Travel Tips for Smooth Family Journeys Abroad

Travel Tips for Smooth Family Journeys Abroad

Getting ready to make some travel plans this season.  For parents who are embarking on international family travel, here are some top tips to prepare for a smooth journey.

Picking your destination:
Our family’s first international trip destination was guided by an invitation to attend an old friend’s wedding just outside of Stockholm, Sweden; a desire to be in temperate weather; and a desire for an urban yet uncongested location.   When choosing your location, you want to make sure to do your research first be sure to ensure your location will be safe to travel.  Check the U.S. State Department warnings for any travel advisories and check the CDC website for any travel notices and recommended shots prior to travel, based upon the destination.

Don’t forget your passports:
You can’t travel outside the U.S. without a passport and getting one can be a lengthy process. Passports can take a long time to process, typically 4-6 weeks, but we recommend giving yourself more time if you can.  There is also an expedited process that can take 2-3 weeks.  The Department of State website has everything you need to know about getting a passport.

For Redondo Beach residents, applications for passports can be made through the City of Redondo Beach in their North Redondo passport office.   Making an appointment online is easy and the appointment itself only takes about 10 minutes you brought the required documents and passport photos listed on the website.

Choosing Accommodations:
The key to reducing conflict during travel is being well-rested and giving each family member his or her own space when needed.  If you can, choose accommodations that have separate living rooms and bedrooms. This allows adults to hang out with the lights on in the living area while children nap or sleep in the other room.

To keep the trip budget-friendly, look for a kitchenette which includes a microwave and refrigerator.  Turn leftovers into meals and prepare simple meals such as yogurt with granola and fruit on occasion.  

Mobile Phones and Credit Cards
Contact your mobile phone and credit card companies in advance to alert them of your upcoming travel.   Most mobile companies offer international calling plans which can be customized specifically for your trip.   Be sure to ask your credit card companies if there will be any additional fees to using your credit card at your destination abroad. Some credit cards do not have fees for using the card abroad, if you give yourself enough time, you could consider applying for one.

Travel Car Seats
Traveling with car seats is not always the easiest task, but one of the most important.  Having your own car seat ensures that you are using the safest option. Although renting car seats seems like an easier option, you won’t truly know the condition of the car seat like if it’s expired or compromised from being in an accident.  Also, avoid gate checking the car seat as they tend to get thrown around quite a bit and can also compromise the integrity of the seat. If you must check your car seat, be sure to invest in a well padded travel bag to protect the seat.  Once you arrive at your destination, inspect your carseat for damage. Any sign of damage would render it unsafe to use. Airlines allow many carseats on the plane, this is actually the safest way for children to travel.  Be sure to check with your airline ahead of time to ensure your car seat will fit in the airline seat.

Kristen, CPST-I recommends, depending on age and size of the child Cosco Scenara Next, Evenflo Sureride, Cosco Finale and Evenflo Maestro for traveling. Bubble Bum is great for travel, though not for use on an airplane – just in a vehicle.  Mifold has been getting attention lately, but this is not a good option. It doesn’t provide a consistent belt fit and had some really concerning crash test results recently, so she suggests Bubble Bum rather than the Mifold.  For more tips on traveling with car seats, click here.

The Long Flight
Being prepared on a long flight is a must.  Be sure to pack tablets with games & movies downloaded to the device in case there is no access to wi-fi.  Arts & crafts are great for the plane, sticky notes, stickers, crayons, coloring books and lightweight art supplies to keep the kids entertained on long-haul flights.  You can hit the dollar bins at Target for some fun small activities as well.  Don’t forget snacks and bottle water, either bought in the airport or we bring our own cup and fill up before we get on the plane.  Sometimes it may take a while to get service on the plane.   To helps those little ears with the pressure of take off and landing, make sure they are chewing or sucking on something.  

Travel Schedule
The ultimate suggestion for a fun and memorable family trip is stay flexible, compromise, and allow for nap times rather than stick to a rigid schedule.  On our recent Stockholm trip, each family member took turns choosing the main activity of the day.

Thorough preparations and a good attitude can make any family trip smooth and a wonderful bonding experience. Happy and safe traveling!

Additional Resources:
Travelers Check list: travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/travelers-checklist.html
Travel Advisories: travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel 

 

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