Long-distance travel presents numerous challenges, even for experienced international adventurers. For parents of a teen preparing for the opportunity to go overseas—be it a summer abroad experience, a volunteer mission or a school trip—the process can be complicated.
To make the preparations go as smoothly as possible, start planning as soon as you know when and where your child will be traveling. It’s always helpful to research the country in question so you understand what to expect and can then share this with your child. Your child will also have to travel with many documents, so take the time to find out what’s needed and start the application process early.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Individuals planning a trip abroad can seek information about their destination country from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Their website offers country-specific travel advice, as well as travel news and general tourism tips. This is an excellent resource for the teenage first-time traveler, as well as his parents, to gain insight into what to expect overseas and how best to resolve potential emergencies.
Passport and International Identification Card
Under U.K. law, children under 16 require a passport. Make sure to fill out all the paperwork, get an acceptable passport photograph and pay the fee long before your child intends to travel abroad. It takes up to six weeks from the time of application to process the passport, and you’ll also need to allow for mailing time. You’ll have to pay much more if you wait too long and need to request expedited processing.
Get a Physical Exam and Check on Health Insurance Coverage
It’s always a good idea to make sure your child has a complete physical exam before traveling abroad. This will allow you to ensure that he receives any vaccinations, precautionary shots and prescriptions that might be necessary in an emergency. If your child takes medications, you can get prescription refills and find out about available medical care in the country he intends to visit. Also check with your insurance company to find out whether your existing policy will cover your child when traveling overseas. If not, you may want to look into travel policies to find temporary international medical insurance that will cover your child when he’s abroad.
Find Out About Baggage Restrictions in Advance
Be sure to check in advance to see how many bags the airline allows and whether or not your child will have to pay a fee to check baggage. Also be sure to find out what the weight limit is for each bag, as this will help you decide what to take. Be sure to heed any airline regulations regarding carry-on luggage.
Learn About the Country – and the Language
Anyone going abroad should take the time to learn about the destination country. One should also make a point of studying the language before heading off to another country. Make sure your child understands the importance of respecting the traditions of a different culture. As a parent, you need to stress to your child that in foreign countries, he may be forced to eat very different foods. Although he may be able to make a stink about something he doesn’t like at home, that isn’t acceptable behavior in a foreign country.
Find Out About International Cell Phone Costs and Usage
How you communicate will depend on how long your child is away and what methods of communication are available. Most traditional cell phones aren’t equipped for international communication. Some providers have options for short-term plans that will allow for international calling. This is usually a better idea than allowing your child to make international calls on her regular cell phone because it’s typically more affordable. If your child regularly text messages her friends, find out about your cell phone provider’s policy regarding texting from international locations.
What to Pack
Packing can be tricky, especially because teens may want to take their favorite clothing. Stress the importance of not taking anything valuable and packing clothing appropriate to the environment they’ll be traveling in. Find out in advance whether there will be laundry facilities your child can use. If there are, she won’t have to pack as much clothing. Assemble an emergency health and first-aid kit for your child and include things such as over-the-counter medications to treat travel-related maladies. If your child has life-threatening allergies, consider packing several EpiPens (epinephrine injections) to be used in the event of an allergic reaction.
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