Traveling With Kids Part 1: Passports

 

Does the thought of traveling with kids give you hives or make you giddy with excitement… for me, it’s a little of both!

There have been many MOMnation posts asking questions about traveling with kids, so we hope to tackle a few of these common questions in the blog!  The first one is asked often: When Do You Need a Passport and Where?  And how do you get one?

Perhaps the best advice I’ve ever heard, from a fellow East Valley Mom, was to not call all trips vacations, even if it is “Spring Break” or “vacation time.” Some trips are just trips…. A lot of packing, travel, effort – worth it, but NOT relaxing.  Some trips are vacations and time to have fun, unwind, relax.  The MOST important thing to enjoy and survive a trip with kiddos is to manage your expectations of what the trip will be.  And…. Plan more vacations and fewer trips!

After over 100 flights with littles, hauling baby gear, breast pumps, strollers, so many security searches, and dealing with sea sickness and kiddo barf in a rental car (longest, smelliest 7 hour drive EVER… ironically – one of the most memorable)!  I can say emphatically, manage expectations and that will make your trip and your kids’ experiences much better.  And, I can’t say this enough, you never EVER have to make “I’m sorry for my toddler” bags for people around you on planes, unless the guy with the tuna sandwich or snapping gum plans to give you one too. Families have a right to travel and fly, and to do it without hassle from other travelers OR mom-guilt.

On to passports: Laws have changed over the years and the enforcement of passport rules can vary by area/checkpoint. But the State Department has clear rules (as do other countries) about what must be presented, and it seems enforcement has gotten more strict at the border since we were kids.  Even if you have heard, my friend said she didn’t have to show her license, even…. last time we went a few years ago, etc. It is always best to recheck both the State Department current guidelines and travel advisories before leaving the country.  It’s also important to note, this advice pertains to short trips, not long stays in countries that may require Visas and other documents.  You should always check the State Department for the specific requirements of the country you are traveling to.

Travel advisories are important as well.  They are advice.  In very few countries does the State Department actually prohibit travel, but you should know before you go.  If there are travel warnings, you must be aware and make a conscious choice to still take the trip.  We recently traveled overseas with a large group, including many kids, to a country that had an active advisory.  We went with a plan to be very observant, clear rules for adults and kids about safety, and stayed in tourist-friendly and “safe” areas.  We also signed up and registered our travel with the State Department so they could alert us in the event of any activity, and I’m glad we did.  The trip went well but I was glad we had the information before we left and to know we would be alerted in the event of a security concern.

Here are the details on land/air/sea travel and what you need for documents:

For Mexico:

If traveling by land you can use a passport card.  This is the size of a driver’s license, but NOT a driver’s license. Few places now accept only a driver’s license to reenter the U.S., and there are no guarantees that even if you did a year ago or years ago, you will be allowed back in the country.  If you plan to visit Mexico by land, get a passport card or passport.

The passport card allows for re-entry ONLY FROM LAND from Mexico, Canada, and sea port re-entry from the Caribbean or Bahamas.

If traveling by air even to Mexico or another country, you will MUST get a passport book.  These are more expensive but far more useful/used for more purposes, and also can be used for a variety of identity verifications in business and life.

Due to increased regulations, there is no guarantee that a driver’s license will allow re-entry into the country, or a birth certificate for a child.  I highly recommend not taking the risk.  Some will disagree with me, but after reading some of the stories from moms who have been stopped at the border, I highly recommend getting passports for ANY travel outside the country.  Due to the increase in child trafficking, border crossings are doing much more screening for this and it is important to be able to prove the relationship with your child (which is what a passport provides).

For air travel INSIDE the country, you do NOT need a passport, you need a state approved and AIR approved ID and I usually take my kids’ birth certificates or passports.  I have NEVER in 100+ flights been asked for this traveling domestically but I like to have it with me just in case.  Arizona licenses are only good through October 1, 2020 (next year!) for air travel.  Then you will need an air-approved ID or passport.  I recommend just getting a passport.

To obtain a passport card or passport, there are multiple requirements.  I recommend filling out the paperwork at home, getting the photos at CVS or Walgreens, and then presenting this packet at a local office (there are many in Phoenix Metro area).  This ensures that your documents are all in order and speeds up the process.  To obtain a passport or passport card for a child, both parents must be present or have a signed affidavit from the second parent – in order to avoid parents taking a child out of the country in a custody battle.  You need a birth certificate to prove citizenship and parent relationship, the other parent or a document giving consent, and passport-approved photos for the child.

If you need a passport quickly, there is a Tucson passport office that has fast-track appointments available and passports within two-weeks or even the same day in the event of a (provable) life-or-death emergency – i.e. a family member with a grave illness, etc.  Information below.

There are many passport expediting agencies that claim to get your passport faster.  I used one of these when I lived in D.C.  It did make the paperwork slightly less overwhelming but I found out I could have done the exact same thing for far less cost, and had it expedited as well, just applying myself.

Expedited service is usually within two weeks (barring a government shutdown), and regular service within four.  However, I requested expedited and received mine in just over a week.  You must send off original documents with the application, so be aware of that and watch for them to come back!  My best advice is plan travel as far as possible ahead and apply early for your passport!

Here is how to determine what passport/passport card you need:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/card.html

Here is the information on the Tucson location (you do NOT need to go here to expedite service, only if you need the passport for an emergency or trip in less than 2 weeks): https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/where-to-apply/passport-agencies/western.html

Applying for a Passport for Children, rules vary for under 16 and 16/17 year olds:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/under-16.html

Cost to obtain a passport card is $50-65, about half of the passport fee ($115-$145), rates vary based on renewals/new, adult/child.  Expediting fee is $60 per passport on top of the usual fees:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/fees.html

Where to Apply:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/where-to-apply.html

Check the State Department for safety advisories:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html

Travel advice, and registration for traveler advisories:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel.html

by: Liz D, Tempe Mom

 

Check out this awesome LIKE new home – 5 bedroom / 3 bath with pool in tempe! 
This and more at EvoAZ.com

 

 

 

Family Friendly Camping in Northern AZ

The idea of camping is vastly different to each of us.  If you have spent time camping as a child, it can have a Christmas/holiday type excitement.  Then, as you start to drift back down from reminiscing, logic and reality spark.  How many diapers do we need?  Did we pack toys?  When should we leave so that nap is not interrupted?  Do we have enough room?  Will we be warm or too cold?  The list goes on…

When camping with kids it’s always easier and more fun to go with other friends who have kids because it takes a village..lol  This will allow the kids to have a blast while entertaining each other, creating memories and exploring nature.  It will also give you the time needed to unplug from the trenches of parenthood and drink a beer with your fellow soldiers.

This was our first camping trip as a family and we decided to rent an RV.   We used RV rental outlet in Mesa AZ.  They were awesome and very easy to deal with.  Most of our friends have pop-up campers.  We realized, after renting an RV, that it’s nice to be able to disconnect from the pop-up and have a vehicle to go into town and or explore some trails.  We later purchased a pop-up because of this and a few other reasons.

Where to go?  Are you trying to escape the heat? It was helpful to check the weather in the area that you are thinking of visiting.

In AZ you usually want to be above 6,000 feet in elevation to get 70/80s when its 105+ in valley.  Most of lower lying areas like Payson and Prescott still hit 100s during the day in the summer.  This can make things the opposite of fun quickly.

We decided to go to a campground, Yavapi Campground to be exact, that requires reservations, has bathrooms, is closer in proximity to town and is 3 hours or less from Phoenix.  Keep in mind that cell service can be non-existent in some of these areas.  If you have a job that requires checking in, this could  make or break your true relaxation.  Research the options for connecting to ensure that you can connect when needed but still enjoy the feeling of being disconnected.   Verizon service was the strongest and existent in many areas while AT&T had no service anywhere at the campground.

When to go?  Make sure to check availability especially if traveling on a holiday.  Campsites fill up quickly and most are reserved for holidays 30+ days in advance.

The drive up to Yavapai was super simple from Phoenix.  Mostly I17.  Consider the traffic going north on Fridays and south on Sundays.  It’s best to hit the road before 3pm or after 6pm.

Yavapai Campground is 10 minutes from downtown Prescott, food & supplies.  It is less than 1.5 miles from Lynx Lake.  It’s within walking distance to the campground but beware, it’s downhill to the lake but uphill all the way back.  It might be best to take the car if you have little littles.

 

The next thing we did was make a “to do” list a few days in advance, listing all supplies from clothes (be sure to include warm clothes for nighttime) to household supplies like dish soap, paper towels and garbage bags.  We planned to make and eat most of our meals at the campground so the list continued with cooking supplies, food, snacks, cookware and storage supplies.  Of course, we could not forget the most important part, S’mores supplies!!  We did work out a “meal share” plan with our friends which basically means each family is in charge of one meal feeding the entire clan.  We each took our turn and it worked out great!

We had a great time and would fully recommend this campground to anyone looking for family friendly Prescott camping areas.

 

 

Matt Lambert is a local Realtor, super Dad and lover of the great outdoors. Find out more about Matt at EvoAZ.com.

 

Want to live close to the great outdoors but still be close to the freeway system and work?  Located at Val Vista and McKellips, this 4 bedroom home is not only affordable but in a great location, just a quick drive to the lake or mountains!  Details here or call 480-250-0023.

 

 

How to Fly on an Airplane like an Expert with Toddlers and Preschoolers!

Traveling to new destinations is so much fun, but the question is how to get there. Yes, you can drive, but that only gets you so far and it can take a long time. As a family we love to fly, it’s fast and simple once you know what you are doing.
 
First, figure out the logistics of the trip:
 
When to Fly: When choosing your flight consider length of the flight, age of your child, time zone changes, and price of the ticket. When Ethan was 5 months old, we did a red eye from Honolulu to Phoenix. The timing worked well because he was small enough to sleep anywhere and we all slept for most of the flight. That being said, we have found that generally the kids are not going to sleep on the flight for a nap. There’s just too much noise and activity. If they do fall asleep, it’s at the very end of the flight when they have to be still for landing. We shoot for a midmorning or evening flight and just know that the kids won’t sleep well during the day and will need to go to bed early. Midmorning is nice because you don’t have to wake up early to leave, but you aren’t rushed by the end of the day.
 
Where to Sit: We always sit about 2/3 of the way to the back of the plane. We like to be closer to the bathroom (but not too close), but also not in the front where all the serious people sit. It does take a little longer to get off the plane, but we don’t mind because we typically end up waiting for our luggage at baggage claim anyway.
 
Next, here are some great tips for navigating airplane travel with little ones:
 
Show up early: Kids are slow. It’s much easier to navigate the airport, manage security, and find your game without stressing about time.
 
Check your Car Seat with the Luggage and Your Stroller at the Gate: When the kids were smaller, we didn’t put them in car seats on the plane. If you do, then you can take it through security and buckle it in when you board. We always chose to check the car seat but bring the stroller into the airport. The stroller is an amazing tool to have in the airport especially if you have more than one kid or your kids are runners.  You can use the stroller to hold the kids or the luggage and you can check it right at the gate. Just make sure to get a tag before boarding.
 
Have a Plan to Get Through Security: When we go through security, I manage the kids and Victor manages the luggage. This is the most efficient way to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. If it’s just me and the kids, I make sure our luggage is through security and then the kids and I go through.
 
Board with Family Boarding: Many airlines offer family boarding. Take advantage of this. You can possibly board before your ticketed zone, find overhead storage for your bags, and settle the kids.
Meet the Pilot: Many pilots are happy to meet the kids before the flight. My kids started doing this at about age 3 and love to meet the pilot on every flight.
 
Bring Entertainment: Make sure you think about the best entertainment for your child. Here are 10 Great Items to Bring with You! (http://veganfamilytravels.com/2018/09/11/10-must-haves-for-an-airplane-with-kids/)
Go potty: Before you land, make sure anyone who is potty trained and might have to go, goes to the restroom. Ethan has a habit of telling us he needs to go potty when we land and it’s nearly impossible to get to the front or the back of the plane while everyone is waiting to get off.
 
Pick up Your Luggage: After we get off the plane, we had over to the baggage claim. We let the kids stretch their legs, go potty if needed, and take our time. By the time we get there, we hope that our bags are ready and we can continue our adventure!
 
Use these tips to navigate airline travel like a pro! What’s your best tip for traveling with kids?  Please leave us a comment!  We’d love to hear from you.
 

You can follow Vegan Family Travels adventures at www.veganfamilytravels.com,www.facebook.com/veganfamilytravels, and https://www.instagram.com/veganfamilytravelsus/.

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