International travel tips

Exploring the big wide world with kids

This week our mom bloggers reflect on traveling abroad with the family. This is the eighth of our Family Travel Blog Series. If you missed previous posts, check out:

Crossing a rice field in Thailand.

Road trip tips

Saving Money on Food

Packing for Family Travel

Saving Money on Transportation

Selecting Family Travel Destinations

Choosing accommodations

Exploring a new place

Follow the links to each of the contributor’s websites for other great travel tips and educational resources!

Our tips from World Wise Kid

Our family values international travel for the educational elements, adventure and developing a global understanding. Here are some tips for getting closer to the people and immersing yourself in the culture of a new country:

Smile and greet people.

Watch some YouTube videos to learn the basics of the language. Choose a “word of the day” that you all learn and practice to keep your language skill developing. Ask the locals for help with pronunciation.

Watch a documentary about the place you will visit. Human planet, BBC Earth, National Geographic, or the History Channel give some background to a new place.

Stay in a guesthouse, homestay or farmstay instead of a tourist hotel.

Choose accommodation in a small town – wherever you land at the end of the day – where you can experience how people live outside of the big cities.

Let the kids see what it’s like to not understand the situation – include them in the problem-solving.

Trust in the flow of travel. Let unknowns play themselves out. Allow serendipitous encounters – they often become the best stories.

Regina at Fulltime Field Trip

International travel is an exciting experience. Things can work differently from country to country. Here are three important tips to keep your international travel smooth and safe.

Communications –There are a million ways/apps to stay connected and free WIFI all around the world. But sometimes you want/need an internet connection from your phone.
•Contact your service provider and ask about short term international plans, they may be more affordable than you thought.
•We like to get a SIM card in the country we’re visiting. FYI, your phone must be unlocked for this. While we may pay a bit more in the airport or bus station, it’s worth it to have what we need to help us navigate to our next location.
•For talking to anyone from taxi drivers to friends back home, we like WhatsApp. Viber is great when you need to make a call, like to your credit card company or airline.

Money – How will you access your money?
•Look for credit cards and banks with no foreign transaction fees.
•Inform your financial institutions where you’ll be traveling so your accounts aren’t frozen for potential fraud.
•Find out what your daily withdraw limit is and decide if you need to increase it.

Paperwork –In theory, all you need to travel is your passport. In certain places, and for certain types of visas, you may also need birth certificates and a marriage license.
•Keep your documents safe in a waterproof, RFID protective case.
•Keep a hardcopy of your documents somewhere in your luggage.
•Have a digital copy on your phone. Preferably somewhere that doesn’t require internet access to retrieve, like your notes.
•Ask a trusted friend or family member back home to keep a digital and hard copy of your documents in case of an emergency.
*We’ve absolutely used this last one!

Travel abroad…prepare to be amazed.

Kirsty at World for a Girl

The other day, we sat down and counted up the number of countries our five-year-old son has been to – we counted 29! He’s very well-travelled and his little sister is not far behind. Many of the countries we’ve visited have been a world away from our former ‘safe, cosy’ life in the UK. At the moment, we’re living in Malaysia. Drawing on our experiences, here are two things to consider whilst travelling in developing countries with young children.

1) Adjusting to different safety standards (if any at all) can be challenging (especially for parents). You always need to aware of potential dangers. From dodgy playpark equipment, street stands with flaming grills to open sewers, keeping your eye on toddlers and younger children can be hard work. Try carrying toddlers in child carriers as a way of keeping them safe and speak openly to older children about any dangers.

2) Culture shock can affect children as much or more than adults. Children like routine and rhythm in their lives. They might find the sights, smells and sounds of new places unsettling. Try to empathise with them, acknowledge the things that might worry them and give them the time and space to adjust to their new surroundings. Bring familiar toys and sometimes spend more money to go to a restaurant or indoor playground that reminds them of home.

Yamy at Go Fam Go

I always have a contingency plan set up whenever I travel especially abroad. When traveling internationally, you have to deal with unfamiliar cultures and bureaucracies in place.

One of the useful things to know when things go awry is how to access an emergency fund.

Aside from my travel pocket money, I have an emergency stash of cash in a safe place on my person, in case of lost luggage or theft. Hiding it in a piece of clothing like socks or shoes will allow you to use them when all you have is yourself.

Another source is your bank. You don’t necessarily need to open a foreign bank account to do so. Bank fees for wire transferring are expensive and are based on a percentage of the amount that you’re sending. Services like Xoom or Remitly have websites and apps that allow you to instantly send remittances to yourself when abroad. Rates are usually fixed. Check their partner locations where you could personally pick up your money (affiliate banks, money exchangers, or delivery to your hotel room). You can set up an account before traveling.

A good travel credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees is also handy.

Sunset in Napflio, Greece.

Kris at Gadsventure

When travelling internationally, I always try to plan a trip based on short flights. Not only is it cheaper when travelling with a large family, but it also takes a lot of the stress of flying away.

Our youngest is almost 2, so for our current trip in SE Asia, we have her still sitting on our laps! The flights around Asia are only between 1.5 and 3 hours in length so we don’t have to be cooped up in planes for too long at all. This still maintains excitement levels high with the kids!

I also love the cultural value you get from travelling in a place like SE Asia. Not to mention the food! And when travelling with 4 kids, keeping costs down is super important too, that’s why places like Bali, Thailand and Vietnam are our go-to destinations.

Shannan at Captivating Compass

There are really only 5 basic travel tips for international travel. They are simple, fairly inexpensive and effective. In fact, all of these have been tested by myself and a multitude of other travelers, so I’m sure you will benefit from each of them.Be flexible. Planes are delayed, kids get ill, and shops close early.

Be flexible. A flexible attitude goes a long way in making the best of these inevitable situations.

Make a list. As you plan, even months in advance, making lists will help you keep things organized. From itineraries to packing, to places not to be missed, your lists will help keep it all organized along the way.

Learn a few phrases. Knowing ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please’, in the local language is a minimum. Improve your language skills before you go, if possible, and then try them out in-country.

Bring a sarong. It might seem funny now, but you’ll be so glad you did! Use it as a blanket, a hood or head covering, a shawl, and even a skirt or dress.

Get travel insurance. Without question, you need travel insurance. An accident or illness in a foreign country can be complicated, stressful and expensive. Good travel insurance is worth every penny just for the peace of mind.

Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders

Living in the UK we often fly for our holidays. When we visit Florida the flight is 9 hours on the way there (shorter on the way back!), but we have always chosen a flight with seat-back entertainment which is a lifesafer when you have kids! We also choose the four seats in the middle of the plane, and I sit on one end and my husband on the other, sandwiching the kids between us. They definitely feel more comfortable like this, as it’s their own private space then, and if they are comfortable they are happier! When we do shorter flights to Europe I make sure the kids have their tablets fully charged and a movie downloaded. When they have watched their own movie, they can then swap tablets and watch the other one’s movie!

Annette at Tips from a Typical Mom

A few tips from when my husband and I went to Mexico:

Passports take a very long time to get, so you should just get one now. Whether or not you are planning on traveling out of the country, it’s always good to have a passport for you and your family members.

Pack a bag that works as a carry on and is roll-able. I packed a carry-on but it was a duffle bag and it was the WORST to hold on to in the custom’s lines.

Research the area where you are going and find out if the water is drinkable. If not plan accordingly. Learn as much as you can about the culture so you don’t stand out like a sore thumb. You don’t want to look like a tourist.

Get an undergarment “fanny pack’ to keep all your money, passports and credit cards safe.

Call your bank and let them know that you are going out of country so they don’t freeze your cards.

Call your cell phone service provider and ask them about how to get an international plan for the amount of time you will be gone.

Melissa at Disabled Disney

My tips on international travel:

Get a document holder for passports and whatever documents you need. Make sure it is RFID protected and waterproof! And keep everything together.

Check if you need a physician statement about your medications. You can use http://www.incb.org/ to check for guidelines on controlled substances if you are taking any. Also take your original prescription bottle with you. In keeping with medications make sure your medications are in your carry on. The horrible truth is luggage gets delayed, lost and even stolen. If you keep your medications with you, it is less likely to encounter these problems while travelling. Also if you have disability needs you will need to research what the country you’re considering would have available for you. Not all countries have the same disability access laws.

Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels

Traveling internationally is exciting but also has some additional stressors that you need to be prepared to overcome.

First and foremost, you can purchase almost everything you might need in other countries. The items that you need to ensure you have with you are your passports, insurance cards, and prescription medications. If you land in a country and have these 3 items, everything else is able to be located in local stores. You might not know what the brand of diapers is that you are buying but hey they still work.

Second, you will get the most bang for your buck if you do not try to convert one currency to another in a bank or one of those stands at the airport. Withdraw money with your debt card from an ATM. The currency conversion rate is usually much better because there is no fee involved as there is when you use a bank to change money. Also, look for credit cards that have no international fee. Not only will this make your purchasing power better but it helps to keep track of all your expenses while adventuring around another country.

Third, help your kids recover from jetlag by having a big breakfast the first morning you arrive, even if you just landed and it is breakfast time. Usually people think because they aren’t hungry they shouldn’t eat. This is not the case when you are traveling. Filling up bellies first thing in the morning helps kick start your body into knowing that you have started your day and adjust to a “new normal”.

Sarah at State by State

Traveling internationally is exciting, but a little scary at the same time. Foreign language, foreign food, and a foreign culture are all things to consider when traveling to another country. People from all over the world come to the United States. They especially seem to love visiting our national parks. So, while I have not personally traveled internationally, I have witnessed first-hand those that travel to the US.

From observing these travelers I have learned many things about traveling to an unfamiliar place. My number one recommendation is to be respectful of the rules and customs in the country you are visiting. Research what these my be before you go and learn from the locals once you arrive. Doing this will enhance your travel experience because people will notice your efforts and be willing to help you more.

Sarah at Dandelion Seeds

Most of the travel in my adult life has been international. I’ve learned a lot of lessons that differ from what I know in my life in the United States. One of the most important, however, was to bring an old-fashioned paper map of the area I was visiting, particularly when I didn’t speak any of the local languages. True, GPS works nearly everywhere on a mobile device. When it hasn’t, however, I’ve found myself in some suboptimal situations. A paper map isn’t necessary in areas where someone is likely to speak your language, but pointing at a map is a wonderful universal “language”—and a great safety net.

Also, study the local transportation system ahead of time. If you’re traveling by train, do you insert the tickets into a machine for a stamp/validation before boarding, or not? If driving, are there tollroads, and how do they work? Knowing ahead of time is incredibly helpful!

Next week’s family travel blog topic: Making memories with your family travel.