Taking that first trip abroad with your baby or toddler is no easy feat. But many more parents are shrugging aside their fears and embarking to international destinations with their little ones. Donna Forcier of Boston, Massachusetts, took that first trip in early October when she and her 17-month-old daughter Abby accompanied her husband on a last minute business trip to London for six days.
The first thing she did was go online to look for travel tips. She immediately reserved an extra seat for their child on the flight for more room and reserved a hotel room that came complete with a kitchen and separate room for their toddler. She also made sure to take things she knew she would need, packing heavily for the flight with enough supply of clothing, snacks, juice, diapers, new books and toys.
"The best decisions I made were to purchase a good travel stroller -- folded easily... and had a bottom basket. This was important in both the airports and in London," she says. "Overall, my daughter was incredible. She adapted well to the time changes. She traveled even better than I had imagined I think because we stuck as close to normal with her routine and didn't keep her out late at night."
Both parents must appear in person together along with their child to any of the passport office locations and bring with them two passport photos of their baby or todler, the child's certified birth certificate and the passport application fee. Passports generally take about two to six weeks to receive but can be expedited if needed for an additional fee.
Obtaining a visa may be a requirement to enter certain countries. Travelers can check with their travel agent or airlines for more information on visas. Some countries only require a tourist card which can be obtained inflight. For more information on passports, visit http://travel.state.gov/passport.
Emily Montgomery from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is scheduled to travel with her husband and toddler to England soon. Montgomery, whose daughter Adela will be 10-months-old by the time they leave, has already gotten more than a head start on preparations for the trip.
"I am carefully planning our itinerary," says Montgomery, who will be staying with family in England. "I had her birth certificate and passport sorted out. I just finished with the tickets for the flight. We found seats at the back of the plane during non-peak times away from the washroom."
Montgomery says she will be purchasing travel insurance, bringing along a carseat and stroller and will make sure she packs enough items to bring on the plane with her to keep Adela busy and happy. Despite all the planning though, like all moms, Montgomery worries that her child might be difficult on the plane. However, she remains optimistic because of her love for traveling, which she hopes to share with her daughter.
"From what I've heard, the difference between a fun trip and bad trip with a small child is all about planning and giving yourself lots of time," she says.
A little planning can indeed make the difference between a good trip and a bad one. Dr Jay Gordon, a pediatrician for more than 20 years, stresses that parents must keep it simple by packing the right things. "Toys, more toys, books and more books. And a portable DVD player. Any meds and creams (you) think they might need. And enough food for 24 hours," he says. There's no need to worry about any extra vaccines or any extra risk from non-vaccination while traveling in 'reasonable' countries, he adds.
Dr Karl Neumann, a travel health specialist at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, also emphasizes the need for parents to be prepared, particularly when traveling to underdeveloped regions. He also says that immunizations are important for trips to developing countries.
Dr Neumann's travel tips
1) Always have a backup plan in case parent gets sick by having someone care for the child, either friends/relatives or arrange it with hotel.
2) Make an emergency contact list of doctors and family to keep with parents, child and hotel.
3) Make a medical kit containing medications for common child illnesses such as ear infections, stomach viruses, cold medicine, bug spray, hydration liquids and so on that might not be found abroad. Talk with your pediatrician regarding possible need for prescription medications.
4) Standards of health care often differ from country to country, so contact your personal physician before any treatment is undertaken. Your physician may be able to recommend what you have packed in medical kit to care for your child.
5) Get travel assistance insurance but review carefully as there are different levels of coverage. Insurance will ensure the child is cared for should parent be hospitalized. Coverage should include ability to fly home if treatment is needed in the US by the patient.