So you're thinking about traveling outside the U.S. with your family--exciting!
Traveling overseas with your family is incredible and it can be a wonderful learning experience, but it's important to remember that traveling internationally requires more prep and planning than traveling domestically--especially for a family.
Here are some of our top tips to help you plan your international family trip!
1. What languages are spoken? Is English spoken at all?My guess is that language may be one of the first things you researched prior to booking your trip, but have you considered whether or not English is spoken at all in the country you're traveling to? While English certainly isn't the official language for a number of countries, it is spoken here and there in a number of different areas, especially those that tend to receive a lot of English-speaking tourists. Knowing whether or not you'll rely solely on your knowledge and understanding of a language that isn't or own or be able to occasionally find a helpful individual or sign in English can make a whole lot of difference. If English is not widely spoken (or spoken at all) where you intend to visit, make sure you learn some really helpful phrases and questions ahead of time (if you don't have time to get a firmer grasp of the language) and really plan out where you intend to go so that you're hopefully not left asking for directions every 5 minutes. Think of things you'll likely do on your trip and phrases that may make navigating it a bit easier. You'd be surprised how difficult it is to do simple tasks like operate an ATM without any knowledge of the language used in the country you're visiting!
2. Do you need to get any vaccines prior to traveling internationally?Aside from the fact it's considered by most a good idea to keep up on things like tetanus and tuberculosis for general health purposes, you definitely want to research whether or not you should get any vaccines specific to the country you intend to visit. While some countries will actually require that you've received certain vaccines prior to entering, others may simply be recommended. Speak with your doctor and do some research prior to traveling and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get them done in advance so they're effective! The CDC has a great site that lists out the vaccines you need and/or should get based on the countries you intend to visit. Check it out.
3. Do you need a Visa in order to travel to the country you'll be visiting?While not all countries require that you obtain a Visa prior to visiting, some do for all trips and some do for extended trips. Make sure you check well in advance of your trip so that you have time to apply for Visas for your family members! There's a really useful government website that allows you to get quick facts, including Visa info, on any of the countries you're interested in visiting. Start researching now!
4. Will you be traveling to a country that requires your passport to be more than 6 months away from expiring?You may or may not already be aware that some countries will not allow you entrance if your passport is 6 months or less away from expiring when you arrive or up to 3 months or less away from expiring before you leave. That's right! You could have a perfectly valid, current passport, but if you travel with 6 months or less left before you have to renew you could be sent right back home. If you're coming up on the year during which you have to renew your passport and you're planning to travel, check to see if the country you're visiting has these kinds of stipulations for visitors. The website we mentioned in tip 3 also provides this information. Check it out.
*Keep in mind, every country requires that your passport remain valid for the entire duration of your visit, so make sure yours isn't set to expire while you're gone even if the country you're visiting does not require you be further than 6 months away from your expiration date. Also, we've found that processing time for passports is far quicker during the winter in the U.S. than in the spring/summer. During the lengthiest times passports can take upwards of 8 weeks to renew.
5. Passport Card vs Passport Book ... which do I need?Passport books serve as valid forms of travel identification for international travel by air, sea and land. Passport cards only serve as valid forms of travel identification when entering the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and Caribbean via land boarder crossings and sea ports-of-entry. Passports cards are not valid for international travel via air! Is it important to take note of this as some individuals tend to only upkeep one or the other and while a passport book will work for all of your international travel needs a passport card will not. Check out this breakdown of how the two work.
6. Exchanging Currency & Avoiding HeadachesYou've probably already researched the type of currency used in the country your family will be visiting, but have you considered how/when you plan to convert your money prior to traveling? Over the years we've heard/read/been told/experienced different things. Some people will tell you to exchange everything in advance, others say exchange a bit beforehand and use ATMs and credit cards while abroad, still others will say wait and exchange everything once you're there. Really, a lot of it depends on what you think after reading different opinions on the matter. We personally prefer to exchange a little emergency/travel money here and then use local ATMs while abroad as that tends to result in the fewest fees. Fodor's actually wrote a really great article specifically on the different ways to exchange your money and the pros/cons or each. Definitely give it a read!
*Keep in mind, you may want to temporarily increase your daily withdrawal limits with your bank and check on typical ATM withdrawal limits in the country you're visiting. Doria once had an international ATM eat her card because she attempted to withdraw what was equivalent to a small amount in USD ($50), but a large amount in the local currency of the country she was in. Also, find out what your withdrawal fees overseas will be with your bank and if your bank has partnered with any international banks to decrease those fees.
7. Will fluctuating exchange rates affect you?The economic world is constantly in flux and while you may be the type that's only concerned with the U.S. economy on a day to day basis it's a good idea to do a bit of reading about the country your family intends to visit. Exchange rates today may be in your favor (or not), but what will they be when you travel? We personally like to keep an eye on exchange rates between the U.S. and the country we intend to visit in advance of booking our trips so we have some idea of what to expect and how to budget. For example, right now CAD to USD is definitely swinging largely in our favor and while economists originally projected that things would continue to lean this way all year long, recent events have actually resulted in a small increase in CAD value. Were this to continue, you could be looking at a reasonably different exchange rate in a few months than we are now. It may seem like a lot of work and it may not be something that necessarily interests you, but it's always best to be prepared when traveling overseas with your family in our opinions, even if it means reading Bloomberg and regularly checking exchange rate forecasts.
8. Does your health insurance provide international coverage and if not, should you purchase travel health insurance?This is a topic you'll have to do your own research on as every health insurance plan is different and some insurance companies will only provide international coverage to residents of certain states. Here is the info provided on the government travel website regarding travel health insurance providers.
Keep in mind, some countries provide universal care to their residents, but not to travelers, while others provide care for free or charge low fees to travelers. And of course some do not offer universal care to residents and are exceptionally expensive out of pocket for travelers. Take some time to research the health care situation where you're visiting, especially with your ADHD little ones.
9. Bringing medications on international flights... What should you do?If you're bringing your little ADHDers overseas you'll likely be bringing along their medications as well. While you shouldn't have issues traveling with medications as long as you do it properly, it's important to read up on the best way to go about packing them so that you don't end up overseas without the right medications! USA Today wrote an article that we thought was one of the most cautious and careful we'd seen and it seemed to reiterate much of what we'd read on the U.S. government's travel site. Check it out.
10. Will you have cell service? What will it cost you?Perhaps a decade ago we wouldn't have worried, but now that our smartphones are essentially necessary for so many aspects of day to day life it's worth looking into whether or not you can get international coverage with your current phone and your current provider in the country your family will be traveling to. Some providers will allow you to extend your coverage for a fee to different countries while others will not. And don't forget, voice may not be too pricey overseas, but data with your provider may be outrageous! Time to break out those maps and an international GPS unit... Here's a list we came across of different providers and what they offered for international coverage as of December of 2015. We have not checked with each provider to review its accuracy, so make sure you double-check with your own before traveling!
*If you're staying at a hotel that offers free or low-fee wifi, check with your provider to see if you'll incur fees if you use your phone with it as your phone may still use some data while on. You may be able to put your phone in "airplane mode" and use the wifi and prevent any charges.
Phew! That's a lot to consider and that's just our current top 10 tips. International travel may be more work, but we think it's definitely worth it if you can travel with your family to new places and experience different cultures, food, people and climates. Remember to make sure you do your own research prior to traveling as things frequently change. Good luck and enjoy your international family trip!
Note: Please note, the information above is merely our opinions based on research we have personally done. We cannot be held accountable for any changes, inaccuracies, etc.