We’ve all been there before: For a week straight you’re excited because you’re taking your family on that vacation you deserve. Travel day has arrived, you have a 10am flight, and at 7:30 one child is just getting into the shower and the other you’ve already knocked on their door twice to wake up. After you check to make sure everyone actually has everything they need packed up and in the car you get all the way to the airport with only an hour to spare and you rush inside throwing caution to the wind and gasp for air as you arrive at check-in. After all that morning stress and hoping you can still board, the attendant at the desk asks for your passport and your heart sinks. You saw them on the kitchen counter and they’re nowhere to be found between you or your spouse.
Vacation is supposed to be a fun experience, a getaway from the rat race of life. While traveling out of the country can be stressful, there’s tons of preparation that can be done to avoid the problems you can control. Even if the morning of travel day goes completely awry, there’s plenty that can be done to be sure it doesn’t ruin the whole vacation. Here are 5 quick tips to avoid a catastrophe when you finally go on this vacation in a strange land.
Apply for a passport or make sure your passport is up to date months in advance
Peak season for passport application lasts a long time, running from January all the way until August according to the US State Department, and the processing times for these applications can now take 6-8 weeks. Since that’s the case, getting passports and making sure they’re up to date is the vitally important first step in making sure that you and your family take when getting ready to book a vacation out of the country. Evie Carrick made a whole article on the subject of how to make sure your passports are ready for the airport, which you can find here.
Arrive to the airport at least 3 hours early
With parking your car, getting your tickets, passing through TSA and customs, and arriving at the gate, there’s a lot of steps to get through before you board. Because of all of these extra areas to pass through, Delta Airlines recommends arriving at least 3 hours prior to your scheduled flight, as opposed to the 2 hours before domestic flights. You also must be checked in at least one hour before your scheduled departure and recommend arriving at the gate 45 minutes prior. For a full list of what Delta Airlines recommends and why they’re in place, take a look at this article that comes directly from their website and applies for most every airline that travels out of the country.
Make sure all vaccinations are up to date and ask your healthcare provider if you need any additional ones
Something that you may not have considered when traveling abroad are the infectious diseases that you could be in contact with. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you should visit your primary care physician and plan to get travel vaccines at least a month before you go away on your trip. They need one full month to go into effect in order to be fully protected from them and they recommend planning for this as some of the vaccines may require you to travel since only a limited number of clinics have them. The CDC has a quick “everything you need to know” article about travel vaccines here.
Be prepared for any money-related issues
One thing that’s vital and not always talked about on foreign vacations is money. We know it’s important on vacation and saving for vacation is a whole other subject, but I’m talking about the specific type of currency that will be used in another country. While Credit cards will work in most any major area or restaurant in a foreign country, smaller sidewalk cafes or vendors will only accept cash. It’s important to have cash and have that cash be local currency when paying for anything. For all tips involving money and how to use it in other countries, Susan Lanier-Graham writes an excellent piece for Travelocity’s website about currency exchange and paying when on vacation here.
Make sure your phone will work
While we hope that you or your kids won’t be spending your whole vacation glued to your phone, it’s important to have it in case of emergencies. That being said, you’re in for an incredibly rude awakening if you believe that your cell phone will work in another country without contacting your cell phone provider. With that said, there are plenty of options without breaking the bank in regards to having a cell phone of vacation, and Stephen Layton from NerdWallet outlines all the options you have from buying a prepaid phone to getting international roaming data from your provider in this article.
Preparation is key to any successful vacation
Any vacation can be fun and relaxing, but the ability to unwind early on in the vacation is easier when the travel day isn’t a full day of stressing out. Being prepared once you land is also a key point in making sure that once the travel day is over, you’ll be able to take full advantage of all the fun activities associated with this new country you’re exploring. So take these tips before you travel and enjoy the whole experience and take in all the culture from this fun, new country you get to experience!