How to Prepare for International Travel with Kids

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How to Prepare for International Travel with Kids

November 10, 2012

Guest Post Written By: Summer Nanny

Whether you’re traveling for pleasure or for personal reasons, making the decision to visit another country with your children in tow is not one that should be taken lightly. Bureaucratic measures, long flights, and traversing the complex world of a foreign culture can be stressful for parents that aren’t properly prepared. However, taking the right preparatory measures well in advance can ensure that the trip goes smoothly and is an enjoyable, memorable experience for the entire family.

Obtain Passports and Alternate Identification

  • Traveling internationally will require that every member of your family be in possession of a current passport. It’s also wise to obtain alternate photo identification for your children, as an extra precaution. Reentry to the United States is significantly more complex after post-9/11 regulation tightening and legislation, so it’s wise to be as prepared as possible before setting out on your journey. Because each individual country will also have their own identification requirements for border crossing, it’s important to research the laws governing international travel into your destination as well.

Notarize Permission to Travel Letters

  • Even if you’re currently married to the other parent of your children, but will be traveling without them, entry to most countries with an underage child will require you to have a signed and notarized letter expressing your partner’s permission to travel overseas with their child. If you’re currently separated or divorced from the parent of your children, it’s wise to obtain the relevant permission to travel letters before booking flights and accommodations, especially if there’s even the slightest chance that he might object.

Explain Airport Security Measures

  • Dealing with airport security can be a stressful situation for adults that know what to expect, so it should come as no surprise that children who are inexperienced travelers are likely to be even more bewildered and possibly frightened by the process. Make sure that you research current security guidelines at both your domestic airport and that of your destination to ensure that you’re able to adequately prepare your child and so you can explain the reasoning behind these security measures.

Pack Flight Diversions

  • International flights are almost always long, and can be interspersed with lengthy layovers in some cases. Make sure that you pack some diversions to keep your child entertained during these long stretches of downtime. If you have a policy prohibiting handheld gaming or strictly limiting screen time, an international flight may be a reasonable exception. The novelty of a typically off-limits toy can be enough to keep even the most inquisitive and energetic child enthralled, but it’s important to explain that use of these devices is allowed only under special circumstances, and is not a privilege they should expect regularly when you return home.

Talk About the Culture of Your Destination

  • Giving your child a brief but thorough run-down of what to expect in regard to cultural differences, language barriers and unfamiliar food is a smart choice, as it can prevent embarrassing, inadvertent social faux pas and reduce the likelihood of his complete disorientation when he encounters a culture that’s very different from his own.

Prepare for Jet Lag

  • Kids are just as susceptible to the travel-induced disruption of Circadian rhythms known as jet lag as their adult counterparts. Gradually adapting your child’s sleep schedule to adjust it more to the time zone of your travel destination in the weeks leading up to your departure can help stave off the worst of the exhaustion and irritability.

Save Big Events for the End of the Trip

  • While it’s tempting to cram every bit of excitement you can into your trip, it’s usually best to build your sightseeing schedule with some room for flexibility, and to plan big events closer to the end of your trip. Allowing yourself and your children a few days to adjust to the local culture, time zone and cuisine before taking on a hectic trip to an amusement park or sprawling museum will make it easier for everyone to enjoy the experience, rather than being irritable and spoiling a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Depending on where you’re planning to travel, you and your children may require additional vaccinations before your departure. Checking with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention well in advance to determine which, if any, vaccines and immunizations are required for travel to your chosen destination will ensure that you have plenty of time to obtain those immunizations

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