I love the thought of traveling but I must admit in this day and age it is a little scary to travel outside of the United States. So this blog covers five basic travel hacks for families traveling to distant or not so distant lands.

When you think about action-packed movies of traveling overseas the thought conjures up Americans being insulted, taken advantage of and robbed by rude foreigners. One word proves my point…TAKEN. For me, these images were enough reason to keep me from traveling to Paris. A trip that was at the top of my bucket list for the last ten years. Finally, I decided that enough was enough. I wasn’t going to let my fear control my life, so I planned a trip for my family and I to go to France. Once there, I was shocked by what I discovered. My preconceived notions of how I thought we would be treated couldn’t have been further from the truth. I quickly realized that being aware of your surroundings, courteous to others and allowing for some flexibility in your schedule goes a long way…in any land.

My husband is a driver development coach who works for professional race car drivers and travels all over the world. This year he has had the privilege to travel to Sweden, Norway, London, France, Canada, and South Africa and has discovered a few travel hacks that have helped to make his trips a little less stressful. Like I mentioned earlier the travel bug spilled over and as a family, we traveled to Hawaii, Turks & Caicos and France. My hope is that the travel hacks below will give you some piece of mind and will inspire you to start planning your own trips to distant lands.

Listed below are the five major travel hack categories.

Documents

Know what documents you will need for the country you are traveling to.

  • Passport: When traveling outside of the United States, every member of your family will need a passport.
  • Trusted Traveler Program:

Travel Hack #1: If you travel often then you might think about enrolling in the Trusted Travel program and applying for Global Entry https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry.

The major benefit is that you skip the customs line when coming back into the United States. Just make sure you get one for every person in your family. If you have a Platinum American Express, they will reimburse the fees for the primary cardholder. Either way its $100 for each completed application.

  • Visa: Research if the country you are traveling to will require you to obtain additional travel documents. If you find that your destination requires a visa, check and see if they will issue one upon arrival.  You may want to consider applying for one in advance just to be on the safe side. It will save you time and unnecessary frustration to have your visa in hand before your trip begins.

Air Travel

Know what you should and should not bring on the plane when traveling long distances.

My family lives in California, so our trip was a little over ten hours to go to France and about eleven and a half hours to come back. When traveling with the family there a few things that you are going to want to do.

Travel Hack #2: Bring meals with you on the plan because the food is usually awful.

Bring noise canceling headphones with an airplane adapter for the in-plane entertainment and to help you drown out crying babies. Download your favorite movies, games, and books. Pack your phone, tablet and laptop charger in your carry-on because most international flights have a power outlet on each seat of the plane. Bring things for the kids to do that can be confined to small spaces. Like UNO, Battleship, and coloring books.

I brought a rubber band bracelet making kit which was a very bad idea. There were way too many pieces, and we lost the crochet needle 30 minutes into the ten-hour flight. Make sure you bring the 4oz bottle of kids Benadryl…don’t judge me. Pack slippers or flip-flops because you will want to take off your shoes. You don’t want to go into the bathroom barefoot. Trust me!!! A word of advice, bring a toothbrush and toothpaste because after ten plus hours your breath will not be so fresh. Your family will thank you for thinking ahead… Okay, “thank you” might be a reach but do it anyway.

To Rent A Car or Not To Rent A Car

More often than not our family rents a car when we are traveling abroad. The exception is when we are booked at an all-inclusive resort because you mostly stay on the property. But that is typically the only reason why we wouldn’t get our own transportation. When traveling abroad, you want to familiarize yourself with the laws and traffic signs.

Travel Hack #3: I have found that it is pretty cheap to rent the car, but the expense comes when you get the insurance which I would always recommend doing.

You can call your insurance carrier, get it at the rental car company or check with your credit card company to see if they offer car rental insurance. While in Paris we rented a car for eight days. The car cost under $200 and the insurance was $1,200. Paris had roundabouts that were 6 lanes across and no one ever seemed to slow down to let you in or out.  People drove absolutely crazy in the city so having insurance gave us a little less spending money but peace of mind.

Things to Do

As a family decide if you want your trip to be leisurely or planned out. Think about if there are sights that you must see. If you choose the later do your research and plan ahead. Know the time and days that the venue opens and closes. If they allow flash photography, if they translate their materials and provide audio tours. (Most museums do this) I usually wait to buy the tickets until we have arrived in the city unless there is a chance they might sell out.

Travel Hack #4: Download the google translator app on your phone. It saved us on more than one occasion when we were traveling through the countryside and couldn’t find anyone who spoke English. I left my phone at the hotel one night when we went to a restaurant. I thought I was ordering pasta for dinner and was surprised when the waiter brought out a fancy plate of watermelon.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Money

Travel Hack #5: Use credit cards, minimize the cash you carry, make copies of your passport, utilize the hotel safe and always be aware of your surroundings.

We have never had an issue with pickpockets (knock on wood) but to be on the safe side, I would suggest using a money pouch that you can pin inside your bra or pocket. For men buy a cheap wallet that you can use for just the necessities and don’t put it in your back pocket. If a stranger seems to be getting a little too friendly check for your wallet and your watch.

I’m just saying…

These are five simple hacks for traveling abroad. If you have always dreamt of going to another country or exotic land start planning your trip today. Don’t wait until tomorrow to live the life we want today.

Today’s Hidden Treasure Moment is that life is short!  See and do as much as you can and appreciate every minute of the journey.

I hope that you found another reason to love life. If you would like more, you can purchase my book for a special discounted price by clicking here. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog as an added bonus I have included a link to my FREE happiness survey.

Please leave your questions and thoughts in the comments section below.

Until we meet again…

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