Vacationing Abroad: The Family Checklist for Hassle-Free Travel

Posted by Sidney, 04 Oct

For many, a family vacation abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime, an adventure afar, a chance to make memories that will last for years to come. It's no wonder then that taking a trip "across the pond" requires considerable planning and forethought. For those wanderlust travelers ready to take on new environments in far, foreign lands, here is the essential checklist of recommendations that covers planning, packing and enjoying your family vacation abroad.

1. Obtain or renew your passport

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If you require a passport or if your passport will soon expire, get a jump on this right away. The entire passport process can take more than a month, and that's if things go smoothly. First-time passport applicants must appear in person, so you'll need to make an appointment at an acceptance facility to bring in completed DS-11 application form, birth certificate, and proof of citizenship for all members of the family. This will need to be completed before any other planning because in many cases, you're not able to book a flight without your passport number. The U.S. Department of State is a great resource for more information about passport applications.

2. Check on visa requirements

While passport allows you to leave (and more importantly, return to) your native country, a visa allows you to enter other countries. Different countries have different visa requirements for travelers planning to enter, so it's best to investigate early in the planning stage to get all the details.

3. Research immunizations and shots

Though many Americans are vaccinated as children against various diseases we may be likely to come in contact within our own country, once away from their home soil, travelers might encounter dangerous viruses you've never even heard of. The CDC travel website offers a comprehensive account of each country and its recommended or required immunizations.

4. Safeguard Your Identity

Identity theft is a worldwide epidemic and traveling abroad may actually increase your risk of becoming a victim since you have such sensitive and personal data on your person so often. Before you leave on your vacation, obtain services that monitor your bank accounts for suspicious activity, alert you in the case of a data breach, and detect any instances of identity theft. It's a good idea to let your service provider and your bank know in advance that you will be traveling abroad to avoid complications while on vacation.

5. Purchase travel insurance

Many medical insurance plans will not cover you and your dependents outside of their network, so trying to use your health care coverage outside of the country most likely won't fly. There are traveler insurance options available, though, to cover this gap. Check with your specific healthcare insurance provider before investing in an insurance policy, but major providers like Medicaid and Medicare typically leave you and your family to your own devices when overseas.

6. Manage your money

Check the current exchange rates from U.S. dollars to the monetary unit used in the country you are visiting. Look into ATM fees in that country, as well as what kinds of banking fees your account holder may subject you to when you spend money from your account overseas.

7. Make copies of everything

Your passport, travel itineraries, hotel reservations, tickets, and travel insurance policies should all be copied in both hard copy and digital form. Most tourists prefer to carry a copy of their passport around as they sightsee, opting to leave their original passport in a safe at the hotel rather than run the risk of losing it or having it stolen. In the unfortunate event that your passport does disappear, you can show the photocopy of it to the U.S. embassy to initiate the process of obtaining a new one. Travel insurance policy copies should be on your person at all times in case you or a family member require medical attention.

8. Update your cell phone plan

International roaming charges can add up quickly. To avoid this, one option is to speak with your provider about adjusting your plan to allow for calls and texts. Even this option can be expensive, though. Plan B would be to buy an inexpensive SIM card at your destination and insert it into your phone. Unfortunately, plan B won't work if your phone is locked by your carrier, so make sure you are clear on this ahead of time.

9. Check weather and updates

A day or two before your departure, check the weather in the region you'll be visiting. You may need to make a few last-minute adjustments to your packing. Also, check to see if the U.S. has issued a travel warning. Some nations are involved in conflicts that could suddenly affect travel or pose a threat in or near your destination. Though such a warning may not warrant postponing your vacation, it's still best to know how to behave and what to expect when you arrive.

All in all, a vacation abroad with your family can be a magical experience, but it could just as easily be a nightmare if you do not plan appropriately. By utilizing the tips in this checklist, you stay away will be safe and worry-free.

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