We consider ourselves to be seasoned travelers. We go abroad every year with the kids and have since they were newborns. Yet on our last trip, we ran into several problematic incidents which I feel could have been avoided had we had foresight or consideration from the other side.
As much as I enjoy traveling abroad and experiencing life in faraway lands, I have to admit that it is somewhat easier and less rigid in the United States. Here are 10 money-saving strategies and things to be aware of before you go on your next international trip, particularly when traveling with kids. When you have precious cargo with you, you certainly want to avoid longer waits or additional charges.
- Pay attention when booking your flight to the fine print on printing your boarding pass. Some airlines now require that you print out the boarding passes before you arrive at check-in. If you click the box agreeing to this, you have no discourse. We recently flew from Manchester to Tel Aviv on Jet2 Airlines and were charged 17 pounds each for not printing the passes in advance. The staff was very inflexible and did not care whether my husband noticed this small detail or not. In their mind, it was a done deal and we were instantly charged for printing the boarding passes on paper they would soon throw away and give us proper tickets in place of.
- This is a very obvious detail, to everyone but myself, but it is important to note that airlines do not allow snow globes in packed luggage. This caused me a bit of trouble on my last flight home from England. When security threatened to confiscate them all, I opted to check in my bag to send them all home. I was then told it would cost 45 pounds to ship an extra bag home. Thankfully, my niece later went to the airport to collect a bag I left at Left Luggage (which of course cost a hefty 5 pounds a day – shelf space is expensive!).
- American Express does provide liability, and you can use it when renting cars in place of buying their very expensive auto insurance. However, there are six countries that don’t accept Amex as liability – Israel is one of them. Unfortunately, we found this out after being allowed to book the car using Amex in Tel Aviv and realized two days later in Jerusalem that it wasn’t valid. When we went to add insurance, it took us nearly two hours.
- As mentioned in #2, baggage restrictions have gotten very strict and seem to be stricter abroad. You will be charged for bags that are over the weight allowed and definitely more for extra bags.
- Hotels often charge you to park. They do the in the UK, anyway. Our hotel in London cost 15 pounds a day; in Manchester it cost 5 pounds per day. Ask beforehand so there is no surprise.
- When eating out with your family, don’t order dishes for everyone. To save money, share. For some reason, you have to order water quite often; it won’t be brought out automatically. Don’t wait to ask for it.
- Many international flights don’t offer any food, or drinks. Bring snacks, sandwiches. We encountered this on our flight to Iceland last year. This time we experienced it on a flight from Manchester to Tel Aviv and back.
- Many flights don’t offer TV or video either, so make sure to bring your portable DVD player, DS Nintendo, iPhones. You will not be sorry. At all.
- Hotels charge astronomical fees for WIFI. Rather than pay for it there, find cafes nearby that offer free WIFI. Sit, have a coffee and spend much less than the hotel charges.
- Lastly, most museums abroad do charge free admission. They are all free in London. There are free outdoor shows, great playgrounds, fantastic landmarks to explore. You don’t have to spend big bucks to entertain young kids. Keep it simple.
To avoid any surprises, do your research before you leave. Print out everything you need to need to know about anything at all. You may not have internet or phone access for a while, depending on where you are and how much you are willing to spend.
Expect the unexpected, especially if you are going abroad, and be prepared to feel slightly unprepared. But always keep in mind that there is nothing better than showing your kids the world.