Intelligence Brief: Traveling Abroad with Kids

June 15, 2015

Given the nature of my work in Homeland Security, I am a pretty good business traveler. I can pack pretty light, get through lines very quickly, and sort of scoff at the families that I pass by in line, overburdened with luggage and everything else.

But I have to say when I travel with my kids, I'm a mess. In fact, I am so bad that my kids have come to believe they have two mothers: one is normal me, a bit free range; then there is the other mother which my kids have described as "airport mom." She comes out the morning before a big trip; airport mom is mean, she's unforgiving, she views delays in travel as personal slights. The kids kind of hide from airport mom until we're firmly ensconced in the airplane and ready to take off. 

I recognize the stresses of traveling with kids, and as we head into this summer season, more and more people are traveling. So I wanted to impart three quick rules to remember, especially when traveling abroad with kids:

1. Get informed - Simply put: The Internet is a magical thing. Go online to the CDC to find about infectious diseases that might be spreading in your destination country. The State Department website is also a great resource. You want to arrive on location with what's called "situational awareness" -- are there places in the country you should avoid? Are there vaccines that you need?

2. Be prepared - If your kids have allergies, you could consider getting an allergy card printed in the foreign language of the country you are visiting. Through the consulate website, you can also find a list of doctors that speak English in the area. Another basic thing that people often forget: make sure your kids know the name of your hotel in case you get separated. 

3. Be smart - Most people who die abroad from unnatural causes die from car accidents, so don't forget to wear your seatbelt just because your cab is in Italy instead of Indiana. After car accidents, another big danger is drowning; from July 2013 to June 2014, only 13 people died abroad from terrorist attacks.

A final tip: I always keep copies of passports and birth certificates with me, in a separate bag from the originals. You know never know what could arise, and this way you'll always know you have proof of who is  your child, and where you reside. 

Security Mom is a podcast hosted by Juliette Kayyem that aims to unpack how the strange and secretive world of national security works. Subscribe to the Security Mom podcast in iTunes.


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