Vacationing to a foreign country can be fun and exciting. It can also be easy and relaxing if you follow these tips.
No matter your comfort level for new adventure, there is a destination just right for you. Uncomfortable with foreign languages? Then head to Jamaica, London, or Hong Kong where most everyone speaks English. Your kids will only eat at McDonald’s or Burger King? Well, to some people’s amazement, our familiar fast food establishments can be found just about anywhere, from Paris to Cancun. But then again, if you love adventure, discovering new cultures, and going someplace new on each vacation, you can do that, too.
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As of June 1, 2009, any trip involving a return to the US from air, land or sea requires a passport. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are exceptions, because they are considered US territories.
Please be aware that children 18 years of age and under, traveling without both parents or legal guardians, are required to provide a notarized letter of authorization to travel from each parent or guardian.
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Some Asian countries also require your passport to be valid for several months after your return date. Other Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, and Cambodia require you to have a visa, in addition to your passport.
It is imperative that you have the correct documentation, as you will be denied boarding without it. Also, plan ahead. Getting a passport takes 6 weeks to several months and a visa takes processing time as well. Express services are available, but they are more expensive.
As always, for the most up to date information, visit the U.S. Department of State at www.travel.state.gov
Everyone wants to stay in good health while on vacation. Common sense and possibly some pre-trip medications can keep you that way.
Water — Water in Europe is safe to drink everywhere. However, in restaurants, bottled water is usually served and it will be added to your bill. In Asia, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Costa Rica you should drink only bottled water. However, if you are staying at a fairly nice hotel or eating at a nice restaurant that caters to tourists, the water served with your meal will be safe to drink. Don’t drink the water from your bathroom sink faucet — but the small amount you brush your teeth with will be okay. Contrary to popular belief, it’s usually not the water that causes people to get sick, but rather too much sun, to many cocktails, and not enough sleep.
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Food — All food in Europe is safe. In Asia, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Costa Rica, when eating at a local restaurant or from a streetside vendor, eat only cooked food or food that can be peeled (bananas, oranges, etc.). However, freshly made salsa is fine. Again, in a nicer hotel or nice restaurant that caters to tourists, all foods will be fine.
Preventative Things to Do — No matter where you are traveling, it is a good idea to have your immunizations, such as tetanus, up to date. Another good idea is to bring along anything you take for a headache, stomachache, or the common cold, and of course, any other medications that you take.
No vaccinations are needed for Europe. For travel to Asia, Mexico and the Caribbean, no vaccinations should be needed, unless you are traveling to some more remote areas. Check with your physician.
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While no one loves being in a plane for any more time than they have to, air travel can be comfortable and relaxing. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes, which is especially true if traveling to Europe or Asia, as you will probably be sleeping in those clothes. To make the flight more comfortable, pack your carry-on with a snack (in case you get hungry), some slippers or loose fitting shoes, a cover for your eyes, ear plugs, eye drops, your tooth brush and toothpaste, and even some of those disposable face wash cloths so you can freshen up before landing.
Time Change and Jet Lag
With some planning, you can adjust to the time difference in a matter of days. For travel to Europe, one tip is to start adjusting your internal clock before you even get on the plane. I recommend going to bed two hours earlier (and getting up two hours earlier, too!) at least three days before you depart. By adjusting your clock, you’ll be: a) that many hours “closer” to Europe time and b) be ready for bed after you’ve been on the plane for a bit and will be able to get 5 or so hours of sleep.
Flights to Europe arrive in the morning. It is important to stay up all day (don’t take a nap) — keep moving, stay outside if you can (tour the parks), eat an early dinner and go to bed at a reasonable hour. Some people also advise taking a sleeping pill or melatonin for the first few nights to help you get a good night sleep and further accelerate the re-setting of your internal clock. Do the same for your return to the U.S.
For travel to Asia, you arrive late at night, so by the time you get to your hotel, you’ll be ready to hit the hay for a well-deserved night’s sleep.
Good health and well rested, you’re ready to start your international adventure. Adios! Au Revoir! Ciao! Sayonara!