Each summer, families send off their teenage children for international travel experiences with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Adventures Cross-Country, a company that has delivered meaningful international travel experiences for teens, offers tips and precautions to help families make the best preparations and alleviate anxiety.
“Health precautions, securing documents, packing and communications are at the top of every traveler’s list. There are so many things parents can do in advance of a trip to help things go smoothly,” says Scott von Eschen, President of Adventures Cross-Country (ARCC – http://www.adventurescrosscountry.com/).
Since 1983 Adventures Cross-Country has provided domestic and international cultural experiences through travel that combine service projects, adventure and sometimes language immersion for students ages 13 to 19.
The seasoned professionals at ARCC have combined the best tips and precautions they’ve given parents and teens over the past 30 years and offer this sage advice for the international traveler:
- Keep all important documents (passports, plane tickets, emergency contacts, etc.) organized together in a sealable plastic pouch. Always know where this pouch is and, if possible, keep it with you at all times.
- Make sure the Passport is valid for 6 months after the return date to the United States. Countries have become increasingly focused on this requirement in recent years.
- Make 2 color copies of the passport. Keep one copy at home and keep the other in a bag separate from the passport. These copies will be invaluable for getting a replacement if the passport is lost or stolen.
- Confirm if the country your child is visiting requires a Visa for U.S. citizens. In some instances (ex. Cambodia and Egypt) you can easily get a visa at the airport when you arrive at your destination. In others, (ex. China and Vietnam) you will need to get a visa from the nation’s Consulate in the U.S. in advance of departure. Sometimes this process takes weeks.
- If your child has a serious allergy, carry an explanation of the allergy and warning in the country’s language so restaurants, first responders, etc. can be informed. Select Wisely (www.selectwisely.com) is a service that prints such warnings on cards in multiple languages.
- Visit the CDC for health information on your child’s international destination (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list). Be especially aware of any immunizations required for entry into a country and for current outbreaks (e.g. Yellow Fever card is required to enter Tanzania). Be sure to do this well in advance of travel as some immunizations require a waiting period before they are active.
- Pack a mini-medical kit with Band-Aids, ibuprofen, motion sickness meds, “traveler’s stomach” remedies, electrolyte powders, etc. (consult your doctor for additional advice on what to pack).
- Send your child with prescription medications and back-up prescriptions packed in a separate bag. This is particularly important when travel is in remote locations.
- Educate your child about international water and food safety. Remind that brushing teeth with tap water, drinks with ice (smoothies are notorious) and eating uncooked foods (salads) can lead to an upset stomach.
Clothing and Equipment:
- Encourage culturally sensitive and appropriate dress. For example, short shorts and tank tops don’t travel well in most developing countries.
- Leave expensive and coveted items at home. Keep a low profile and don’t be the traveler that thieves want to target.
- Confirm which plugs and adapters you will need for any electronics you will be carrying. U.S. style plugs generally will not work in most countries.
- Do a “practice pack” to make sure everything can fit in your bag. No need for panic on the eve of departure.
- Confirm that a cell phone will work in the country where your child is traveling. Will they need to purchase a SIM card for their U.S. phone to work when they arrive or is it better to buy an inexpensive local phone?
- Turn off cell phone automatic roaming and data downloads to avoid excessive international charges.
- Set up a communication schedule with your child. When and how often should you expect to hear from your traveler? Will it be on the internet or phone?
- Print up a list of emergency phone numbers for your child. The list should show how to reach these numbers from outside of the United States (i.e. country code, etc.).
- Register your child’s itinerary with the U.S. State Department’s “Step Program”. This alerts the local U.S. Embassy to the in-country presence of your child in the event of emergency. (https://step.state.gov/step/)
- Open up a bank account attached to an ATM or sign up for a pre-paid debit card (such as Visa Buxx) that can be used internationally. ATM machines are almost everywhere these days and provide a safe and easy way to exchange U.S. dollars into local currency. This system precludes the need to carry large amounts of cash.
- Pack separately a small amount of emergency cash at the bottom of your main luggage “just in case”.
- Confirm flight times and travel days. Every year ARCC has a handful of students who mistakenly made flight reservations for one day before or one day after the trip begins.
Adventures Cross-Country advocates meaningful travel as the best way to inspire teens to become Global Citizens. “I am extremely proud of the lasting impact that ARCC students have had on people, on communities and on the environment around the world,” reflects von Eschen. “Many of their travel experiences are life-changing as students learn to be contributing members of our global community.”
Adventures Cross-Country’s 50-page catalog details Community Service, Language Immersion and Multi-Sport programs in 21 countries on six continents for youth seeking a summer service learning experience, all while exploring cultures and communities off the beaten path. The full catalog in a digital version can also be viewed online: click here. To order a copy or to speak to a representative, call (415) 332-5075 or visit online: http://www.adventurescrosscountry.com/
About Adventures Cross-Country (ARCC)
Founded in 1983, ARCC has become a leading provider of Community Service, Service Learning and Adventure Travel programs for youth ages 13 to 19. For over 30 years ARCC has been offering life-changing experiences to students who participate in two- to four-week small group programs that visit 21 countries on six continents. From teaching primary school English and building water purification projects in Africa to running whitewater rapids in Costa Rica to enhancing fluency in Spanish or Mandarin in Spain or China, ARCC brings youth face to face with the challenges, realities and beauties of nature and our global community. For post-high school students ARCC operates Gap Programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These offer an educational and cultural bridge between high school and college combining a rich academic curriculum with the experiential benefits of international travel.
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