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Here's What You Need To Know About Traveling Overseas With Your Kids

You got this.

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The good news is that it's definitely doable.

Just look at the numbers: A new study from the MMGY Portrait of American Travelers, previewed at this year's TMS Family Travel Summit, found that more young families took an international trip last year than couples or even solo travelers.

I asked family travel expert Eileen Ogintz, author of the syndicated column and blog "Taking the Kids," for everything you need to know about taking your kids abroad for the first time. Follow this gameplan, and you'll be good to go — literally.


1. All infants, even if they are only one day old, need to have a passport.

And once they get it, it's only valid for five years — not ten. "Passports for kids over 16 last for ten years, whereas those for kids under 16 only last for five," says Ogintz.

2. Both parents and the child — even if he or she is a small infant — need to show up to the passport office to submit the application in person. Otherwise, you need to provide documented evidence about the other parent's whereabouts.

"They are really strict about this because of international abductions by parents," says Ogintz.

If you're divorced, you need either a notorized letter saying that the other parent has given you permission to take your child overseas, or an original document of the court order that proves that you have sole custody (photocopies aren't acceptable). If one parent simply can't show up to the office, you also need a notarized letter. If you're widowed or single (and the other parent has never been in the picture), you need to show proof of that, too, with either a birth certificate that shows there is no dad or mom in the picture, or a death certificate.

Here is the form you should fill out if both parents will go to the passport office, and here is the form you should fill out if only one parent will go and you need to provide additional documents.

3. It takes six weeks to process a passport — so plan accordingly.

"You can pay extra to have it expedited in three weeks," says Ogintz. "Or, if there's an emergency, family or otherwise, and you need to get overseas right away, you can go to the passport office and explain your situation," she says. They can and will expedite it within eight business days, based on need only.

4. If you are a family that travels a lot, consider signing up for TSA Pre✓ and/or Global Entry.

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"TSA Pre✓, which costs $85 and is valid for five years, is worth getting, because kids up to age 12 can go through with you for free, which saves time and stress in the security lines." (It can also come in handy for future domestic trips.)

Global Entry, however, is a bit different. "Having it means you can go straight to a kiosk when you come back in the country instead of waiting in the customs line. But unlike TSA Pre✓, each kid has to be signed up, so it's probably not worth it unless you're a family that goes overseas a lot."


5. You technically do not need to buy a plane ticket for children under age two.

And I say technically because Ogintz explains that it's actually much safer to put your child in his or her own seat with a carseat than it is to have him sit on your lap. "Everyone from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends that you put a baby in a seat," she explains. "And that's mainly because of turbulence. They can go flying during turbulence if they're sitting in your lap."

You don't need to get a special airplane carseat, either. "You can use your regular car seat on an airplane. Just check the label to be sure it's airplane-approved; most are."

7. Bring lots of things on the plane!

You don't want to be that parent who's lugging an entire army of gear onto the plane, but at the same time, you do want to be majorly prepared. Your list:

*Something for them to suck on. "A lollipop, a pacifier, a bottle, whatever. Just be sure they have something to suck on for when their ears start popping."

*Snacks! "Kids get hungry when they get hungry, so be sure to bring lots of snacks in prep."

*A change of clothes and a clean shirt, for both you and your child. "In case someone gets sick!" says Ogintz.

*A book to read together about where you're going. "If you're going to Paris, bring Madeline. If you're going to London, bring A Bear Called Paddington." It's a great way to get your child excited about your destination.


8. Check in with your pediatrician before your trip.

Flickr: hashashin

If you're going to a country with questionable food, your pediatrician may tell you to bring Imodium or Pedialyte for your child. They will also tell you if you need to get any shots or take any pills before you go.

9. If you or your partner are pregnant, do not go to Zika-infected countries.

Flickr: douglucas

Here's everything you should know about Zika, including a list of countries you should avoid. "So far, it doesn't seem like there are long-lasting effects for anybody else but pregnant women," says Ogintz. More info here.


10. Consider renting an apartment or house instead of a hotel room.

Especially if you're going to Europe — because hotel rooms are really small there, says Ogintz. "Those European hotel rooms can be problematic with small children," she advises.

Her suggestion: Go for a home rental from a site like Airbnb or HomeAway. "It's fun because you'll be in a neighborhood, so you may be closer to a park to play in. It's also easier to not eat out for every meal. And, as a result, you'll go food shopping — which can be an adventure on its own."

12. But most of all, remember to just go with it.

Ride the wave, go with the flow, whatever you want to call it — just remember to make time to chill. "It can be tempting to try to plan out every aspect of your trip, especially because it's your child's first time overseas, and you want to make it special," says Ogintz. "But the truth is, you're probably not even going to see half of what you try to see if you do it that way — so be sure to leave time to just wander around and enjoy the moment."

13. And know that, no matter what, you are ultimately setting your child up to be a smart traveler, and a global citizen of the world — both gifts that will last a lifetime.