Of Documents and Medicine: Don't leave home without...
|Personal identification documents have enormous significance when traveling abroad. You'll find yourself constantly hauling out your identification for officials, hotel managers, etc. But there's more to this than just your passport. Even if there is a U.S. embassy or consulate nearby when you're traveling, not having the right documents at the right time can mean enormous headaches of lost time and added expense. You'll want to get the US Department of State's Consular Information for any country on your itinerary. These info sheets will tell you about the requirements in each country regarding currency, driving, and drug regulations, health and security conditions, etc.|
|Passports and visas Make sure you not only have passports in a secure place, but also bring along two copies of each. If they are lost or stolen, having the passport numbers will help speed up the process for replacements.|
|To apply for passports for the first time for your kids, get all the information and forms from the State Department Web site: Passport Services. Allow plenty of time if you are getting new passports. There are a number of new requirements, such as for children under 16, both parents as well as the child, have to apply in person, all children, including babies, are required to have their own passport, both parent's names must be on the birth certificate.|
|Tip: With the new requirements, any U.S. citizen traveling via air or sea to any destination will need a passport, including Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean (that includes taking a car ferry from Washington to Victoria, British Columbia).|
|Even if you have passports for your kids, check the renewal date! Passports need to be renewed every 5 years for kids under 14. (You don't want to get to the airport to discover that your child's passport has expired.) The good news is that you can renew passports pretty quickly.|
|Some countries also require a visa. Find out more information about visa entry requirements for different countries (for U.S. citizens).|
|Copies of birth certificates It's become quite common these days for a family to have more than one surname. Maybe a mother has kept her maiden name, or perhaps the children are from different unions. Whatever the reason, you'll want to be able to prove that, yes, these kids are yours. (Even if you are the nuclear family, birth certificates aren't a bad thing to have along if your passports are lost or stolen.)|
Copies of immunization records If you're traveling to countries that require specific shots or vaccinations, bring along copies of your immunization records or certificates of vaccination. This is is also helpful in the event that you would need to consult a doctor while traveling in a foreign country.
|Copies of custody papers If any of the children are under a custody arrangement (no matter who has custody) you'll want to prove that, yes, Brandon O'Shaunghnessy is supposed to be with Mei Ling and Roberto Martin. Bring copies of all relevant papers.|
|Parental permission If you're traveling with your kids without your spouse, in some countries (e.g. Mexico, Argentina), you may need proof that the absent parent has given permission for the child to travel with the other parent. It's simple enough to write up a letter, sign it, have it witnessed and notarized.|
|Credit cards It's great that you have 3 or 7 or 20 but you really don't want them all on the trip. Take two, so that each adult has one, and lock up the rest at home. Keep copies of the card numbers and phone numbers to call the credit card companies, in case of theft.|
|Things not to bring Empty out your purse before you go. Don't bring along your library cards, supermarket cards, rewards cards, department store credit cards. If you have your passport and you won't be driving, don't bring your driver's license (just another thing to get lost).|
|Things to bring Here are a few things you shouldn't forget when packing:|
Document organizers Bring along a document organizers (ones you can find easily without having to rummage around in the bottom of your overfilled tote bag). Your organizers should have each person's ID and boarding pass, as well as immunization forms and relevant papers for the kids. Tip: Sometimes it's necessary to have your boarding passes available when you go through the metal detector checkpoint (don't put them in your purse that's passing through the X-ray machines.)
|Extra glasses For anyone who wears glasses or contacts, bring along extras. If your kids are especially hard on glasses, bring those cords that attach to the glasses. Imagine losing glasses over the side of a spectacular waterfall, dropping into the clear blue sea, or lost behind the bed in your hotel you'll be having a very fuzzy trip! Bring along a small screwdriver kit to repair lenses that pop out unexpectedly. (We have stories about the glasses lens that popped out when we were eating dinner in Prague ...) Also, take along the glasses prescription, in case you need replacements.|
Medicines Put together a small sack of non-prescription medicines, anti-itch cream, band-aids and first-aid stuff, things that your family typically uses.
Keep all prescription medications in their original, clearly marked containers (unless they're really large sized), and make sure you have the prescriptions as well. This is a good idea, both to prove you are supposed to have the medicine and also in case you need to replace it. (You should ask your doctor or pharmacist for the generic names of medicines you take frequently, since the brand name may not be available where you're traveling).
For trips abroad, bring enough medication for the length of your trip, and two weeks beyond. If you're expectedly delayed in your foreign destination, the last thing you want is to worry about is running low on medications for kids and parents alike.