Guest post by Maire Hunter
Traveling overseas can be an exciting and life-changing adventure, but the idea of doing so with small children leaves many parents stuck at home for the duration of the children’s early years. But it doesn’t have to be that way! With a few tested strategies under your belt, you can enjoy the delights of international travel without leaving the kids at home with grandma. Read on for a few tips to make your next overseas trip child-friendly and fun for the whole family.
The first item on your agenda should be to make sure your children (and all the members of your family) are taken care of, health-wise, while overseas. Many Americans don’t realize that their healthcare policies don’t cover them in other countries; check your policy information to determine whether or not yours does. If not, invest in a travel health insurance policy for a group to cover you for the duration of your trip; such policies are readily available from companies like HCC Medical.
Research your destination ahead of time to find out what — if any — vaccines you or your children need in order to enter the country in question. Take your kids to the pediatrician for a check-up a week or two before the departure date to make sure everyone’s healthy and ready for travel.
When packing your bags, put prescriptions in an easily accessible pocket of your carry-on luggage; you should never put medications in your checked baggage, lest you be the victim of a lost bag. And make sure you’re not the only person on the trip who knows where the medicines are stashed; keeping that information to yourself won’t serve you and might potentially harm your child.
Everyone going on the trip — even infants — needs a passport. Apply for these documents early in order to circumvent the expensive fees necessary to expedite last-minute applications. If you’ll be the only parent on the trip, you’ll need a letter from the other parent granting you permission to travel with your children. If you’re a single parent with sole custody, bring along a copy of your court-issued custody document, which can take the place of the letter of permission.
Find out if the country you’re traveling to requires Americans to obtain a visa in advance; many countries do, so don’t assume you’ll just be welcomed with open arms and no questions asked. If you do need to obtain a visa, plan your trip to that country’s U.S. embassy as soon as possible; you don’t want to spend your last day in America on a chaotic, impromptu road trip.
What to pack
Now for the fun part: deciding what to bring to keep your child happy on the trip. Many intrepid moms have gone before you, and they all recommend bringing along a backpack filled with toys, games, coloring books and whatever else you think can occupy your child on the long plane ride and in the hotel room. A laptop or portable DVD player and DVDs of some of your child’s favorite shows can also be a lifesaver, and a lightweight, folding stroller will make long days of sightseeing more palatable for all parties involved.
Overall, traveling overseas with young children carries unique challenges, but these can be overcome with a bit of mindful planning and foresight. Do your homework, pack carefully and prepare to enjoy your overseas trip!