1. Always consult with your primary doctor well before making a trip abroad and reference the Center for Disease Control (CDC)for any specific precautions for the destination you'll be traveling too. Your doctor will make sure you have all of the appropriate vaccinations and medications relevant to your trip and length of time you'll be away.
2. Be sure to always keep your medications in the prescription bottle at all times during travel and always keep your medications in your travel carry-on. Sometimes your doctor and your insurance company will allow extra dosages based on your trip length, but ask in advance or during your travel medical appointment. Keep your personal doctor's contact information, medication lists or letter from your doctor if you need any special accommodations and insurance information in your carry-on luggage.
3. Some families utilize the services of an International Medical Travel clinic, but most likely your doctor and the CDC can cover your needs. You'll want to also check the Visa page for your country destination to be sure you're not caught without proper documentation if required for entry. You can find the correlating embassy by visiting the country page on the Department of State's Intercountry Adoption website.
4. If you or your child will have any specific medical needs or mobility issues, it's good to communicate with your airline in advance of ticket purchase to be sure you can be accommodated safely. Some airlines have restrictions on the level of medical fragility they will permit to board. It's best to check and get it in writing between your doctor and the airline if possible. Know your passenger rights on inter country flights as well as domestic flights.
5. Don't forget travel insurance! Travel insurance, health and life policies. Are they up to date? Another level of security is your home owners policy. Be sure to check the policy, because in many cases if you have anything broken or destroyed while traveling, your home owners insurance may cover the loss. If you have a medical emergency, be sure you call your provider to get authorization in advance. Call your insurance provider before you leave to be sure you understand the limits of your coverage.
6. Before a family travels abroad to bring their child home, they have usually had a consult with an International Medical Adoption Specialist that assists families in evaluating the child's health and needs. This doctor will already be familiar with your child's specific needs and may be able to make recommendations for specific medications or care your child may need while abroad or during travel. Evaluations and consultations can be from $250-$850 and offer an array of amenities that can fit every family's needs or budget. Look for the doctor that can review your child's information ongoing as you get updates, that will make specific requests for screenings, tests etc to help you better understand your child's developmental progress while waiting, and of course, be available during and after you return home to see your child's medical and developmental goals are being met. Some clinics will even skype with you during your child's medical evaluation while abroad. The clinics can be a wealth of resources and are worth every penny.
7. While you are in country, you can also avail yourself of the embassy panel physician. You can find the list of embassy approved physicians on the US embassy website for the country you are in. Again, check with your insurance provider to be sure your visit is covered for reimbursement when you return home. Save all of your receipts, prescriptions and notes. Your regular doctor will want to follow up on the treatment.
8. And of course, always check for travel warnings for the countries you would be traveling or transiting through. You'll want to be sure to register with the US embassy for emergency events, evacuations or terror threats.
9. What to pack? Keep in mind culture expectations, season and purpose. Always respect the culture and research what is socially expected of men, women and children. This is not the time to let your "patriotism" shine with casual t-shirts with cartoons or offensive sayings that are always taken out of context when abroad. Consider yourself an ambassador of your country, your agency and your family - put your best foot forward with clean, conservative and appropriate attire.
In most countries, men and women do not wear shorts or revealing leggings. If arms or legs are to be covered in modesty, please respect this no matter the weather. In many countries, women are expected to cover their heads with a scarf if entering a temple, synagogue, mosque or church. Definitely respect this custom or you could find yourself asked to leave or publicly scolded by the attendants.
Women often pack their hair dryers and straight irons. If at all possible avoid using them while abroad. Your hair tools are not made for the same voltage and despite using a voltage converter and adapter, it harms or destroys the tools. If you need a hair dryer, you can consider purchasing one to use while abroad from a local market to be safe and protect your dryer.
10. Converters and adapters are easily and cheaply purchased while abroad. You'll get the correct and safest ones from a local market while there. Otherwise you will end up carrying a bag full of useless accessories. Purchasing a power strip is a great bargain as well. Consider leaving it with your facilitator for your future trip if two or more trips are needed or pass to the next traveling family.
11. If you must exercise while abroad, find a gym and inquire about a day pass. It is typically unsafe to run or jog while abroad due to roaming packs of dogs, lack of running paths, broken pavers and roads and the general lack of regard for the safety of pedestrians, much less runners. There is the other matter of becoming lost or being a victim of crime to consider. You are vulnerable and your purpose while abroad is to be a positive and healthy member of your family, carrying your family home safely.
Experienced travelers always pack interchangeable clothing items that are dark and complimentary to avoid excess luggage weight, resist showing stains and respects others you are working within country. Keep your wardrobe in short rotation. You will not likely have access to laundry facilities and if you do, rare is it you will find a dryer aside from a line to drip dry wet items. Most washing machines take an extraordinary amount of time to wash a single small load, which makes hand washing clothing preferable.
Robin E. Sizemore, Executive Director, Hopscotch Adoptions, Inc