12 Items for Your International Travel Checklist
Traveling with kids is challenging enough. But, if you throw in traveling to foreign countries with unfamiliar requirements, customs and laws, international family travel seems daunting. I hope this international travel checklist, including links to several tips from fellow Hilton Mom Voyage writers, can help with your preparations and ensure your family’s international vacation gets off to a good start.
Our 12 Most Important International Travel Tips
1. Check passports
Valid passports are a requirement for traveling abroad and especially for re-entry back into the U.S. If you don’t have passports yet, this post details how to apply for or renew passports for the kids.
If you already have passports, check each family member’s passport expiration dates. Most countries require that passports are valid for three to six months after your ticketed departure date. Check each country’s embassy websites for entry requirements. Unfortunately, we’ve paid extra fees once to expedite my son’s passport once when we realized it was expiring with two months of a trip to Tokyo.
2. Visa Requirements
In addition to passports, some countries require visas. These requirements could vary depending on the length of your stay or purpose of the trip. Some visa applications can be done online. We did our Australian visa online and was an easy process. Check out ProjectVisa to see your destination country’s visa requirements.
3. Register with Embassies
The State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service for U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad. Travelers can enroll and register trips with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate giving them email, phone numbers abroad and lodging information. In return, it makes it easier for embassies and consulates to contact you during emergencies. You will also get updates on your destination country’s safety and security conditions. This is particularly important if you’re traveling to any countries with civil unrest histories.
Create a STEP account if you’re a frequent traveler to make it easier to update your trip details. It’s also important to know your destination country’s nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate contact information.
4. Get Travel warnings and alerts
We’re more vigilant with checking the State Department’s Travel Warnings before considering a destination since we’ve had kids. We always check the travel warnings and alerts concerning our destinations by visiting this government site. It shows which warnings have been issued for specific countries. It’s best to know of any potential issues that could alter travel plans before arriving at your destination.
5. Check Vaccinations
Check with your doctors to determine which type of vaccinations you may need when traveling to your destination countries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are good places to look for travel health warnings and vaccination recommendations. The State Department’s Country Specific Information also shows each country’s vaccination requirements.
6. Copy Documents
Unfortunately, things happen and documents can get lost or stolen. One of the great things about our digital world is that our airline, hotel, and tour confirmations are stored in emails for easy accessibility.
It’s also important to ensure that you have copies of essential documents. Leave photocopies of documents like your passport ID page, visas, driver’s license, credit and debit cards with a family member or friend not traveling with you. Keep another copy with you separate from the original documents. We’ve also kept copies on Google drive and Dropbox.
7. Get Finances In Order
Today’s technology makes it a bit easier to use debit and credit cards in many worldwide destinations. We’ve usually used our debit cards to withdraw money at airports upon arrival and used credit cards, preferably with no international transaction fees, for most purchases.
Know the fees associated with ATM withdrawals and international transactions. Notify your banks and credit card companies of the dates and countries you’ll be visiting. Get the bank and credit card companies’ phone numbers to call outside the U.S. for any issues. Read this post for more tips to exchange money overseas and learn how to prevent bank fraud during travel.
8. Staying In Touch
Many of us are attached to our smartphones. Stay connected while traveling with various international cell phone service options that include upgrading existing data plans, wi-fi, buying local SIM cards abroad or getting a local phone. Figure out which works best for you depending on what’s widely available or affordable in your destination countries. Getting in touch with friends and family at home is easily doable with Skype, Tango or Google voice.
Sometimes renting cars abroad is unavoidable. In addition to having a valid driver’s license, you may also need an International Driving Permit. IDPs are usually valid for one year and required in countries like Austria, Italy, Greece and Spain. Check your destination country’s embassy for further driver’s license or car insurance requirements. Read this post for renting a car in Europe.
10. Getting Insurance
Traveling with kids to far-flung places where medical care may be limited can be nerve wracking. First, check what your health insurance will cover abroad. Are services like medications, doctor visits, hospital stays and medical evacuations covered?
We’ve always bought additional travel insurance for international trips that covers trip cancellations and interruptions, lost baggage, and additional health coverage. Shop around for insurance policies that also have medical coverage and emergency services. We like to start with InsureMytrip to compare plans from different companies.
For some preventive measures, visit the family’s doctors and dentists for check-ups and any recommendations before leaving. Get flu shots if traveling during flu season and pack enough prescription medications for more than the trip’s duration. This is a handy post on medicines to pack for international travel.
11. Traveling As Single Parent
Sometimes, it’s necessary to travel with the kids as the only parent. Some countries have established strict requirements in response to child abductions. Travelers are usually required for proof of relationship like birth certificates and documents for adopted children. Notarized letters of consent from the non-traveling parent are also necessary or strongly recommended. Read the single parent’s guide for international travel for more information.
12. Learn Local Customs and Languages
One of the great things about traveling is learning other countries’ customs and laws. It’s important to learn what’s considered appropriate or illegal at these countries. Some have strict local laws including what you can bring into the country. For example, you could be fined for eating and drinking within the vicinity of Florence’s churches and public buildings. Learn some basic phrases in the local language, too. It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to interact with the locals.
Read more >> Local Etiquette in Asian Countries: Do’s and Don’ts
Do you have other international travel tips to add?
You may also enjoy:
- Tipping Etiquette Around the World
- 10 Tips for a Long International Flight
- 10 Ways to Experience the Local Vibe While Traveling
- Travel Checklist: 7 Things to Remember for Your Vacation
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…