several brands, the Moon series was great for individual countries, but I enjoyed the layout of the Lonely Planet guide the best. So eventually I purchased the book, as it would be the only guide we would take with us down south.
It’s rather overwhelming to begin researching for a trip abroad. I’ve planned a lot of adventures before but nothing like this. As I sit here and write this I’m not sure what I was so worried about, but that my friend is hindsight!
It started off slow, I skimmed through the books and blogs and all I really wanted to accomplish was getting a feel for the adventure, not so much process every aspect. Just soak it all in so to speak and see how it made me feel. There was many a night by the campfire, just me and my travel guides, dreaming about what could be. And if you know anything about me I’m terribly non-committal. Not just because I think plans squelch opportunities, but I simply don’t like to be disappointed, so in my world, if nothing is certain then everything is as it’s meant to be. If you asked my kids they would tell you the same thing, poor things never know what’s going on until it’s actually happening, but I think there’s something to be said for a little uncertainty and a lot of spontaneity but I digress.
Eventually there comes a time where you kinda, like, you know, have to buy things for the trip. Like airfare and such. So obviously I succumb to the inevitable and click the little glowing “buy now” button. And I think to myself well, we’re either so totally going or we’re so totally out a whole lot of money! Lucky for us the latter is rarely true.
Once you get past the day dreaming phase of planning a trip you actually need to get some things down on paper.
I’m a lover of spreadsheets, the colors, the fonts, the highlighting, the columns; I mean it’s all really very exciting to me. But I suggest you use whatever medium inspires you!
Top 5 Things to Put on Paper:
1 – I usually start with jotting down a basic budget. The guidebooks can help you with this, but I’ll give you the nitty-gritty rundown of what are expenses were in another section.
2 – The countries I wanted to visit. For us this included all but Panama, for whatever reason I just had no desire to go, but more on that later.
3 – More specifically, a list of cities, national parks, monuments, activities etc… in each country I wanted to experience.
4 – The gear I felt that we needed which included what we had on hand and what we needed to purchase
5 – All the “boring” stuff including border crossing regulations, passport/visa regulations, general health and safety information etc… My biggest post trip tip, don’t get bogged down by all the terrible things you will most definitely read when it comes to health and safety, it’s all going to be just fine, but it’s foolish to embark on a journey like this and not have an understanding of all the “what ifs”