Travel Checklist For Your Next Family Trip
Are you ready for your next family trip? Our handy checklist will help you to make sure you didn’t forget about the most important things. When you travel with kids, exhaustion and stress can take over very quickly and the best way to make your trip run smoothly is to be prepared. Of course, it’s impossible to envision everything, but you can certainly prep yourself a little better and this list will help you with that:
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND AHEAD OF TRAVEL DAY:
I_I Check validity of your passport
Valid passport and visa sound obvious, right? But many travelers don’t know their passports have to be valid for 3 months after the day of their arrival home or for 6 months while entering a given country. So don’t wait until just before you head to the airport; check passport & visa requirements on the website of the embassy for the country you are planning to visit. If you need a new U.S. passport, the normal application and processing time is 6-8 weeks, although paying for expedited service can reduce it to 2-3 weeks. In peak times, there is often a backlog. Of course, for passports for other countries, the time can vary.
I_I Arm yourself with a consent letter if you travel alone
If you’re traveling with a child alone (i.e. another parent is not accompanying you), be ready to present a travel consent letter. Some countries, like South Africa, might ask you about it at the point of entry to make sure that your child has the permission of the other parent to travel with you. If you are a separated parent consider carrying a guardianship form, which clearly indicates you are entitled to care for your child.
I_I Expecting a baby? – get a pre-travel evaluation
If you have a normal, healthy pregnancy you should be able to fly without any issues up to the 36th week. However, some airlines might over-react by the size of your belly and might not let you board the plane. So, if you are pregnant and flying, get a note from your healthcare provider regardless of how far along you are. It’s also a good idea to carry a copy of your medical records for your prenatal care.
I_I Prepare onboard activities
For the youngest kids prepare a variety of small toys, a sticker book, and some simple games – just remember to offer each of these activities one at the time. If your child is older, electronic devices are true lifesavers, though keep in mind that some UK-bound flights departing from the Middle East and North Africa ban on board personal devices larger than a smartphone. If you do use devices, check whether the airline has outlets to charge them; you might need to bring portable chargers.
I_I Learn more about security
Check the airport website for any special policies regarding traveling with children. Find out what items are restricted in carry-on luggage. Nowadays, you are allowed to bring as much baby food, breast milk or formula as you need but for other items you might want to check the rules. If you are flying from the US, TSA’s website is perfect for gathering information regarding kid-friendly procedures. You might also consider printing these rules and bringing them with you – just in case. If you are a US citizen enroll in the Global Entry Program which can save your family time and hassle getting through security and returning to the US (if you don’t travel outside the US, TSA PreCheck is cheaper and will also help speed-up security lines).
I_I Sign up for airline alerts
Sign up on the airline website for trip-related alerts. This way, you will receive e-mail or cell phone notifications if there is a delay in departure time, last-minute gate change, or any other pertinent update.
I_I Sign up for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
STEP is a free service for the US citizens and nationals. When you travel you can enroll your trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate so you can receive important information from them about safety conditions in your destination country. The enrollment will also help the US Embassy to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
I_I Download airline/airport mobile app
Specific airline and airport mobile apps will give you flight updates and inform you about gate reassignments. Some even provide added entertainment options during the flight.
I_I Check baggage guidelines
The airline rules are constantly changing and can vary from airline to airline, so before packing, call your airline or check their website to find out the maximum size and number of bags you may carry on – and rules about special items (like baby or sports gear).
I_I Notify your credit card companies
Nowadays, banks are very careful about fraudulent transactions. A suspicious charge from a country or a city that you’ve never previously had a charge from can easily get your credit card frozen. It’s much easier to notify your bank about your travel plans ahead of time rather than trying to unfreeze your account while visiting a foreign country. It is also a good rule to have with you more than one credit or debit card.
I_I Plan activities and prepare your trip itinerary
If you plan to visit a foreign city, it’s a good idea to prepare ahead of time a list of things you want to see and do during your trip. Remember to include on your itinerary kid-friendly activities. Check websites of the attractions you plan to visit for opening hours and book some attractions online ahead of time as very often they offer special deals or limit the number of visitors. Visit local Tourist websites to learn about possible discount passes or combo-offers which can save you a lot of money.
ON A TRAVEL DAY:
I_I Make sure your child has your contact info
It is a nightmare scenario, but your child can get separated from you. Be prepared for it and keep some form of identification and contact information with your child. You can make it as simple as writing your mobile number on your child’s arm or you might consider getting your child a GPS device, which sets off an alarm if you happen to lose your kid from your sight.
I_I Allow plenty of time at the airport
Rushing is never a good idea, but if you are traveling with kids you have to plan ample time at the airport to avoid unnecessary stress. With extra time on your hands you can retain your cool even when your child throws an unexpected tantrum, decides to explore an airport shop or requests an extra toilet stop.
I_I Stock up on snacks
It’s a scientific fact – all kids love to snack. Stock up on easy-to-eat, minimum-mess snacks like small crackers, cheese sticks or dried or fresh fruit (baby carrots and apples are the best). And have something special to handle especially difficult situations. If you are low on snacks, buy something at the airport. Remember that many flights (even lengthy ones) no longer offer in-flight food service and if they do, the prices for the snacks can get really high.
I_I Get a pack of baby wipes
Even if your kids are no longer babies, it’s always a good idea to carry baby or antibacterial wipes with you. You might find them handy for sanitizing hands, cleaning faces or wiping off dirty surfaces.
I_I Check-in and print your boarding passes at home
This is a great time-saving feature which will make your check-in process quicker. By checking-in online 24 hours before your trip (or as soon as your airline allows, sometimes even 48 hours in advance), you can also make sure that your family will actually sit together (not always guaranteed when you check-in at the time of your flight).
I_I Stash extra clothes in your carry on
When flying with little kids, remember to pack in your carry-on luggage a change of clothes for your child. For some reasons, they pretty much always come handy.
I_I Pack first aid kid and medications
Kids can get sick when you travel and you should be ready. Your first aid kit should include children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen, some sort of tummy-ache medication, disinfectant, band-aids, and a thermometer. If you or your child need to take a prescribed medication during a flight and the bottle of a liquid medication is more than 100 ml, make sure you have with you a prescription note from a doctor.
I_I Forget about the rules
Traveling falls under a special circumstance situation, so forget about (or relax) your typical rules and let your kids snack, play games or watch cartoons as long as they seem to be entertained. Load on your child’s device a number of age-appropriate apps and don’t forget to arm him with a set of headphones. You don’t want to expose your fellow travelers to hours of Angry Birds or Lego Star Wars music, right?
I_I Take a picture of your passports
Losing a passport abroad is never good but if it happens, at least be prepared for it. Having a picture or a scan of your passports (or any other important documents for this matter) will save you a lot of time and hassle if you have to replace them.
AFTER YOUR TRIP:
I_I Share your experience
It’s always a great idea to share your experience with other traveling parents. After each trip you become an expert and have something valuable to contribute. Visit kiddiemundo.com and share your thoughts about family-friendly places you visited. We and other parents would love to hear from you!
FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE, you can find here a printable version of Your family travel checklist.