10 Simple Tips When Traveling Internationally With Kids
#1 Consider if the extra steps required when traveling internationally are ‘worth it’ for you and your family.
Paying for and obtaining passports are extra steps that are not needed when traveling within your own country.
Many times, traveling internationally requires longer flight times with likely flight connections.
There are potential language barriers and safety considerations to prepare for when traveling internationally with kids.
The differences in local transportation and cuisine may not be something that your family can comfortably adjust to.
Lastly, going through customs in the airport is another extra step required for international travel and can involve waiting in long lines.
For us, the extra steps and extended travel time are well worth the experience and enjoyment that comes from traveling to a different country. Preparing in advance and traveling with a plan will ensure that your family can rest easy once you arrive at your final destination.
#2 Obtain passports for all members of your travel party.
There is an increasingly strong demand for passports in recent years. Apply for your family’s passports well ahead of your scheduled international travel date. By applying early, you will avoid having to pay for expedited processing time.
A child’s passport is valid for 5 years, while an adult passport is valid for 10 years.
If you already have a passport, be sure to review the current entry/exit requirements for your upcoming destination. Many countries require that U.S. passports have an expiration date that is still valid 6 months beyond your travel date.
To review current passport requirements and application processes, visit the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
#3 Make and bring a color copy of your passport ID page and keep them in a separate location from the originals in your carry-on luggage.
If your passport(s) are lost or stolen during your trip you will use this copy to generate a police report and start working on getting a replacement. Keep the extra copy in your carry-on versus in your checked luggage that could go missing.
#4 Book a non-stop flight or one with the fewest amount of stops.
I am a huge fan of direct fights. I am willing to pay considerably more money for airplane tickets that allow my family a direct flight to our final destination.
When traveling with kids, there is a huge decrease in stress when only having to worry about one airplane and one on-time flight. Further, there is only one boarding and de-boarding process.
Not having a connecting flight means no additional airport layouts to understand, and fewer chances for luggage to get misplaced along the route.
If flying direct is not an option from your hometown airport, however, consider driving to the nearest international airport.
If you prefer to fly out of your hometown airport only, opt to book a flight with the fewest amount of stops if a direct flight is not an option.
#5 Contact your bank/credit card company and let them know when and where you will be traveling.
Locate the phone number on the back of your credit card to initiate an upcoming ‘travel notification’. Alternatively, create an notification through your bank and/or credit card’s online account system.
Inform them which cardholders will be traveling and let them know the dates and location of your travel destination(s).
Credit card companies do an amazing job with fraud protection these days. The last thing you want to happen is that you find that your credit card has been deactivated during your trip because they began noticing charges in cities/countries that are not your own.
#6 Talk to your kids about the cultural differences they will experience in the country that you are visiting.
Traveling abroad provides so many unique developmental, cultural and educational benefits for kids.
It is so important to educate children on the awesome and amazing differences of people and places around our world. By teaching kids about different countries and cultures it foster respect and acceptance towards others.
Giving them a firsthand perspective of a new country or region will help change their perspective that differences are actually a common thread among all people.
As a parent, do some research on the country that you will be visiting. Sit down together as a family to discuss the awesome opportunity that you have to learn about this particular country and their culture. Likewise, discuss the country’s language, economy, local cuisine, and overall way of life.
Many children have a fear of the unknown, and will be much more comfortable if they learn about it beforehand. Explain to your kids, that yes….things will different there, and that that is ok!
#7 Make sure that you have a pen to fill out customs paperwork on the airplane and fill out the top and bottom of the immigration forms.
Though it repeats itself, you must fill out both the top and bottom portion of the immigration form. Failing to complete both portions may cause you to lose your spot in line once you get to the customs agent and they inform you that you haven’t done so. Been there, done that.
Be sure to save the portion of the form that is given back to you. This is required to clear customs upon departure.
#8 Be prepared for long lines when going through customs; be patient and kind.
It’s been a ‘long day’ of waking up early, waiting in the airport, and undergoing a flight. The kids are hungry, squirrel-y, and excited because YOU’RE THERE!
You’ve arrived at your destination with the other hundred(s) of people on your plane and at first glance, the line to get through customs is huge!
Start by going to the bathroom and getting everyone a snack. Give the kids the extra reassurance to know that going through customs is part of the international travel process and is how we ‘stay safe’.
Finally, don’t forget to kind to those around you. Everyone is just as anxious as you to get to their final destination!
#9 Immerse yourself in culturally unique activities and excursions.
Find ways to make your international trip more about the experience than the sightseeing.
Move slowly around your surroundings. Be on the look-out for unique experiences that will help your and your family learn and grow during your trip. Make the most of the opportunity to have a truly authentic travel experience.
#10 Have fun on your international vacation!
In conclusion, you’ve prepared, packed, traveled, and have now arrived at your destination. Traveling with a plan is going to ensure fun and enjoyment for your whole family. Relax. Enjoy. And have the best trip ever!