How to: Get your child ready for an international trip

Child playing with globe,isolated on a white background.

An upcoming trip to Panama with my 9-month-old son had me excited, nervous and… Well, mostly just excited. I’ll admit, though, I tend to stress myself out with too much thinking. This is why I make lists, and you should too. But just incase you’re not a “list person,” you can use mine:

PASSPORT

Head to your local Passport Agency and bring along:

  • One 2 x 2 inch color photo of the applicant. A professional picture is preferred, but some easy guidelines for taking an infant passport photo at home can be found on the State Department’s website.
  • Applicant’s original birth certificate. (If the applicant wasn’t born in the United States bring proof of citizenship.)
  • Applicant’s social security number.
  • Both parents with valid ID’s (plus a photocopy of the first page of your passport or the front & back of your driver’s license. If you are not the applicant’s birth parents, be sure to bring legal forms proving guardianship or adoption.)
  • A letter of consent – form DS 3053 – if a single parent is applying for the passport. If you have sole custody this must be proven via court order, death certificate, adoption decree, etcetera.
  • $80 passport fee +$25 execution fee.
  • A completed but unsigned DS-11 application form – this can be found and completed onsite. (You will sign it in front of the Acceptance Agent.)

More information of the application of minors under 16 can be found here: http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/minors/minors_834.html

IMMUNIZATIONS 

The easiest way to determine what immunizations your child needs is to make an appointment at your local travel clinic. The travel nurses are great resources and often give you extra country-specific information.

Because he’s under a year, my son is too young for many of the immunizations currently recommended for traveling adults, so he received:

  • an early Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) shot [note: this will not count toward his routine MMR shots that begin at one year],
  • a flu shot booster
  • Immune Globulin (IG), which will help protect his immune system from Hepatitis A, which can food borne. [Note: if you are strictly nursing you can probably skip the IG]

The nurse advised us that insect repellent with a DEET level of 20-percent or less is perfectly safe for babies. A good thing to hear since dengue and malaria are both transmitted via mosquito and present in Panama.

Be sure to bring your insurance card and your child’s immunization record to your appointment.

Packing a copy of your child’s (and your) vaccination record could be helpful should you need to visit a doctor while on your trip.

LETTER OF CONSENT 

This may not be required depending on where you are going and if you are the only parent traveling with your child/ren, but because we will be meeting up with my husband in Panama we got a notarized letter stating that I have my husband’s permission to take our son out of the country.

There is no official version of this letter; I found one online.

birth certificate is a good idea to have on hand as well, just in case immigration needs to match up the names on your documents. A little birdie (in the form of a friend’s sister who lives in Panama) told me this is known to happen when leaving Panama.

TRAVEL INSURANCE 

Odds are your regular insurance won’t cover you while you’re abroad, making a travel insurance policy a must. Policies and prices differ but I recommend getting one with the highest evacuation allowance you can afford. Definitely one of those things I’d rather have and not need, than need and not have. Kanetix.com or Insuremytrip.com are good places to start.

PHOTO COPIES 

Leaving several copies of your documents with a friend or relative at home is a smart idea. As is sticking a few extra copies in your luggage. My favorite thing to do is scan and email copies of my documents to myself – that way if everything else is lost, all I need is an Internet cafe.

RESEARCH 

It’s always helpful to learn about your destination beforehand. Since Panama will be hot, and my son is still a baby, I wanted to be sure I knew some places to go to cool down. Aquariums, museums, malls or covered markets, shady zoos, breezy restaurants, and public pools if your hotel doesn’t offer one.

  • The Lonely Planet tends to have a “travel with kids” section in their books – very helpful for researching on the go. 
  • Travel for Kids lists fun things to do, family hotels and travel tips. They cover destinations worldwide.
  • Don’t underestimate your local library.
  • If you will be renting a car, check to see if you can also rent a car seat. Most rental agencies have them available.

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