Thursday, July 23, 2015

Considerations for Traveling with Children Internationally {WITHOUT their other parent}

Before Leaving...
  • Before doing anything make sure you start the passport process, before you even plan on going anywhere, just get it, have it, then you won't {like my mother} have to expedite it and spend extra money in hopes you'll get it in time.  While they did get it to her on time, it was stressful not being sure if it would arrive before our flight.  You'll need both parents physically present to apply for the passport, or custody agreement or death certificates. 
  • When we flew to Germany last winter, the customs officer told me and my husband, that because I had a different last name {I never bothered with changing my name once we got married} I should make sure to have documentation if ever traveling with the children alone.  And while at the moment I thought, I'll never travel with my kids internationally without my husband, I'm glad he said something because as I was planning my last minute international trip with my mom and sister, I found myself in a situation with that information very relevant!  So, I wrote a quick letter based on the information I found about travel consent letters here, or you can print forms here.  I also brought copies of the girls birth certificates where it clearly lists me as their mother, and I brought husband's copy of his passport to match signatures to the letter and his passport, I wasn't sure what they would ask for but I wanted to make sure I was prepared.
  • Review the information for each country here, and save information for embassy or emergency phone numbers and resources.

At The Airport:
  • Bring Birth Certificates, Passports and Notarized Consent Letter. They didn't as for the notarized consent letters but I felt better about having them with me.
  • Bring Snacks for flight, but no liquids! And no jars of nut butters, they register as liquids on the 

In The Air:
  • Bring lots of entertainment.  I made the mistake of thinking all international flights had screens on the back of the seats our flight to Ireland did not.  They did play a movie but not really for kids.  
  • Bring snacks.  Our layover should have allowed enough time for dinner but two slow children and a little delay landing didn't help.  
  • If traveling with more than one child recruit a flight attendant to help when getting up and down for the bathroom, I couldn't bring them both with me, so someone had to stay with the other when going potty.

On The Ground:
  • Go to the bathroom and get food at the airport right away, before heading to hotel or out for food, trying to navigate was not easy with fussing kids in the back seat, especially while driving on the left side of the road!
  • Bring a stroller if possible. I decided against the stroller based on the commitment from my mom and sister offering help with carrying the children, but to be honest I regret not bringing it because walking around was tiring for everyone and sometimes the kids just wanted me.  It would have been easier.

In The Car or On The Train
  • Make sure to bring your own car seats if possible.  I didn't and the ones with our rental car did not have the chest strap nor was I comfortable with moving or reinstalling them.  I didn't have a choice because of the amount of luggage without my partner to help me carry it.  But if you can bring the car seat you should.  

At The Hotel:
  • Do not unpack everything, hide the bags from the kids, they will try to pull out all the clothes.  I only took out what we needed and then put the rest in a closet.
  • Childproof the room right away too, they leave heavy things like irons in closets, mostly everything is safe but there were a few random safety hazards in the rooms.
  • Ask for advice and directions from the concierge when checking in, they're so helpful and honest, don't wait until you're out and about to figure out where something is or what time its open, our data wasn't working so we couldn't google things like we had planned.  

On Adventures:
  • Keep kids closely which is like super obviously but I mean really it's overwhelming with everything going on if you're not touching your children they're too far away.
  • Be careful, duh.  I know but my mom wanted to go on a horse drawn carriage ride and we did it but as the luck of the Irish would have it the horse got caught on a fence making a turn and jolted my littlest into the cart. Thankfully it was padded and not that big of a deal but in retrospect I would not have gone on the carriage ride, just because it really was more risky than we realized for small children.

Out To Eat:
  • Eat like you do at home.  Kids need comfort when traveling, while in my experience they do better with culture shock than most adults they need some consistency so let them order what they want, don't force cultural foods onto them, and also remember if they're hungry enough, they'll eat.

Heading Home and Departing:
  • Give yourself extra time, I mean like an extra hour, or two.  I thought we'd be fine with 3 hours before our flight and we could just get breakfast at the airport, but in Ireland specifically {and I don't know where else} they do customs before you leave the country, so we ended up going through security like 3 times because of the usual and then customs, it was really exhausting and we didn't end up eating a real meal until we got on the flight.
  • Eat before going to the Airport.  Speaking of which, I might have been in a better mood if we had ate before we went to the airport, but the girls were sleeping when we left, I thought if I could just carry them to the car and wake up at the airport it would be easier and while that was the case, it would have been better to suck it up and order room service or have something planned so they could eat in the car.  
  • Make sure your partner or whoever is picking you up from the airport is on time! This may or may not be a passive aggressive jab at my husband who was not at the gate when we landed but also it really does matter, my kids hadn't seen him in a week and they were not cooperating because they wanted to see daddy, it made waiting for my luggage a hassle and while I did have some help I would stress the importance of having the person picking you up to arrive early.

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