While some of us are seasoned travelers, many parents often
have concerns and questions when they decide to send their students on any
trips, either sponsored by Sewickley Academy or independent of the school. Whether you have decided to send your child to Costa Rica, France or Australia, you can make preparations in advance on your own. Here are some basic tips:
- Check your child’s passport. If he or she does not have one already, you need to get an application from your local post office. Have your child’s passport photos taken at a local drugstore, big box store, or a portrait picture place; just remember to specify that these are for international passports. Once you have the application and photo, you must make an appointment to take these, your child, and your spouse either to the local courthouse or the post office. In most cases, the passport application must be signed by both parents in front of a witness. If you have a non-traditional family, check with the courthouse or the post office about signature requirements. Passports usually cost somewhere between $105-$140, so have your check ready; debit and credit cards are not accepted. Also, passports take up to eight weeks to process, so be sure to apply well in advance of your travel. If your child already has a passport, make sure that it is up to date. If the passport expires within six months of the travel date, it must be renewed. In other words, if your child is traveling in June, but his/her passport expires in October of the same year, it is time to renew. You can do this following similar steps for the new application.
- Check to see if the country requires a tourist visa. An internet search should provide helpful information on what is required for each country, and many countries have an online application. Once obtained, the visa will then be electronically posted on your child’s passport record, but be sure to print out and keep copies of the receipt in case there is any trouble at the airport.
- Be sure to obtain a contact number in the destination
country. Having a number helps to alleviate a lot of anxiety for parents sending their children away for the first time. International numbers start with 011, then the country code, then the area code (sometimes minus the 0 in front), and then the phone number.
- Educate yourselves about the local customs. Buy a book about customs in a local book store or go online and search by the specific country. The information may be very helpful in speaking with your child about cultural differences!
- Check the weather and seasons for the country to which your child is traveling. Summer in the USA means winter in Australia, but the sun is still much stronger there than here in Pittsburgh. It may rain extensively in Cambridge, England, during hot and muggy summers in Western Pennsylvania. Anticipating climates will help your child to pack more sensibly.
- Check out your child’s location on Google Earth. If you do not have this application already, download it. Seeing the geography and the pictures of each destination will help to give you a more concrete idea about your child’s trip and put your mind at ease.
While you cannot prepare for every contingency, being more informed will help
both you and your child enjoy his/her prospects for international
About The Author: Ingeborg O'Mahony is a Senior School foreign language at Sewickley Academy. This blog post originally appeared on the Sewickley Academy blog.