Ah, is there anything more delightful than summer reading? I know most people like to post a summer book list for you to gather before the season and read throughout the summer… but around here we’re not that organized! Instead, we’ve compiled a list of […]
I loved reading about Melissa’s favorite France blogs and podcasts even though we have no trips to France on the horizon. I thought I’d share a few blogs and specific articles that I’ve found helpful in planning our upcoming trip to Italy. I blame (in […]
So you’ve got your tickets booked for an exciting international trip! Now what? This international trip checklist is the fancy way of saying “here’s what runs through my head in the run-up to a trip”. Most of the bullet points listed below are truly 5 minute tasks, maybe 15 minutes maximum. (Unless you need to actually apply for or renew a passport, which if you plan ahead you can apply for on your own timetable and not in a last-minute panic!) I’d much rather deal with these little things bit by bit than all at once in a frenzy; I keep a running list on my phone so I (hopefully) don’t drop the ball on anything. Plus when it’s written down ahead of time it clears mental space and reduces stress. So here is my international trip checklist, aka, “stuff you want to do before you leave”!
6 months out
Or at least, as soon as you book tickets:
- Check passports: they don’t just need to be valid for your return flight, some countries require that they be valid for a certain number of months past your return date. For example, Germany requires 6 months validity after your return date, and France requires 3 months. Check the State Department page of the country you’re visiting (here’s France’s page). I double-checked a passport that was getting close-ish on IATA’s website (the International Air Transport Association — to which my airline directed me) for peace of mind. You input your travel dates and passport expiration date and it will tell you whether or not you’re good to go.
- Will you need a visa? If you’re traveling to the Schengen area, you currently don’t for stays less than 90 days. Again, check the State Department’s page for the country you’re planning to visit.
- Check/schedule any needed immunizations. (Guess who has that info? Bingo! The State Department pages!)
In addition, the State Department has a whole international trip checklist for travelers should you want to read more extensively about visas and such.
2-3 months out
- If your children are traveling internationally, but will not be traveling with both parents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection highly recommends that you have a notarized permission form from the absent parent(s). There is no official form, but you can find sample wording here, and further guidelines/explanations here. You may never be asked for it, but I’m bringing a letter just in case.
- Check the typical weather where you’re visiting: AccuWeather will give you average highs/lows for the weeks you’ll be traveling, so you have a general idea of what to expect. (Click on the “month” tab to select future/historical weather).
- Then, check that you have needed clothes and shoes for this weather! Living in South Louisiana, our summer/warm weather season sometimes lasts most of the year, so even just cool weather clothes take some planning on my part. I often need to buy fall/winter clothes before my children need them where we live. (Because kids never fit into last’s years clothes, amiright??) Planning your wardrobe early also helps you pack lightly; if you plan ahead you can see gaps and strategically purchase as little as possible for maximum versatility.
- Break in any new shoes; wear ‘em lots and make sure they’re comfortable!
- Book rooms. (See here and here.)
- Book any high-speed train tickets you may need. (The Man in Seat Sixty-One has a supremely helpful website all about train travel!)
- If you’re traveling with kids, check out books/movies/music from the library that are relevant to where you’ll be visiting! (I mean, I think this is great fun even you’re not traveling with kids. . .) If you get to read just one short book a week, they’ll have a robust framework for what they’ll see.
One Month/Two Weeks Out
- Stop mail/arrange to have it picked up.
- Make airport parking reservations, if necessary.
- Notify your bank/credit cards of your travel plans.
- Clear your calendar/hand off responsibilities: So, if you’re leaving on a trip, you’ve probably already figured out what events in your life someone might need to take care of while you’re gone. (Keys to a building? Documents? Books?) One time a certain treasurer left town without handing over her local professional association’s checkbook to anyone else. . . aannd there was a festival for which they needed to write checks. Yeah, that was me. . . Big oops!! Thankfully my mother rescued us all, but this time it’s on my list of things to take care of ahead of time!!
- Get a haircut a week or two before your trip.
Week of Your Trip
- Return/renew any library materials to avoid fines.
- Look up the weather forecast for the duration of your trip.
- Wash clothes and begin to pack. Yes, I am an annoying mother who packs most of my children’s clothes several days ahead of time! Clothes get selected (more on that in another post), washed, and packed away out of reach. No searching frantically for items or late-night laundry for me. . .
Ideally the week of your trip all you have to do is pack and get yourself to the airport, because everything else is taken care of!
The pictures I interspersed in this post are from a magical evening sitting outside the cathedral in Reims. We were jet-lagged, had just managed to find our room after a long search, we were eating take-away sandwiches from a boulangerie. . . and it was glorious. The view was incredible, the sandwiches were delicious, and we sat and looked at each other with wonder that we were actually in France. Hopefully this international trip checklist will cut down on the stress of planning a trip, but remember that the memories are worth the hassle!
My hubby and I sneaked away this spring for an overnight anniversary getaway in New Orleans (basically a staycation, but it was loverly). While we had the evening to ourselves we splurged on a nice dinner out at Compère Lapin (it was our anniversary, after […]
If you’re coming to visit New Orleans, you’ve quite likely got a swamp tour on your list of things to do. Deservedly so; it’s a unique glimpse into an unusual ecosystem, and an activity we often do with friends who visit us. Several companies based […]
There’s no doubt that when we gather in Pensacola, the main event is the beach. Also, eating, boating, and definitely coffee. But as we’ve added more and more kiddoes to our families, it’s occasionally nice to take a day off from all the sand and sunscreen and let the little ones enjoy an indoor activity. Enter – the Pensacola Children’s Museum. We discovered this downtown delight earlier this summer, and our kids are already anticipating their next trip.
The first floor is styled as a settlement from Pensacola’s Spanish colonial times. A trading post gives the kids a chance to practice their bartering skills or play grocer with the produce and meats. The older cousins loved the fort and cottage areas. It wasn’t long before they donned dress-up clothes (Coats! Muskets! Long dresses!) and were defending the fort the against the younger kids. (Wait until we teach them about the Alamo in American history! ;-)) The kids can also play pirates on The Galveston, a ship in the center of the exhibit. For the toddlers, there’s a cute farm area with age-appropriate toys.
The upstairs is segmented into small separate rooms with themes like military history, local Native American history, a book nook, and more! This does make it harder to keep a visual on small children. Especially when they scatter to the four winds, all wanting to play in different rooms! But the only way down is an elevator, so they can’t go too far. There’s plenty to entertain even the smallest visitors on the second floor, from a train table and building blocks to Duplos and an aircraft carrier activity table (pictured below).
Older kids and adults will enjoy exploring about local history through the displays in each room. I learned why the NAS Pensacola lighthouse has its stark black and white color scheme. You can also try your hand at tying nautical knots or learn the parts of a sailing ship through a informative wall mural. Of course, I’m assuming you can convince your kids to leave the Lego Brick Builder room! Whether a rainy day escape on a beach vacation or a break from the sun and sand, your kids are sure to love the Pensacola Children’s Museum!
Address: 115 E Zaragoza St, Pensacola, FL 32502
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10-4, Sunday 12-4, Closed Mondays. Of note – the first floor of the Children’s Museum is occasionally closed for birthday parties or school groups. In this case, the second floor is still open, but you may want to check the events calendar before you go.
Admission is quite reasonable at $8/adult and $4/child (ages 3-14) with $1 discount for seniors, military, and a few others (full ticketing info here). But then, your ticket is good for seven days, and grants you admission to eleven properties in Historic Pensacola, so it’s truly a bargain! If you’re local, Historic Pensacola memberships are $50 for individuals and $75 for families.
Of all the adventures Melissa’s and my kids had over early summer break, the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum was the surprise favorite. Sure, when we told the kids we were headed to the beach or the Pensacola Children’s Museum, or the Airplane Museum, they […]
Perhaps you’ve read enough posts around here to figure out that I (Melissa) love France. And France blogs and books. What’s not to love? The language is poetic, the French approach to food is almost reverent (creating meals that make you swoon), and the topography […]
Though the idea of being able to speak in a secret language with your friends has appealed since childhood, I think I really got the foreign language bug when we moved to Germany several years ago. We immediately enrolled our four year old in a local German kindergarten, and his younger brother followed suit as soon as he turned three. But after two years, it was time to move again and the search to find a German teacher or conversational group began.
I didn’t have much luck finding a teacher for the kids for the next two years that we lived in Maine, but I was able to locate a conversational group. Plus we hosted a German foreign exchange student for nine months (who is to this day an honorary member of our family!). Last summer, we moved to the Detroit area and like finding a church, fun kid activities, and the local library, finding a foreign language teacher was on my list of things to track down. Unfortunately, it took a backseat to unpacking and getting settled until Melissa began French lessons for her kids and her contagious enthusiasm prompted me to begin the search. So without further ado, below are some tips for how to find a foreign language teacher or conversational group in your area that Melissa and I have used:
For the purposes of this post, I’m using Detroit and the German language as an example (this is after all what I was looking for!). Obviously, you can apply these tips to search for whatever language you wish to study, wherever you live.
First, Google it! Here are some Google search examples:
- “German language Detroit”
This search alone pulls up a meetup at a downtown Detroit brewery and two meetups in different suburbs.
Other search terms that yield good results are:
- “German school Detroit”
- “Conversational German group Detroit”
- “Stammtisch Detroit”
Stammtisch literally means “regulars’ table” and it’s the term typically used in the US to describe conversational German groups. They frequently meet at breweries because they are German, after all! 😉 I did find one in the Detroit area that meets at a library though.
If a Google search yields no results, try searching the language section of meetup.com: https://www.meetup.com/find/language/
Finally, if all else fails, try contacting the embassy or consulate for the country where your foreign language is spoken. For example, the German embassy site has a tab on their website for Language & Education. From there, you can find a whole page on where to learn German, including listings of German language schools and German summer schools in the States. In Detroit, our closest German consulate is in Chicago, but there is an Honorary Consulate in Detroit and his phone number and email are listed. You could email your closest local representative to ask about language meetup groups or teacher recommendations if you weren’t able to find anything else in your area.
Even if you are just beginning your language journey, a meetup group can be a great resource for finding a teacher — or putting to use your new-found skills! If you’re like us, the hardest part of a conversational group will be overcoming your shyness about your language skills (or perceived lack thereof) enough to attend! Don’t let your fear of making mistakes prevent you from attending — everyone else there is learning and making mistakes too. We’re all on this journey together!
If French is your language of choice, a great resource is the Alliance Française. They are an international organization whose mission is to promote the learning of the the French language and culture. Melissa has now tried lessons for her kids and herself and an adult conversational group at her local chapter in New Orleans and has given glowing reports. You can find a map of their local chapters here.
As for my search for a German teacher in the Detroit area, I was able to find a school for bilingual German/American kids. Though that doesn’t apply to my children (they’ve lost a lot of their proficiency!), I contacted the principal to ask about private lessons. She put out an email to the teachers asking if any of them would be willing to tutor my kids. (As homeschoolers, our flexibility to meet outside the hours of the school was a nice selling point.) The kids have been taking private lessons for the past two months and I couldn’t be more pleased with their progress! Though Melissa already touched on this in her post, the accountability factor alone has been worth the cost to me! Speaking of cost, since price was one of the questions I had before we began lessons, I’ll share that here in case you too are considering language lessons. The rate is $50/hour and my two oldest are taking 30 minute lessons each, so they’re splitting the hour. We may increase that at some point or shift the distribution of the hour, but that’s where we’re at now. Incidentally, that matches the rate Melissa is paying in Louisiana and (from what I hear) is in line with what music lessons cost – think of it as a similar investment!
Hopefully these ideas are helpful as you seek to further your kids’ or your own education! Have a tip for finding a foreign language teacher or conversational group? Let us know in the comments below! I’ll likely be repeating this process myself in the next year or two (military life), so I’m all ears!