TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO LONDON AND ABROAD WITH KIDS
Traveling abroad with kids definitely needs some planning. These were a few tips that I learned along the way. Obviously not every tip applies, but often situational and things that many people may need to consider before planning a trip abroad.
TRAVELING ALONE WITH A CHILD. Due to the increase in child abduction cases over the years, you may need to produce a documentation that permits you to cross the border or return to the United States with the child. More information can be found on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at: https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/268/kw/children%20traveling%20alone/related/1. I have always had a letter prepared just in case when traveling with my nephew and now on trips with my daughter. Documentation can include death certificate, letter from another parent, custody agreement and copy of birth certificate. If requested and you cannot produce documentation, you may be detained until the circumstances of the child traveling with you can be fully assessed.
NO FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE CREDIT CARDS. I am a huge supporter of using credit cards abroad. It is a great way to keep track of spending and also alert you to any fraudulent charges. Depending on which credit card, purchases made abroad are often covered from damage or theft. American Express is my personal favorite for this feature. It is important to do this research ahead of time. I was lucky enough to find 2 of my credit cards, SPG American Express and my Capital One Mastercard. Another consideration is that one of these cards should be a Mastercard or Visa. I did find many smaller vendors or stores, which did accept credit card transactions, did not accept American Express.
FOREIGN CURRENCY EXCHANGE. In this day in age, having country appropriate currency isn’t a must. Traveling to London, I wanted to have some cash for things like tipping the driver, hotel staff and small snack purchases. By the end of our 5 day trip, I calculated that I only spent about £100 on miscellaneous things. Many currency exchange desks charge fees on top of already less favorable exchange rates based on the amount of money you exchange, which made that option completely unreasonable. Research if you bank charges a foreign fee if you use your debit card abroad. Chase charges $5 + 3% of what you withdraw. If that was my only option next to using a currency exchange desk, that may be the better option. Luckily I also had a Capital One account which has NO FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE. Within London, at many banking locations, they will note if they charge a fee for debit. I found many, all over central london, that did not. Interpretation: If your bank charges a fee and the bank you withdraw from charges a fee, you might be paying more than you expected for your currency.
- Know what your foreign debit fee is for your bank
- Know what fees the ATM machine charges for debit from another bank
- Estimate CASH needs in your destination for things like tips, coffee, snacks
MEDICAL NEEDS. Bring the basics – Tylenol, Advil and a thermometer and you’ll keep sickness at bay. While in Mexico, without our now constant medical kit companion, it was difficult to get things like infant Tylenol and a non-mercury thermometer. Not to mention packaging that was written in another language leaving me quite skeptical to what I was administering to my child. I’ll never let that happen to me again! Let’s also not forget to check that your vaccinations are up to date and if any additional ones are required for travel to your destination.
TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recently became a huge fan of travel insurance, in particular AIG’s TravelGuard, and not because of a circumstance but rather the comfort of that added protection. In an emergency, it’s nice to have someone on your side taking care of things. That’s the comfort travel insurance provides. In addition, some plans cover things like travel delays, cancellations and lost luggage.
GLOBAL ENTRY. Worth every penny of the $100 fee, especially if you travel more than once a year outside of the US. If you’re ever spent way too much time on the customs line, this will be a divine experience. Global Entry expedites your customs entry. Included with Global Entry is TSA Pre-Check. What does that mean? You don’t have to take off your shoes or take out your laptop and electronics. It’s a speedy way to get through security. A nice perk is often, tickets purchased at the same time often get courtesy TSA Pre-Check as well, though not guaranteed. THINGS TO NOTE: Only certain airports and certain airlines participate in the program. I was disappointed to learn that Virgin Atlantic did not participate and thus, no TSA Pre-Check either.
CONVERTERS vs ADAPTERS. Keeping those electronics powered, from cameras to cell phones, and working is always important. Not getting into the technical details, but it’s important to know if you’ll need a converter or an adapter. We had no problem with our electronics in London as all were compatible, self converting and simply an adapter sufficed.
CELLULAR SERVICE. We are Verizon Wireless customers and were lucky enough to utilize their TravelPass plan which is $10/day per line utilizing your plans data and services. It isn’t a cheap option, but having the connectivity was very important for me, traveling with my wandering curious child. I was slightly technically challenged but figured it out eventually.
- iPhone – In your SETTINGS> MESSAGES > iMessage, switch to off. I found we were unable to communicate to one another unless it was off and sent as a text.
- I never did figure out how to call each other while in the UK. We made plenty of calls to the US to speak with her father and siblings though.
- Don’t be surprised if the speed is not quite what you expected. I guess we’re a little spoiled in the US because 3G was just not cutting it for me in London. I never had to wait so much for a map to load.