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Getting Started with International Travel

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When I was pregnant, one of my closest friends asked if we planned on any international travel with our son. At the time, I had no idea about our trip to Finland. But, hindsight really is 20/20. Thanks to her, I started doing research about international travel and what steps I needed to take in order to feed our wanderlust post pregnancy. Related: Check out my post The Grass Just May be Greener In Finland, chronicling our first trip with Charlie.

Based on my learnings, I thought I would take a moment to pass along some best practices to prepare for international travel.

1. Get your kiddo’s passport

Processing can take 6-8 weeks (expedited 2-3 weeks.) The biggest challenge, however, is actually the fact that you have to go in person to the passport office for first time applicants. You have to find your local passport office and make an appointment before sending the application off for processing. Furthermore, you have to have all of your documents prepped, including a photo. The photo is an ungodly process with many requirements that are next to impossible for a new born. TIP Make sure you go at a time when you’re little one is normally awake and alert. For more information on the process, I recommend visiting travel.state.gov.

My little guy’s first passport photo…ignore my thumb on the left. ha!
2. Visas

Visas are required for some international trips. Prior to having Charlie, we traveled to Australia, where visitors are required to have a visa in addition to a passport. I really like travel.state.gov, in this case as well. They provide a great resource providing specific details about US passport holders traveling abroad. Check out their Country Information Tool to learn more about your specific country. If you’re not a US passport holder, I would recommend searching for your country’s travel site and see what information they provide.

3. Have copies of your passport

This is just a good idea in case your passport gets lost. The US Embassy will ask for details about your passport so ensure you have a backup copy with all the details.

4. Vaccinations

Vaccinations may be required for some countries you plan on visiting. The Country Information Tool is great, but I find that the Centers for Disease Control has a more comprehensive database.

5. Travel Insurance

Getting injured or last minute cancellations don’t always come to mind when you’re thinking about traveling. I mean, it’s an extra expense to an already costly vacation. Seriously, what are the odds something really goes wrong? That said, what would you do if you did get hurt? Would you know where to go? Would you be able to find a local physician that speaks your language? How about hurricane season? How are you going to get reimbursed if the the city you’re planning on visiting gets demolished (God forbid!)? What if your wallet gets stolen? You get it, there are tons of reasons you may want to protect yourself when you’re away. Allianz has a great tool to provide you a quote on possible insurance costs with a 10-day satisfaction guarantee.

6. Register your trip with STEP

STEP, or the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, allows you to register with the closest US Embassy while you’re traveling.  STEP will inform you about safety conditions about the location you plan on visiting. It will make it easier for the US Embassy to contact you in an emergency and it helps your friends and family get in touch if something happens while you’re abroad.

7. Call your bank(s)

Make sure to let your bank(s) know the dates your traveling and where you’ll be going. This way your credit/debit cards will work when you’re abroad. You don’t want to wrap up a nice dinner and find out you don’t have funding!

8. Check with you phone provider

See if you’re current plan is covered internationally. You could rack up a hefty bill if your data is on and you’re plan doesn’t cover international travel. We love T-Mobile’s plan which covers free texting and unlimited data up to 3G in 140+ countries. I’ve even seen low call rates at $0.20 a minute.

9. Make sure you check with your pediatrician 

This is more in regard to infants and newborns or when travelling to more remote locations with little to no infrastructure. We traveled really early on with Charlie at about eight weeks. Our doctor wanted to make sure his vaccines were current for a 2-month old before we left, but also her word of caution was to use disinfectant wipes while on the plane. Probably not a bad idea anyway! This made me feel better, knowing I had the support of our son’s pediatrician.

Miramare Castle near Trieste, northeastern Italy.

Extra Considerations for International Travel

  1. Consider bringing a power converter/adapter for electronics. I like the Travel Smart by Conair. It features built in surge protection and 2.4 Amp USB that safely charges most devices. It does not, however, convert electrical voltage. Travel Smart also offers a 1875-Watt High-Power Converter to help with single voltage appliances.
  2. Don’t forget to read up on your destination. I of course love TripAdvisor, but you should consider purchasing one or two travel books. I am a sucker for books, but it’s also great to have an unbiased option on what to do so you truly pick something that you’ll enjoy vs. what people are saying online.
  3. Consider getting an International Driving Permit. AAA offers this service and covers over 150 countries.
Exploring Prague, we happened upon this great bridge (Near the John Lennon Wall) and a great little cafe just on the other side of the bridge. It was a great stop for refreshments.

Hopefully, with the above list of ‘action items,’ you’ll be equipped to have an amazing trip. If you have any questions about how we’ve done this, feel free to message me in the comments. Happy to help!

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