Traveling is fun, but sometimes it can be daunting and stressful. To enjoy traveling, one must plan it carefully, especially when you are traveling as a family. Have you experienced that hullabaloo of searching for something you’ve lost or forgotten during a trip? Hey ho, travel bloopers!
Before fantasizing yourself frolicking under the sun on that sandy white beach, just ensure first that you checked your to-do list long before you travel. We have broken down the list of things to do before travel that will make your family getaway as smooth and as hassle-free as possible.
1. Check the validity of your passports.
Before making any travel plans, check your passport validity and that of family members who will travel with you. Generally, the passport should be valid for at least 6 months when you enter a foreign country. Although some countries may allow less, it is always better to have a longer validity to keep some room for any circumstances.
2. Check the visa requirements.
The visa requirements vary from country to country. If you are traveling to a country where visa is required, plan ahead of time and check the website of the embassy of the country your are traveling to, in order to know the visa requirements and the processing time. Ensure you have enough time to get the visa prior to your travel dates. You don’t want last minute hassles, tho. Likewise, if you are a foreign resident, ensure that your residence visa is still valid upon your return to your host country.
3. Book your accommodation and flight tickets.
“The early bird catches the worm” may sound cliche but still effective. Booking your accommodation and plane tickets in advance will help you in locking lower prices. If you are traveling in peak season or during holidays, avoid high prices by making early bookings. Since the rates are always changing, compare prices from various websites. It is important to consider the credibility of the website and the easiness of communication with customer care, especially if you have emergencies.
4. Email yourself a copy of all your travel documents.
Take pictures of your documents and store them in a secure folder on your phone. As a precaution, make sure you have soft copies of all your travel documents and that of your family in your email. In case you lost or misplace any document, it would be easier to retrieve the copy for reference.
5. Get vaccination well in advance.
As your body needs time to build up immunity, plan a visit to your family doctor or a travel medical clinic well in advance. By getting the shots required for the countries you are visiting, you are protecting yourself and your children. And even if it is not required by the embassy of the country you are visiting, do it as a general health measure. Getting vaccines on time will protect your family from potentially harmful diseases, especially when traveling.
6. Google the country you are visiting.
To make the most out of your trip, make a research about the destination you will visit and get ideas about the interesting places to see as well as the nice activities for the family. It is important to have ideas about customs, traditions, and cultural norms in the place. As cultures are different from one another, it is important to know the norms so as not to put yourself in an awkward situation and to avoid offending other people. Check the climate as well as the time zones.
7. Notify your bank about your travel dates.
Notifying the bank is one crucial thing people always forget when they travel. Most banks have very strict fraud detection systems and once a transaction is done in an unfamiliar location, your bank may block your card assuming that it is used fraudulently. If you have the online facility, there is likely an option for a travel notice where you can update your travel dates and destinations. Otherwise, call your bank’s customer service to update your travel dates. Don’t forget to take copies of your credit cards, account number, and your bank’s 24-hour hotline. In case your wallet is lost or stolen, you should be able to retrieve these pieces of information and call your bank immediately.
8. Check the exchange rates.
Before traveling, check the exchange rates. Sometimes, you get better rates when you buy foreign currency in your country than in the country you will visit. Sometimes, it is vice versa. So if you want to get better rates for foreign currency, check and compare before you buy.
9. Check your baggage allowance.
Read the conditions applicable to all your flight tickets for the entire trip regarding the allowed weight and sizes of check-in baggage and carry-on luggage. If you are flying from one city to another, note that domestic flights most of the time have lesser baggage allowances than international flights. Avoid unpleasant surprises!
10. Learn basic greetings and simple words in the local language.
Although oftentimes it sounds funny, you feel glad when a foreigner greets you in your mother tongue. The same holds true with people from other countries. Learn the basic greetings and phrases in local dialect like hello, goodbye, good morning, good afternoon, how are you, how much, how many. It will not only make the communication a bit better, but it may also help you make new friends!
11. Make a checklist of important things you need to do or bring.
Several days before your travel, start a checklist of the things you need to carry to your trip. Leave the paper on the table, and let the family members help you. They may remember something important which may slip in your mind if you do it all alone. If your little ones are big enough to write, let them participate. Not only that this task will add more fun and excitement, but it will also make the kids feel they are responsible! When you pack your things, you may also assign numbers to your bags or luggage. Keep your checklist handy and tick off every item completed or packed, and note down where you put what. Trust me, this will save you from the hullabaloo of searching for misplaced items during your trip!
12. Pack appropriate clothing.
“When in Rome, live as the Romans do; when elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere”. Adapt to the place you are visiting. If you are accustomed to wearing your traditional clothing, you might consider changing your style a bit and adjust accordingly depending on the destination you are visiting. When you appear different from the crowd, people may draw attention to you. Do not bring expensive jewelry or watches.
13. Check your meds.
If anyone of the traveling family member is under medication, ensure you have enough quantity of medicine for the duration of the trip, but not exceeding the amount allowed as per country regulation. In your carry-on, bring only the quantity required during the flight and until you arrive at the hotel. Keep the rest in your checked luggage. You should have copies of the doctor’s prescription in your carry-on as well as in your checked luggage. Bring medicine for common ailments such as headaches, colds, diarrhea or constipation as the change in weather or time zone may bring about these conditions. Be wary though, and check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting. Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines may be common to some countries but considered as illegal substances in others.
14. Check-in online to avoid long queues.
You don’t want the dilemma of kids throwing tantrums at the airport. Right or right? Check-in online and avoid long queues. Select the seats according to your convenience but avoid the last row since this area is frequented by passengers going to the lavatory. Bulkhead seating has more legroom, ergo it is more comfortable if you have toddlers. If you are traveling with an infant, call the airlines ahead of time for bassinet booking. A bassinet is a detachable crib often fixed at the bulkhead. Different airlines may have different policies on booking and using a bassinet so better call the airlines earlier. Check for children’s meals or request for special meals in advance.
15. Bring zip-top (ziploc) bags for liquid items.
If you can’t leave your favorite lotion, moisturizers or perfume at home, make sure each individual container does not exceed 100 ml and put them in a clear quarter size plastic zip-top bag. Airports and airlines have strict policies on liquid items, and normally, one bag is allowed per passenger. You don’t want to say R.I.P to your favorite perfume jumping to a garbage bin before the boarding gate.
16. Don’t forget the iPad, small toys, and snacks to keep the kids engaged during the flight.
If you are traveling with small kids, you must be well prepared. A child throwing tantrums in a flight can be dreadful to you and to other passengers. You are 30,000 feet above the ground, with absolutely no escape or time-out space. So, packed your arsenal with tools like the iPad, small toys, books, and snacks to keep your little ones away from boredom and meltdown. If you have an infant, ensure you have enough baby formula for the flight duration.
17. Use a belt bag or a body bag to carry your documents and cash.
Keeping your cash, credit cards and travel documents secured is very important. Never keep these items in the same carry-ons where you put the children’s toys or snacks. Having a body bag or belt bag will make it more secure, safer and easier to pull out whenever you need it.
18. Grab some crackers and light food items.
Biscuits, crackers, nuts, cut fruits, and veggies are tasty treats to bring. It will not only soothe your hunger pangs while waiting for boarding but it is also a cheaper and healthier choice to prepare your family’s food. This way you will avoid the junk food waving at the terminal shops.
19. Carry light jackets.
Airports and flights are usually cold, ergo, carrying light jackets will make you and your little ones warm and comfy during travel. Be careful not to carry a heavy-oversized jacket as it may not be convenient and will occupy a huge space in the overhead compartment of the aircraft in case you opt not to wear it.
20. On the day of your flight prepare earlier to arrive earlier at the airport.
Make this a mantra: You can wait for the flight but the flight will not wait for you. On the day of your flight, prepare earlier and give time allowance for the traffic or any possible delay. Arriving earlier at the airport will make you feel more relaxed and composed. You will have some room in case the kids need a pee-poo trip to the loo.
Part 2: 20 Tips to Follow for a Smooth Family Flight
Part 3: 20 Tips for the Family After Arriving at the Destination