Taking the kids out of the country is truly an endearing experience. They get to see parts of the world they’ve probably only seen on television and in magazines, they get to learn about various cultures and customs, and of course, they get the opportunity to bond with their family. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to take the entire family overseas, you’ll need to plan extensively. Your hope is that the family trip is nothing but fun, but, just in case, these tips for international family travel will help you to be prepared for the many things that could go wrong.
Register Your Trip
The very first thing you should do is register yourself and your family in the US government’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or STEP. Registering everyone gives you notifications in real-time about any emergencies or threats in the country you’re traveling to. It also lets the US embassy know that there are US citizens on foreign soil which can help keep you safe in case of an emergency.
Schedule Wellness Appointments
Everyone who is traveling abroad should get a good bill of health from their doctor. When traveling internationally, there’s always the risk of illnesses or diseases from food, epidemics, insect bites, and more. Your children especially need to have their shots updated as their immune systems are less developed than yours, making it more likely they could get sick. Make sure that you also pack your health insurance cards in case you or your children need emergency care and consider investing in family travel insurance to cover unforeseen emergencies.
Keep Valuables Out of Sight
This seems like a no-brainer, but keep your valuables out of sight. Tourists are often the target of theft or fraud while traveling abroad, and while you may not feel like you look or act like a tourist, your map, backpack and clothes tell the trained eye otherwise. Some countries have high rates of poverty and unemployment, so robberies and other forms of theft are prevalent. Try to keep your valuables out of sight so that you don’t become a target and be mindful of your surroundings. Leave your flashy jewelry, clothes, and electronic devices at home or in a safe at the hotel. Should you get robbed, however, knowing where you can have someone wire cash is critical. Do the research beforehand should you need to send money to the Philippines, Spain, India, Mexico or wherever you’ve decided to travel by first looking into companies providing this service, as well as the locations where the cash can be collected. This way if your wallet has been taken, you can get cash almost instantly.
Gather Important Numbers
You never know what could go wrong while traveling abroad with your family. The best way to get help is to know who to call and where to go. Find out the contact information for the local authorities as well as the US embassy. You should also be fully aware of nearby medical facilities just in case you need medical care. Write these numbers down and share them with your children so they too can reach out to the proper authorities if they are lost, hurt, or ill.
Stick to Tourist Areas
When you’re someplace new it can be tempting to want to wander around and explore. While I always advocate immersing yourself in the culture and local scene, it just makes common sense that in certain countries, you need to be a bit more careful than others. If you are unsure or your gut tells you the area may be sketchy, then it probably is. Stay in areas where other tourists are present, don’t wander at night and steer clear of shortcuts, unsavory neighborhoods, and suspicious roads. A great tip is to pre-download the Google Map of the area you will be in so that you can use it any time on your phone to navigate without the need for cell service or wi-fi.
Be Mindful of Wi-Fi Usage
Cybercrime happens everywhere, not just in the United States. Before your trip, you should communicate the importance of being careful when using free and open Wi-Fi connections. Important personal information including passwords and login information, credit card, and financial data, as well as contact information such as your home address, should never ever be transmitted on an unsecure network. This includes hotels, airports, etc. as the information can easily be retrieved and used without your knowledge. Leave personal shopping and internet searching for when you get home or use a global VPN service that will protect your connection no matter where you are for a small fee.
Designate a Meeting Spot
If you’re traveling with teenagers or adult children, they may want to be able to explore a bit on their own. Be sure that you’ve informed them of the potential dangers and how to remain safe. It’s also a really good idea to also have a meeting spot. If you’re going into town to check out the shops, you might choose a nearby park or popular store to meet up when you’re done. It’s also great for younger children because if they get lost, they can go to the meeting spot and wait for your arrival instead of wandering around.
Your family is going to have a blast traveling outside of the US. The main objective is to enjoy your adventure, but you also want to ensure that your family is safe from the potential dangers out there. Make sure you do extensive research on the country you’re visiting so you can be as prepared as possible. Also, keeping someone at home informed of where you are throughout the day can provide peace of mind and ensure you have help back home should something go wrong.
Be sure to also check out our 20 Super Useful Tips For Surviving International Travel with Kids covering things like safety, making your life easier, best travel gadgets and what to pack, these valuable tips and tricks for international travel with kids is a must read and bookmark for ALL families who travel.