It has been more than a year since my cousin went to USA for higher education. I still remember how much my aunt and uncle cried at the airport. Finally, after a year, they are going to visit their son in America and their joy knows no bounds. But other than all the excitement, they had to go through months of stress, preparing for their journey.
Taking learnings from their experience, here are some tips for all parents to ensure that their journey to America is filled only with happy anecdotes.
Tips for Parents Traveling to USA
Let’s start with the first and most important one.
Make sure that you book tickets well in advance to avoid any last minute surge in pricing. Also, make a note of booking flights that have the least travel duration. You might not be accustomed to such a long journey in a cramped aircraft. If you have medical conditions that doesn’t allow extensive travel, shorter durations become even more important.
My aunt didn’t know the concept of a jet-lag. Travelling through multiple time-zones messed up her digestive system. Make sure you have plenty of fluids on the flight to avoid dehydration. Apart from good sleep, which is essential, make sure you take frequent, short walks along the aisle to keep your blood circulation going.
Passports and Other Documents
Gets a cross-body handbag to keep all documents, including your passport, and prepare this bag in advance so that you are not rummaging through all your documents at the last moment. Keep the bag with you at all times. Check if the passport is valid for at least a year from the start of the trip.
You might have already researched enough regarding the visa requirements for US travel; just ensure that you carry extra copies of all documents when you travel. At the airport, do not rush. Reach well in advance to avoid any last minute hassles. My uncle actually lost his boarding pass in all the chaos and had to go back to the airline’s desk after security check. Your travel insurance papers should also be amongst the documents you carry.
Mail Personal Documents to Your Children
In the worst case scenario, should you lose any document, you can get duplicates or work with copies if you have scanned and sent them all to whomever you will be staying with or your children in the US. This way, you can access them quickly and notify the officials if needed.
Get Travel Insurance
USA doesn’t provide healthcare benefits to visitors. In case you fall sick, you will need insurance coverage to pay for the doctor’s bill, which can be exorbitant. Three things to make a note of before you buy a policy are your general health condition, activities that you intend to do and length of your stay, according to an article on Visitor’s Coverage.
Check if the policy gives coverage for sudden onset of pre-existing medical conditions. Here are a few good travel insurance plans for parents visiting USA.
Make a Note of Prohibited Items
Do not carry edibles like pickles, curries or other such items for your children. There is a good chance of them being confiscated by US customs. Nowadays, Indian food stores have opened up all across the US.
Before you leave for your trip, you might want to talk to CBP about the items you plan to bring back, to be sure that they’re not prohibited or restricted, according to the US Customs and Border Protection . If you are carrying medicines, check if they are allowed there, and carry along the prescriptions for every medicine you carry. In case your checked luggage is lost, the airline will not take responsibility for replacing the medicines.
Do not carry items that airport security officials might trouble you with. You do not want to be harassed by security for a small scissor or a blade.
Carry Enough Money
Keep some dollars in hand for last minute purchases. They would also come in handy if you have to pay for anything or your cab expenses, in case your children are unable to pick you up from the airport.
Carry both the currency and a forex card. You will not be able to exchange Indian currency everywhere you go.
International SIM Card
To avoid insane international roaming charges on your mobile phone, invest in an international SIM card. You will be able to make calls easily to your children in case of any need. Calling back to India will also be much cheaper.
Carry Appropriate Clothing
If you are travelling in winter, carry extra warm clothes, so that you do not fall ill. The same applies to summers. Check the lowest temperature of the cities you plan to visit in your period of stay.
Some US cities are very cold even in month of April. Take note that it will be cold even in the plane. So do your packing accordingly.
Get A Power Adapter
You do not know if your gadgets are compatible with US voltage or not. Bring a power adapter, just in case you need it.
Check the Luggage Allowance
You will have to adhere to the prescribed luggage limit. In case you carry more, you will have to pay extra money. Pack all important things and do not carry extra.
List of All Important Numbers And Addresses
Keep a list of all important phone numbers and other details of people you know in USA. For instance., your child’s mobile number, his/her workplace or university address, the Indian Embassy’s numbers and address, emergency contact numbers of your relatives etc.
Store these details on your phone and make a separate note too.
Be prepared to face immigration questions. You should remain calm and explain your reasons to visit the US in the simplest terms. Do not get intimidated and fumble.
You are adhering to every law, so there is nothing to be scared of. American accent could be hard to understand and can lead to miscommunication. Just answer everything calmly and things will fall into place.
Immigration Form Filling
You will be handed immigration forms on the plane when you are about to land. Assuming that you have maintained all your documents in order in your bag, this will be an easy task. Don’t forget to carry a pen.
Prepare Yourselves for a Culture Shock
Remember that the culture and lifestyle is very different from India. Regardless of how well prepared you are, certain etiquette and behavior patterns may make you uncomfortable. Do not fret over them and make your children miserable.
Make a note of all the places you always wanted to visit. Plan your expenses accordingly so that you can spend a good time sightseeing with your children.