Taking your child overseas for the first time can feel overwhelming.
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.
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.
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.
5. You technically do not need to buy a plane ticket for children under age two.
6. Some — but not all — international carriers offer infant fares that are cheaper than normal fares, so be sure to check.
Here's a list of the most family-friendly international carriers (i.e. the ones with the best perks and prices for children).
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.
9. If you or your partner are pregnant, do not go to Zika-infected countries.
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."
11. And taking a family tour.
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."