International travel with kids: Everything you need to do before you leave

International travel with kids: Everything you need to do before you leave

Traveling within the country with kids can be a beast in itself. But what about going outside the country? Sounds exhausting, right? It doesn’t have to be. In fact, international travel with kids is hardly different than traveling without them… from a planning perspective at least!

Before every trip I take, I follow this checklist to make sure I am fully prepared for international travel:

Planning stage — two or more months before you leave:

  • Passports/visas: First things first, make sure you all have passports! Then check if you’ll need visas. I like to use Travisa to check visa requirements — they’ll also tell you what you need to do to get one.
  • Immunizations: Some immunizations require a series of shots so make sure you look into this at least two months out. Always refer to the CDC first when making decisions on what to get. The CDC is the best and most reliable source for immunizations. If you do need some, any travel clinic near your home will work.
  • Hotel reservations: Make hotel reservations in advance. If you’re staying at a hotel, look for ones with kid-friendly services. If you’re staying somewhere like an Airbnb, make sure to check for reviews from other families so you know it’s safe for children.
  • Travel medical insurance: This one is totally up to the individual. It’s not something I usually get. But, if your kids are very accident prone, you’re going on an extended trip, or you really just need to reassurance, travel medical insurance is a good idea.

Planning stage — one week before you leave:

  • Update your cell phone provider: Most cell providers allow you to put travel notifications in online now, which is so convenient! Many services also offer free international data or plans for $10/day. I’m a sucker for WiFi so it’s usually a must-have for me. If anything, I like it for the access to Google maps.
  • Call your credit card companies: Like cell phones, you can usually do this online now. Make sure you put in a travel notification before you leave for your trip so you don’t run into any issues when you arrive.
  • Travel warnings: Do a quick check with the U.S. Department of State right before you leave for your trip. Not only do they update the site with travel warnings, but they’ll also alert you to things like major elections.

What to pack for international travel with kids:

Note: this list is by no means a packing list. This should be used in addition to your regular packing list!

  • Passports/visas: Passports and visas are the #1 thing you must bring for international travel with kids so I always triple check that I have it. Also, bring a photo of both documents in case you lose them.
  • Immunization card: If you received any immunizations, throw the card in your purse or wallet in case you need it.
  • Travel itinerary: If you won’t have international data on your phone, make sure you have a print out of the essentials (i.e., hotel and flight numbers). Also print out your hotel on a map to make it easier for cab drivers.
  • Credit card without a foreign transaction fee: If you don’t already have one of these, they are great for international travel. My favorite for families is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
  • Medication (rX and non-rX): I travel with kids Motrin and Tylenol, just in case. You don’t want to find out how tough it can be to buy over-the-counter medication in a country you don’t speak the language. A small first aid kit is also a good idea.
  • Foreign language dictionary: I prefer to use an app on my phone because it doesn’t take up any space. Kids books on the language can also be a fun airplane activity.
  • Outlet adaptor: Check what type of adaptor you’ll need, if any, and pack it in your carryon.
  • Cash in the local currency: You can either get this at the bank before you leave or at an ATM when you arrive.

What to leave at home:

  • Jewelry: I never travel with jewelry. Most importantly, I leave my wedding and engagement rings at home.
  • Credit cards: Just bring the ones you need.
  • Toys, toys, toys: Don’t overdo it with the toys — just bring what your kids will need on travel days. You are going to a new country and there will be plenty to do there!

Do you have any international travel with kids planned? What are your must-haves when traveling abroad?


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