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Wisconsin Parent

International Travel Preparation

Nov 20, 2015 08:19PM ● By Julie Henning
Our family is no stranger to road trips, weekend getaways, and cross-country travel to visit friends and family. This year, we're breaking out our passports and hitting a few new continents. Planning for the occasion has been more involved and strategic than just hopping on Route 66.

Here are some things to consider:

  • If your passport is expired or you need to apply for a passport, make an appointment with the United States Post Office several months in advance of your trip. Our kids passports' had expired, requiring new photos and new applications (and additional application fees).
  • Make an appointment with your local international travel clinic (ours was at the university hospital). You will receive any necessary immunizations as well as valuable information (in the form of handouts) on your intended destination.
  • Purchase travel insurance with your flight. You will want to check the policy limits and verify the plan covers emergency evacuation insurance. Verify travel coverage (if any) with your home medical and dental plans.
  •  If your children will be missing school, complete an excused absence form and discuss the trip with both the teacher and principal. Request homework and plan for your child to keep a travel journal to share with the class when they return.
  • Call your bank and credit card companies to notify them of your international travel. If you do not have a credit card that waives international conversion fees, look for one (Frugal Travel Guy has a comprehensive list on his website).
  • Make copies of your passport and travel insurance, packing a set with you and leaving a copy at home. If you prefer, create a folder on Dropbox with this information (and travel itineraries, contact information, and credit card phone numbers) should you need to access it remotely during your trip.
  • Determine how you will "phone home" on your trip. This may range from an international calling card, an international data plan, SKYPE, TracFone, or unlocked phone with a SIM card purchased in the destination country.
  • Know the baggage policy for all airlines on your itinerary (this includes weight, dimensions, fees, and number of allowed bags per passenger).
  •  Clean out your wallet and keychain, removing any cards and keys you won't need on your trip (examples include your library card, grocery savings card, etc.).
  • Purchase essential travel medications ahead of time, including prescription medications difficult to refill and prescription anti-diarrheal medication available from your local pharmacy.
  • Pack extra batteries, chargers, and purchase a travel adapter rated for your destination country (we found an adapter with a handy USB port). We like to travel with mophie juice packs (remember both sets of charging cables - one for the phone and one to re-charge the pack).
  • Send your itinerary and contact information to at least one person you trust (add them to your Dropbox folder if you feel comfortable doing so).
  • If visiting a country where English is not the primary language, learn some common expressions and understand the system of currency.
  • Register your trip with the US Department of State and know the address for the local international consulate. Subscribe to international travel status updates (particularly if your travel destination is known to have heightened security).
  • Pack appropriate clothes for your destination. We are traveling to Africa and have purchased head scarves and long-sleeve shirts and pants without flashy colors or logos. You may also want to consider purchasing a specialized travel jacket or vest from SCOTTEVEST (worth the investment, SCOTTEVEST clothing and gear is specifically designed to ease traveler's lives).
  • To protect against RFID device identity theft, consider purchasing a BlackoutPocket (also manufactured by SCOTTEVEST) to store your electronic gadgets and sensitive digital information like phones, credit cards, and passports. The pocket comes in three different levels of security, depending on your travel needs.