There are so many wonderful and exciting international destinations for families to explore together. If you are planning to take a vacations with your kids to a foreign destination, here are some important tips you should consider as you plan your journey together:
Destination Details All US Travelvers should visit the US State Department Website. Here parents can search for the countries they plan to visit and find all of the latest information they need to know prior to making their reservations. This is where you find out important details like passport and visa requirements, health and safety information and other travel tips for that specific country.
Passports A passport is your government recognized travel document that verifies your identity and citizenship. Most foreign countries require all international travelers to present a valid passport to enter and leave their country. Everyone, including US citizens who are traveling by air MUST present a valid passport to reenter the US on their return trip home. If your family is planning a cruise vacation a valid US passport may not be required but is HIGHLY recommended.
All family members, including infants and children must have valid passports when taking an international family vacation. Normal processing time to obtain a new passport or to renew an existing passport is 4-6 weeks. Prior to popular travel times like summer vacation and the holidays increased requests mean longer waits. You can pay an extra fees to expedite your application with an expected return in about 3 weeks. Emergency appointments can be made within 10 days of your trip in person at area passport offices.
It is important to double check existing passports prior to making any of your reservations.Passenger names used to book your airline tickets or cruise must match passport names EXACTLY to avoid change fees and hassles during your trip. Women may have had passport name changes due to marriage or divorice since their passport was first issued. Many foreign countries have strict rules stating passport expiration dates must exceed your travel dates by 6 months or more. Double checking names and passport expiration dates prior to your vacation will prevent last minute anxiety and costly mistakes.
Families can go ahead and make international flights or cruise reservations in advance before applying for passports. Please know all passengers must use their full legal names when making their reservations and it must match the legal names shown on their passports to avoid any name change penalty fees.
Required Documentation - Besides passports and the visas that are required by some countries, there may be other family circumstances that will require additional documentation. If you arrive at airport or cruise check in without the proper documenation you may not be allowed to board your flight or cruise ship. Denied boarding is not covered by any travel insurance and it means you forfeit the entire cost of your trip.
If at any time there is a minor child who is traveling without both biological parents or legal guardians present at check in then there probably will be a need for additional documentation. Single parent vacations or even trips that kids take with their grandparents most likely notorized letters, custody papers or even court orders. These are the types of circumstances when you need a travel agent who is experienced and knowledgable with these requirements.
Makie Copies of your Important Documents - Once you have all of your important travel documents in order make at least two sets of photo copies. Make copies of:
Leave one set with a trusted family member or friend back home. Keep the second set with you separately from your original passports and travel documents. Should your documents get lost, stolen or distroyed this will make it much easier getting them replaced. You may also want to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Safe Guard Your Health - Many countries have certain health requirements for visitors. Vaccinations may also be required. Be sure to educate yourself on the health requirements for your destination. Parents with infants and toddlers should make it a point to speak with their pediatrician about their travel plans prior to making their reservations. Babies and young children yet be fully immune to certain communicable diseases because they have not yet completed all of their immunizations.
Spend Wisely - Educate yourself and understand the exchange rate of the country you will be visiting so that you can budget and spend your money wisely. Speak to your bank or credit card company about exhange rates, international credit card fees and ATM usage so that you can make informed decisions. Always notify your credit card company prior to your departure of your travel plans - if not, there is a good chance your account will be locked due to suspected fraudulent activity.
Make Sure Your Insured - Check to see if your medical insurance will cover your family for any health or emergency treatments in your travel destination. Most US health insurance companies do not cover your family when traveling overseas. Even if they do, services like medical evacuation to get you back home can cost over $100,000 and is not covered. Many countries will take your passport and not allow you to leave the country until medical bills are paid in full. For this reason, it is HIGHLY recommended to have short term travel protection insurance for medical care as well as trip cancellation and interruptions. Without this coverage you risk forfeiting the cost of your entire vacation and more. If you plan to drive in a foreign destination or are planning certain extreme sports activities, additional coverage may be necessary.
Doing your homework, educating yourself and working with an experienced travel agent partner will help make sure your next international family vacation is the experience you've been dreaming about and an adventure your children will remember for a lifetime.