International travel can seem a bit overwhelming, especially you have never traveled abroad or don’t do travel often. The more I travel the more I learn ways to make things easier for myself and my family. I get asked questions about international all the time and I have the answers you are looking for right here. To help make international travel easier, here are HotMama’s 10 Tips for International Travel.
- Apply for your passport early, even if you have no current plans for travel aboard. You never know when the opportunity to travel will arise and you don’t want to be stalled by unexpected setbacks.
For example, My dad who is 81 years old didn’t realize, until he was trying to get his passport for Scotland, that he has never had the original birth certificate, which delayed the process of getting his passport by a couple weeks.
- Check passport validity rules for the country you want to enter. some countries require 6 months validity before entry, which is another reason having passports ready to go early is a must.
- Get kids their passports while still under 16. Again, even if you don’t plan on traveling internationally, it is best to get it as soon as you can. First, it is cheaper and you’ll just have to pay to renew. Second, unexpected opportunities to travel may pop up and you’ll everything ready. For instance, I made a plan to get my kids passports in January as part of my New Year’s Resolution without any international travel plans. Coincidentally, HotDaddy got asked to work in Scotland in June and thankfully, we were all ready to go!
- Ladies, listen up, because this affects us the most. So what happens if your name has changed and doesn’t match your passport? According to TSA, you’re the name on your flight ticket MUST match the name on your passport. So, if you recently got married and changed your name, book your flight with the name that is on your passport!! Travel with a copy of your marriage license just in case.
2. International Flights are Awesome: I love international flights, because there are a lot of perks.
- You don’t need to be first class to get complimentary meals, snacks, beer and wine.
- Kids and parents stay entertained with free games and movies.
- Transatlantic flights are smooth! I have a fear of flying and any turbulence even minor bumps freak me out. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that transatlantic flights are typically very smooth.
- Unless you love nonstop, break up the flight halfway with a decent layover, especially when traveling with kids. We travel to Europe from California and we love breaking up the flight in Newark, NJ. It just makes the flights seem less daunting and gives the kids a chance to run around and burn off energy.
- Checked bags are free!
- Prepare for landing card. When you land in an international country you will be asked to fill out a landing card. Have a pen on you and have your travel information ready such as where you will be staying and the contact information.
3. Avoid carrying on too much: I’m guilty of not following my own advice all the time, especially when traveling with kids. It is a pain in the butt to haul a bunch of stuff with you while trying to navigate through airports and planes, but it is hard to avoid with kids. They need stuff. A lot of stuff.
- Try to consolidate as much as you can. If your child is old enough, let them carry their own backpack (although, I still get stuck carrying those too).
- Also, try not to bring back too many souvenirs. Grams went a little crazy on our last trip and bought a bunch a fragile stuff she had to carry on and it was ridiculous
4. Credit Cards:
- Get a good travel rewards credit card. This can save you foreign transaction fees and earn you rewards for money you are already spending. Plus it is nice to have some extra backup when abroad.
- Although most credit cards are accepted in most places, double check. For example, AMEX is not as widely accepted in the UK. I lucked out in Scotland, because most restaurants did accept my favorite travel rewards card.
- Don’t exchange money at home bank or departing airport. Instead, just wait and withdraw cash at the ATM when you land at your desired destination. You will need cash for taxis and tipping.
- Get a credit card with NO foreign exchange fee. This will save you money and we like to save money.
- Find out if your bank card has partners abroad and use those ATMs when traveling, avoiding more fees. YAY!
5. Don’t Skip Travel Insurance!
- It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it is minor compared to having an emergency. Check out this story: John Capretta Thailand Nightmare. This is perfect example as to way it is important to be safe rather than sorry. Plus the cost isn’t that crazy. We insured our whole family of 6 for $150 with AAA. That was including Grams and Papa and the kids were free under adults.
6. Learn Simple Phrases: Going to some place where they speak a language that is different than your own? Great! Learn some simple phrases before you go.
- It shows respect for another culture and is usually met with positive reactions from locals.
- Learning a little of the language builds confidence as a traveler. You will feel more comfortable in your new surrounding if you don’t feel completely lost in conversation. Even being able to ask for directions or where the restrooms are is a major confidence boost.
- Best part? It is easy! Check out Benny with his, he’ll have you fluent in a matter of days. Also, check out this Nomadic Matt post with Benny on how to learn a new language in a day!
7. Important Documents:
- For security purposes always travel with copies of your important documents. I make copies of everything, kids’ birth certificates, marriage license, passports, I.D cards, etc. Anything I might need while out of the country.
- Make a copy of your passport for sure! Use the copy while out exploring and leave the original somewhere safe. You don’t want you original documents stolen or lost.
- I also print copies of travel confirmations, just in case something happens to my phone and I can’t bring up my email.
8. Gadgets and Adapters:
- Electric outlets and voltage is different depending where you travel. So make sure you are aware of those differences. While traveling the UK, I had to bring a ton of electronic devices and this post by Nomadic Matt really helped me out!
9. Be Aware of Advisories: Be a smart traveler and know the situation you might be entering by doing your research.
- Know what shots are required before entering a country.
- Know what Visas are required before entering a country.
- Know what the political situation is in the country you are planning to visit. For example, I have an alert program for my phone and it warned me about Anti-austerity protests in Glasgow and Edinburgh being held on a certain day. I was able to avoid crowds and potential chaos with this alert and planned my itinerary that day to be outside the major cities.
10. Prepare Kids at Home: Kids love familiarity, so before you throw them into something unfamiliar, prepare them at home. It works great to avoid meltdowns that come from a child being uncomfortable. Chances are they are going to be introduced to a new culture and new food, so practice at home. Here are some posts to help you to travel with your kids, before you actually travel.
That’s it! See? Not so hard. Just like everything else, it just takes a little prep work and research. Don’t be intimidated by international travel. Instead, pick a destination, get your documents in order and book a ticket!!