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Take the Family › Checklist of Family Travel Essentials

A Checklist of Family Travel Essentials

Children packing their suitcaseChildren packing their suitcase

By Rhonda Carrier

It takes so long to decide on and organise a family holiday that it’s easy to overlook essentials that might throw your trip into jeopardy. We’ve put together a checklist of things that you must do before booking a holiday abroad.

Passports and Visas

Check at least four weeks ahead of your holiday that everyone’s passport is still valid – it’s easy to forget, as many parents find out to their cost, that children’s passports (up to the age of 15) expire every 5 years rather than every 10. And five years goes past very quickly!

It is possible to get a fast-track passport, either within 2 weeks (by post) or by making an appointment and travelling to a regional office to take advantage of their Premium One-day Service, but it will cost you dearly (for the One-day Service: £94 for a child’s passport, as compared to £46 for an ordinary renewal). Also, bear in mind that fast-track is not available for first passports for either adults or children, for those making changes to existing passports (for instance, those changing their name), or for those replacing a lost, stolen or damaged passport. For those using the One-Day Service, be aware that there’s a lengthy form to fill in online and then print out, and that before you head off for your appointment it requires a signature by two people who have known the child for at least two years (preferably a doctor and a teacher).

You should also note that certain countries require your passport to be valid for 6 months AFTER the date you travel. For all matters relating to passports, see the official website. For entry requirements to all countries, including the need for visas, see the Foreign Office & Commonwealth guidelines.

Health and Insurance

Keep checking the Foreign Office & Commonwealth website (see above) for the latest travel warnings, including countries or areas to be avoided, and for swine flu updates that might affect your travel plans.

As soon as you decide on your destination, with your doctor or health centre what vaccinations you need. Depending on the country, you may need to start your vaccinations 4-6 weeks in advance, and sometimes up to 3 months, as some countries require a course of injections. It is also ideal that you receive your last injection at least 2 weeks before you travel, to ensure the highest level of immunity.

Don’t travel without insurance, but before you buy a stand-alone policy check that you are not already covered by your bank account or credit card. If you are, note that you do need to use the relevant account or card to actually pay for your travel and accommodation in order to benefit from the cover. Whatever form of insurance you have, check that it covers you for last-minute cancellations due to accident or illness (a must during the current swine flu pandemic).

In addition to full travel insurance, if you’re travelling within the EU, make sure each member of the family has a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitling them to free or reduced emergency care (although you actually pay upfront and reclaim the money on your return). To apply for a card online, click on the website, allowing 10 days for delivery to your home address.

Make a note of the address and telephone number of the nearest British embassy or consulate in your destination – you’ll need it if your passport is lost or stolen, if you’re a victim of crime, if you have to be admitted to hospital, if you need money transferring from the UK, or if you’re arrested. These contact details are available on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office site (see above), where you can also now register your upcoming visit to any country and have it logged by the embassy in case of an emergency such as a natural catastrophe, when you might need to be located and helped, or when relatives back home might be trying to find you.

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