Top 10 Language Phrases for Traveling Abroad with Kids

My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery

Hey guys! Long time no see. I’ll save you the one long “what we’ve been up to” post and just spread it out amongst all the upcoming blog posts of good travel tips and tidbits I picked up to pass on. Let’s just say that 7 months, 6 states and five countries later I’m exhausted!


Traveling with kids when jet lag is involved is hard to begin with, but add the stress of not speaking the local language fluently (or at all like when we stopped in Reykjavik, Iceland for a few days) and oi. It’s great if you and your family can pre-game by learning some of the language and a bit about the culture a few months in advance (and there are loads of great resources to help with that), but sometimes that’s not always possible.

If you are planning a last minute cram session on the plane on the way over you have to focus on the few words and phrases that are priorities.

On our recent trip to Calais, I was able to tap some of that French I’ve been storing up…and sadly also unlocked some of that Spanish I haven’t used in years at the same time. Me gusta du chein noir pour favor, anyone? Yeah. In between untangling my phrases (it got easier after a few days), I was able to figure out which phrases I was glad to have and which I wish I could remember.

Let’s begin:

1. Please and Thank you!

S’il vous plait et merci beaucoup!

For obvious reasons.

2. Your child(ren)’s favorite foods.

Frites et jus d’orange pour le garçon, s’il vous plait.

Because if they are like mine, that’s all they live on. Ever.

3. Your favorite foods.

Apportez-moi du vin monsieur, tout votre vin. Je voudrais du VIN!!!! Maintenant!

Because you’re going to need it.

4. How to apologize.

Désolé. Se il vous plaît pardonnez mon civilisés il bête d’un enfant.

Because you need to be able to apologize when your child runs someone over in the hallways, screams bloody murder in the hotel lobby, or burns down the place.

5. How to say You/he/they don’t know how to speak the local language.

Il ne parles pas tres bien francais, désolé.

Not that it matters to kids, play is universal. But it helps their moms know why the conversation isn’t quite linking up.

6. How to yell at your kids at the park/shop/playground.

Arrêtez. Jouer gentil. NON!

Seriously though, this. Playgrounds are scary, especially for kids when there is some mom screaming after some kid and both are jabbering away in some weird language. You might have been on the other end of things before. Yell at your kid in your language, then translate it for those around you: “No! Stop! Arrêtez! Play Nice! Jouer gentil. Don’t do that! Ne fais pas ça!”

7. Who? What? Where? When? How?

Qui? Quoi? Où? Quand? Comment?

You’ll pick up a lot of words when you are on the ground, being able to pair them up with questions is extremely helpful.

8. How much does this cost?


Again, the obvious reasons.

9. How do I get to…?

Comment puis-je aller à?

Again, the obvious reasons.

10. Local etiquette and customs

Okay, this one isn’t a phrase but it is good to know. In fact, it probably should be #1, especially if you are traveling somewhere where certain clothing is required or eating/not eating your food a certain way could be offensive. If you stick to the tourist areas, it might not be as much of an issue but it’s good to lower your “ignorant tourist” quota when ever you can.

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My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery

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