1. Everyone needs a passport
Yes, even the baby needs a passport to travel internationally. Once you apply, it could take anywhere from four to six weeks to process, so plan accordingly. For first-time applicants a passport book is $135 (age 16+) or $105 (under age 16). Passport applications for minors must be submitted in person with the child accompanied by both parents or guardians. If one parent/guardian is unable to appear in person, a signed and notarized Statement of Consent form must be submitted. Visit the U.S. Passports & International Travel site for more info.
2. See a doc before you depart
In fact, you may want to schedule doctor visits for each family member a couple of months in advance of your trip. Some immunizations and vaccinations can take up to six weeks to be fully effective. Also, check your health insurance to understand what it covers if you need medical attention overseas.
3. Research the best time to go
Those darn work and school schedules often dictate when we are able to travel. However, if you are afforded some flexibility, it pays to research when the high and low season times are at your destination. It could save you significant time (less crowds) and money (better rates).
4. Learn about the culture
The best part about traveling internationally is teaching your kids about a culture that’s different from their own. Travel books and online resources are readily available and can help prep them for all kinds of exciting adventures. Visit our Family Travel pages for more tips on planning an educational vacation.
5. Talk about the food
Depending on where you’re going, this can be a tricky venture in particular for picky eaters. All the more reason to explore and talk about local foods ahead of time. Buffets are often good choices abroad to offer a wide range of options. Or visit an ethic restaurant or grocery store and plan a meal or two to get them acquainted with what they may find on the trip.
6. Discuss the importance of safety
Without scaring the kids too much, it is important to talk about being vigilant and staying safe in a foreign country. Depending on where you’re going, it’s important to talk about being respectful of the culture and understanding the differences. It’s always key to be vigilant and alert while sight-seeing. Make sure you have a predetermined meeting area; know where the U.S. consulate or embassy is located and show the kids what local law enforcement officers look like if they get lost. If your children are younger, write down your contact information on an index card and place it in your child’s pocket.
7. Prepare for the long flight
Let your little ones pack their own small carry-on so they can make decisions on activities to bring – coloring books, electronics, headphones, you name it! Don’t sit idle in the terminal. Let them burn off some energy before you board. Many airports now have interactive play areas for kids. Our Family Travel section has more tips on keeping your children amused during the flight.
8. Pack smarter
Instead of having a suitcase for each person, mix up the clothes inside. This way if one luggage gets lost or delayed, one person isn’t completely out of luck. Again, have the kids participate in packing so they can decide which favorite outfits and toys they want to bring. And pack lightly! You can (and should) repeat outfits. Most accommodations have washers and dryers, but it’s a good idea to check ahead of time just to be sure. Check out more Last-Minute Tips in our Family Travel section.
9. Update your child's teachers
As much as you try to avoid it, sometimes planning a trip during the school year is your best option. If you need to schedule a getaway while your little one is still in school, work with his teachers to develop a plan. Not only can your child do a little homework on the flight to avoid getting far behind in classwork, they might be able to give a presentation when you return about everything they’ve learned. It’s never too early to start working on those public-speaking skills!