Ah, summer vacation with the family — relaxing, quiet and peaceful?
What’s an “infant in arms?” Do kids need a passport? What if your family is going to a country affected by Zika virus? How do you avoid international roaming charges on the kids’ cell phones? And what if you are a single parent managing your first family vacation on your own?
“I remember being on the plane with bags and bags of things and trying to get the kids to walk down the aisle, and they weren’t even walking yet, and a woman behind me said, ‘I bet you wish you weren’t divorced now,’ ” recalls Lissa Poirot.
Now Poirot is a family travel expert and editor of FamilyVacationCritic.com. Her two wandering toddlers are savvy travelers who are 10 and 11 years old.
While there will always be unforeseen events on a family trip, plan what you can to ease the way.
Before you head out, give your family a travel checkup. Check these 7 scenarios to make sure you are ready for that big trip.
1. Driving to or through Canada with children
This is a common practice for people from Michigan who want to cut through Ontario to the East Coast, or who just want to take the family to Toronto or beyond. But it’s a bit more complex than just throwing the kids in the car.
*If you have NEXUS, the fast-pass border clearance, you can only use the NEXUS lane if everyone in the car — even children — has NEXUS. (Applying for a NEXUS card is free for children under 18.)
*Plan ahead for cell phone use in Canada. Beware that any child or parent who turns on his or her cell phone outside the U.S. will rack up big international roaming charges unless you’ve added an international calling plan.
For more: https://help.cbp.gov and click on “U.S. Citizens Documents Needed”; Michigan enhanced driver’s license: http://www.michigan.gov/sos/; NEXUS application https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/nexus.
2. Flying domestically with children
True, the first time you do it, it is pretty intimidating. But you soon will get to be relaxed about flying with kids — and they’ll get comfortable, too. Bring snacks, toys and a change of clothes for little ones, and you’ll be fine.
- Children under 18 do not need to show ID, but it’s never a bad idea to bring a birth certificate or driver’s license if they have one.
For more: www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children, also check your airline website and type in key words “infant in arms” to learn of policies.
3. Getting groceries at a vacation resort without a car
There is nothing worse than getting to your vacation rental and seeing bare cupboards.
- Contact a grocery delivery service ahead of time to make sure food is delivered when you arrive. This trend is big in certain resort areas like the Disney/Universal area resorts in Orlando, Fla. But companies like WeGoShop also serve cities throughout the U.S., Canada and the Bahamas.
For more: Google “grocery delivery” and your destination to see what is available. Big vacation resort areas are most likely to have this service. In central Florida try www.wegoshop.com, www.gardengrocer.com, www.orlandogroceryexpress.com. In Breckenridge, Colo., try www.yourbreckandcall.com.
4. Flying internationally with children
Flying rules are the same as flying domestically, except for those noted below. Not everyone is up to flying long distances with small children, but plenty of parents do it successfully.
- Children, even infants, need a passport. The child applicant also must appear in person at the passport application facility. A passport for a child also requires permission from both parents. (If your travel is urgent or within two weeks contact the Detroit Passport Office for a personal appointment.)
*If you have Global Entry, a clearance that lets you skip immigration lines, only you can use it. Children cannot use Global Entry kiosks on their parents’ clearance.
For more: Global Entry program www.globalentry.gov; child passport information https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/under-16.html.
5. Visiting a country where the Zika virus is transmitted
This is an increasingly vexing travel issue as the Zika virus spreads throughout the Americas. It now is in 39 countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America, including Mexico, Puerto Rico and especially Brazil, where the summer Olympics will be held.
For more: Get specific Zika travel information for affected countries at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices
6. Sending a child alone on an airplane
This used to be easy. No more. Rules have changed drastically for “unaccompanied minors,” with a rise in age for those who can fly on their own and a huge increase in fees.
For more: Contact your airline and search “unaccompanied minor.”
7. Getting your child to remember the vacation
Honestly, it is unlikely a child under age 4 will remember a vacation long-term unless it involves something shocking that is best forgotten. Older children, however, likely will have vivid memories. So make your vacation count.
“When kids travel with their families, it becomes a bonding, shared experience,” she says. Making a scrapbook, looking over old photos or bringing home souvenirs will help little ones — and you — remember the trip long after it’s settled into family lore.
“It’s not what you do or where you go,” she says. “It’s the time that you are spending with your family that is important.”
Contact Detroit Free Press Travel Writer Ellen Creager at firstname.lastname@example.org, 313-222-6498 or on Twitter @ellencreager.