Your child has been living abroad for months, and you may want to visit them at some point during their stay. Visiting your child abroad can be a confusing experience. But whether you're a seasoned traveler or just getting your passport for the first time, you'll do fine if you follow these 10 tips.
1. Booking a Flight
Finding a cheap ticket can depend on how flexible your schedule is. Manipulating your vacation time helps. By leaving on Monday instead of Saturday, you can most likely save on your ticket price. Use price comparison sites like Kayak to help you find a great deal. USA Today also has a great article about researching and booking reasonable international flights.
2. Getting Your Hotel or Accommodations in Order
The more information you find on your lodging options, the safer they should be. When booking online, see if the checkout website starts with "https:" instead of "http:" as this denotes a secure website. Always print and take the confirmation e-mail with you.
3. Learning the Language
The best and most affordable way to learn some lingo is by checking out language books and CDs at your library. You could maybe even enroll in a class near home. Computer programs are expensive and usually not any more successful. Before you leave be sure to research and download language apps for your smartphone, as they are a great resource to have when in a bind. Many of these are free or cost around a dollar and cover the basics you'll need while traveling.
4. Trains, Subways, and Shoe Leather
Most of your time will probably be spent on your feet, so find comfortable walking shoes that won't give you blisters and have plenty of support. Do not wear a pair of brand new shoes! If you buy a new, comfortable pair, you'll still want to try to break them in a bit before the trip.
Also, you'll probably use a lot of public transportation. While you will be able to follow your child's lead when riding buses or subways, keep a small public transit map handy, especially if you go adventuring on your own. There are also smartphone apps you can download to help you navigate the intricacies of transportation throughout the city you're visiting.
5. Changing Currency
It's often cheaper to withdraw money at a foreign ATM and pay a small fine than to take cash and have it changed over at the airport. Your bank may even partner with foreign banks so you could even avoid an ATM fee. Rules differ from bank to bank, so check first.
6. Choosing Places to Visit
There are so many attractions listed in travel books that are "must-sees." But your child has been living here, so ask her to show you some of her favorite places. Plus, she'll have the inside scoop on sites off the beaten path, free museum hours, and good restaurants to visit. Give your child a chance to show you everything she's learned.
7. Dining Out Right
First things first: stay away from the golden arches. Second, despite bold promises of authenticity, most of the cuisine you will find along the beaten path is not. Look for the places where locals eat. How do you find them? If you have a very good guidebook or certain phone apps, they should point you in the right direction.
But you usually won't have to look further than your child. She's been living here for months and will want to share her favorite spots. Just a side note, never eat somewhere that has a host outside persuading you to come in. Their reputation should speak for itself.
8. Making Experiences Paramount
You'll want to take home some mementos, but instead of visiting every gift shop, spend extra time taking it all in. Why get a t-shirt or plate set if you don't take the time to reflect on the masonry and stained glass, cobblestones and sculptures? Photos and collages capture memories more than any keychain can.
9. Keeping in Contact
It's hard to survive without a cell phone these days, but international plans are expensive. If you want to take your phone just in case, you can put your phone on airplane mode and still use WiFi.
If you don't want to rely on your cell phone, consider leaving it at home while you're abroad. Sometimes getting lost in a foreign city is when you see the best sites or have the most fun adventures.
10. Taking the Backseat
Let your child be in charge. When in doubt, go with what they say — you might be surprised at how well they know the city after such a short time! Just think about how much they've learned and enjoy the cultural ride.
For more tips, check out this article about traveling abroad on Consumerist.