When our children were still in elementary school, my neighbor and I made what some considered a radical decision. We decided to take our kids to Botswana and Zimbabwe on a safari trip.
Although some people thought we were putting our children at risk by taking them on this adventure, it actually turned out to be the journey of a lifetime. This trip also launched my desire to see as much of this amazing world as possible, and I've now explored more than 15 different countries - most with either one or both of my kids.
While each of these trips has been rewarding, I've also discovered that traveling internationally with children can have its challenges. One slip. One mistake. That's all it takes to ruin a vacation. That’s why it’s extremely important to do your research and have all of your ducks in a row before heading to the airport!
Then check again. Children's passports typically have different expiration dates than adults. For example, in some countries -- including the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, your passport will expire in 10 years if you are 16 years of age or older. But if you are 15 years and younger, your passport will expire after 5 years. In other countries, the ages may differ slightly. For example, in Japan, if you are 18 years or older, your passport will be good for 10 years. If you are younger than that, your passport will expire after five years. And in Italy, your passport is good for 10 years if you are 18 years and over; 5 years if you are between the ages of 3 and 18 years; and 3 years for youngsters under the age of 3.
Also, if you are applying for your children's first passports, make sure to give yourself plenty of time. When I applied for my children's first passports, I discovered that the birth certificates I had were not the required official copies. So before I could even apply for my children's passports, I had to request copies of their birth certificates. Fortunately, I had started this process well in advance of our trip, so I was able to get both their birth certificates and passports in time for our vacation.
Obtain a letter of consent. If you will be traveling without the other parent of your children, make sure to obtain a letter of consent from them that says it's okay for you to take your underage kids out of the country. Most of the times you won't be asked for this letter, but if an immigration officer or airline asks you for this document and you don't have it, you could be denied entry into a country or you might not be allowed to board a plane. These letters are strongly recommended by government officials in many countries, including Canada and the United States, and are required to enter others, including South Africa. And if you are divorced or separated and traveling alone with your child to France, you should bring a letter of consent and a copy of the other parent's passport.
I always purchase travel insurance because international travel is so expensive. Another reason why I purchase travel insurance? I have an elderly mother. And while I don't like thinking about it, there is always the possibility that she could become ill, which could in turn cause me to cancel a trip. If that would occur and I didn't have travel insurance, I could be out a whole lot of money.
Then there is travel medical insurance. This is especially important to have when you're traveling with children. Why? Because according to the CDC, children traveling internationally, "Face most of the same health risks as their parents, but the consequences can be more serious." For example, when children fall ill with traveler's diarrhea, they can become quickly dehydrated.
I learned firsthand how easily it is to fall prey to stomach issues while in India. During my journey in that country, almost everyone in our tour group, including my daughter and me, fell victim to the dreaded Delhi belly. Knowing we were covered if we needed medical help provided comfort in that uncomfortable situation!
Wherever in the world you decide to go, make sure you’re prepared beforehand. Traveling with your kids can be life-changing, but small mistakes can make a big impact on your experience.
Travel rules and regulations can change quickly, so it's always important to check with your country's official websites to ensure that you have the most current information available before you and your family embark on your international journey. Don’t forget to purchase insurance and review the documents you need to travel internationally!
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