Family Holiday A to Z: Overseas travel
Welcome to my A to Z series on surviving, enjoying and making the most of family holidays. As you read this I am on my own 24 day odyssey to the USA with my husband and three little bears – so I am truly living what I am preaching right now! Each post in this series is designed to cover a specific aspect of family travel and provide 5 tips for making your next family holiday more special, fun and memorable. I would love to hear your stories and suggestions too, so feel free to hit me with them in the comments. I look forward to conversing with you on my return!
Many of the suggestions in this series have been relevant whether you plan to travel domestically or internationally with your family. But I wanted to concentrate solely on travelling overseas today as there are some unique challenges that will face any family contemplating a holiday beyond their own borders.
It can be daunting even considering taking your kids overseas. There’s the expense of the travel itself and getting passports. You have potential language and cultural barriers to overcome. There could also be issues with food and dietary requirements and then there’s the time difference factor.
However, overseas travel is well worth these inconveniences. The experiences you will take away from travelling the world outweighs any other issues you may face.
I remember my first overseas trip when I was 14. I went to Europe and the US on a choir tour and I was away from home for the very first time. I learned SO MUCH during that trip. I learned there were no limits to what I could do. I learned there was so much to see and do and experience away from home. I developed a lifelong love of history and a greater appreciation for the treasures of the world, beyond my shores.
So be brave. Make the decision to take the leap and give your family experiences and memories that will last a lifetime and possibly change their lives forever. That’s what happened to me and that’s the legacy I’m hoping I can leave to my own children. I want to give them the same opportunity to discover life beyond the narrow confines of their own backyard and change their viewpoint forever.
5 tips to overcome common challenges and get your family ready for overseas travel
1. Expose your family to a variety of foods
Fussy eaters will struggle when they are away from the culinary comforts of home, especially if you are travelling to a country with a completely foreign diet. Our son is our fussy eater and we knew that he would struggle the most while we were away. To help prepare him we had a look at menus online and talked to him about what he might expect while in the US. For instance, WDW puts carrots or grapes or broccoli with every kids’ meal so we started placing these on his plate before we left home to help him get used to them. He didn’t like it and he didn’t eat them but at least he knew what to expect and did not get so upset when they were served up while on holiday. This is also a great tip if you are heading off to a country with a completely different cuisine and diet to yours. The more your kids are acclimatised beforehand, the better the experience will be.
2. Ease your family into the time difference
Start planning early and get your family ready for any potential time difference in the days leading up to departure. We started subtly changing meal times and sleep times in the days leading up to our flight to help ease the shock of jet lag when we arrived in the US. The time difference between Sydney and Los Angeles is 17 hours which was a recipe for a serious case of jet lag for all of us. Preparing the kids (and yourselves) beforehand will help reduce the pain a little and help get you all on track a little quicker. This was especially important for us as we were only in LA for two nights – I did not want to be tired and grumpy for the length of our entire stay there!
3. Take the time to learn about the language and the culture
This can be a really fun activity to share with the family in the lead up to the holiday. Seek out DVDs or online videos that explore the country you are intending to visit and watch them as a family. Borrow books from the local library and even borrow some language CDs to start getting an ear for the local language. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with common phrases and requests, even if it is just “please,” “thank you” and “can you speak English?” Apart from encouraging more time together as a family, taking the time to learn about the language and the culture of your intended destination adds a sense of purpose to the trip and will encourage more interest and real engagement with the holiday.
4. Ensure your passports have at least 6 months left before expiry
Please take the time to check the expiry date on your passports. Most countries will not grant you entry if you have less than six months left before the expiry date. If the timing of your travel will be touch and go, it may be best to renew your passports early to avoid any potential issues when you do travel. In Australia, adult passports cover a maximum period of 10 years while child passports need to be renewed every 5 years. Check with your customs or immigration authority to understand the requirements of passports issued in your own country but do be aware that there are limitations of entry to those with passports due to expire within 6 months.
5. Research visa and entry requirements
To ensure a smooth trip it’s best to independently check whether you require a visa or entry permit to enter each country on your proposed itinerary. For instance, I was not told to get visas for the ports on our upcoming cruise but I checked with all countries on the itinerary just to make sure. The last thing you need is to be denied entry to a country purely because you failed to check their visa and entry requirements. Don’t assume anything – do your own research so you are not caught out while you are away.
Bonus tip – 6. make sure you purchase appropriate travel insurance
This is a MUST. Chances are you have spent quite a lot of money to get your family overseas. The best thing you can do to protect this investment is to invest in reputable and good quality travel insurance. Make sure it covers you for the entire cost of your holiday and understand all inclusions and exclusions that apply before you depart. Travel insurance should cover all medical expenses for injury or illness, as well as theft of valuables, damage to baggage, and cancellations or interruptions to flight plans. Research travel insurance providers first to find the best deal and ensure you receive written confirmation of your policy before you depart.
Do you have any suggestions to overcome common challenges and get your family ready for an overseas holiday?