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Travel6 tips to prepare for extended trips abroad

6 tips to prepare for extended trips abroad

Last year, my husband’s job afforded us the opportunity to live in Zurich for the summer. It was our first time doing something like this, and it was an eye-opening experience filled with breathtaking landscapes, delicious food and, of course, some challenges.

With remote work becoming more prevalent, many families are considering similar extended stays abroad. The chance to immerse yourself in a new culture, explore different settings and create lasting memories can be hard to pass up.

As we prepare to embark on our second summer abroad in Europe, I’ve compiled a list of essential things to consider before an extended international trip, especially when you have kids in tow. Here’s a guide to ensure your adventure is as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Get travel insurance


One of the most critical preparations you can make is securing travel insurance that covers both routine and urgent care. This is especially important if you’re traveling with kids like I am.

Over a long period away, there are bound to be bumps, bruises and the occasional virus. Travel insurance that includes coverage for these minor but frequent issues can save you a lot of stress and money.

It’s essential to research plans that offer comprehensive coverage, including doctor visits and emergency care. Look for policies that cover outpatient care, prescription medications and hospital stays. This way, you’re prepared for anything, from a scraped knee at the park to a fever in the middle of the night.

Luckily, we didn’t have an incident last year, but given that our son is prone to getting strep, it gives us peace of mind that our travel insurance would cover the visit to a local clinic.

As with any type of insurance, before you purchase a policy, be sure to read what is covered and what is excluded, adhere to any time limitations (some policies will only cover trips up to 30, 45 or 90 days) and check that it includes any benefits you think you might need in case of an emergency.

Manage your mail


Managing your mail while away for a long time is another crucial aspect to consider. You don’t want to return home to a mountain of letters and packages, or, worse, miss important correspondence while you’re away.

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There are a couple of ways to handle this: You can have your mail held at the post office or forwarded to a trusted friend or family member.

Last summer, we opted to forward mail to my sister’s house. She kept us updated on anything urgent and even opened a few letters for us to handle immediately. We’ll be doing the same again this year.

The United States Postal Service also lets you sign up for a scanning service to see the mail you receive so you can stay on top of any significant items. Another option is to have your mail come to your home as usual and have someone check it for you.

Whatever you decide, make a plan. It’s a small step that can prevent a lot of hassle and ensure you don’t miss anything important while enjoying your time abroad.

Research housing options


Securing suitable housing is a top priority, especially if you’re planning an extended stay. Start your search early to find a place that fits your family’s needs and budget.

Last year, we got an Airbnb just outside of central Zurich. It was still within walking distance of grocery stores and public transportation, so we didn’t have to rent a car. This location was perfect for us because it offered convenience and a taste of local life.

When choosing accommodations, consider your priorities: Proximity to public transport, availability of grocery stores, parks for the kids and a sense of community could all be top criteria for you. Also think about specifics like whether fast Wi-Fi or air conditioning is included.

Websites like Airbnb and HomeAway and local real estate agents can be valuable resources when it comes to selecting a location. This year, we’re returning to the same rental because it felt like home away from home.

Ensure you have all documentation up to date


Before packing your bags, ensure all your legal and documentation requirements are in order. This includes passports, visas, any other necessary permits and whether your passport needs to be valid for a certain number of months post-arrival. Check the expiration dates on your family’s passports, and apply for renewals if needed.

Additionally, some countries require specific vaccinations or health certificates, so be sure to check those requirements well in advance.

Some countries also impose time limits on foreigners’ stays. In Switzerland, for instance, you can only stay for at most 90 days in any 180-day period, so make sure you’re aware of any similar regulations in your destination.

Last year, even though I thought I had plenty of time to renew my passports, wait times were longer than usual. So, my renewed passport arrived a day before we were supposed to leave, which taught us the importance of triple-checking all documentation. Ensuring your paperwork is in order can prevent unexpected interruptions to your trip.

Have a financial plan


Financial planning is key to a stress-free stay abroad. Notify your bank and credit card companies about your travel plans to avoid any issues with international transactions. Research the cost of living in your destination to budget accordingly, too.

Given the strength of the Swiss franc, a stay in Switzerland can get expensive quickly. Last year, we experienced a bit of sticker shock at places like the grocery store. So, this year, we’re better prepared with a more detailed budget.

Additionally, look into getting a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees to save on extra costs that can quickly add up. Additionally, make sure any bills you need to pay are set up on auto-pay or that you get a digital version.

Choose the right mobile plan


Staying connected with loved ones back home is important, especially on longer trips. Set up an international phone plan or consider using apps like WhatsApp, Skype or Zoom for free or inexpensive communication. We switched our cellphone plans before last summer to new plans with unlimited international data so we could maintain our numbers without incurring high costs. Alternatively, you could opt for a short-term international phone or SIM card that might be cheaper than purchasing a temporary international plan with your current carrier.

Plan ahead and keep these tips in mind to increase your odds of having everything go smoothly while abroad. That way, you can concentrate on the experience itself. From nailing down the right insurance to sorting out your mail, every little detail helps turn your summer abroad into a fantastic adventure for the whole family.


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