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By some amazing coincidence, each of my kids celebrated their 2019 birthday abroad. Well, my oldest wasn’t there for her actual party but we did have a party while traveling. And guess where I got my birthday? At home! Birthdays abroad are a fun way to celebrate a special day while also exploring. Last year, we were in Costa Rica for my younger daughter’s birthday, had a party in Edinburgh for my oldest and celebrated in Cairns, Australia for my son’s 1st birthday. After planning and executing three events last year, I definitely have some knowledge to pass along!
- Do plan ahead. Depending where you are traveling, popular places could be booked. For my older daughter, we did a tea party at Mimi’s Bakehouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. I reached out over email months in advance to make sure we got the date and time we wanted since we were only in town a few days. Be sure to mention you are coming from out of town as I have found the staff extra accommodating when you’re not familiar with a place. They were also able to help me with decorations and balloons so I didn’t have to carry those with me.
- Be mindful of jet lag. My younger daughter turned 4 in the air somewhere over Central America on our red eye to San Jose, Costa Rica. As a result, the whole next day was miserable. Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived very early, it was hot and we were all exhausted. I had brought candles and a birthday hat for her for dinner that night but she was fast asleep in the stroller the whole meal! The second night wasn’t much better. At that point, I stopped trying as she didn’t seem to care (we had a small party at home before) and my expectations were just frustrating everyone! If you do plan a birthday trip, try to have the big day fall a few days into your trip in the event you’re delayed or jet lagged.
- Think differently with gifts. If you’re gone during the actual birthday, it can be tempting to pack gifts but opt to open presents before or after your trip, or, even better, emphasize the trip was the gift (works better with older children). Instead of dozens of new toys that will get played with once and thrown in a drawer, find something local to do with your child and/or family that the birthday child selects. From cooking classes to crafting to cool day trips, there is something for every budget with a little digging. Not sure where to start? Ask your hotel staff, rental host or even other parents at the playgrounds (I have gotten some great tips for where to go and where to dine by chatting up another parent!).
- Source your parties supplies locally. Part of the adventure of a birthday abroad is procuring the goods locally. In Cairns, Australia, we found a cupcake shop and all the essentials to celebrate my son’s first birthday. We already had some many bags with us and not having to worry about little items like candles really helped. Depending on how and where you’re celebrating, find a local dessert delicacy for the birthday treat, use local flowers for decoration and even consider letting your kid pick something from a local toy shop.
- Lower your expectations. Even with the best planning, things can go haywire – we had a close call in Australia when the bakery I found was closing earlier than posted online due to a state holiday! Thankfully, we made it in time but I always like to consider what is the alternative. In the moment, when you have the perfect, Instagrammable moment in your head and, suddenly, it is far from that, it can be hard to step back and look at the bigger picture but, in the end, have fun, enjoy the moment and let things pan out as the world intended!
Have you celebrated your child’s birthday abroad? If so, where did you go and what did you do? If not, what is on your wishlist?