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Family Resources for Exotic Travel


by Jennifer M. Nichols and Bill Nichols

Each month, 20 million globetrotters—about one-third of all American Internet users—use travel websites to plan and purchase their trips. It is no surprise that travel is the top seller on the Internet. Essential family travel topics include currency exchange, hotel booking, immunizations, maps, medical recommendations, time zones, and weather. Once you mark these imperatives off your list, the real fun begins. Sites featuring great travel books, festivals, foreign languages, historical and cultural lures, local recipes, and writing about travel are among the many that families can access. So log on and discover a wealth of information.

Accommodations ( searches for hotels in over 200 countries. You can specify price range and select from a list of 35 hotel amenities, which include babysitting and child services, fitness centers, and TV with cable. Each hotel entry includes hotel information, photos, and an option to book it online. There’s even a currency converter tab if you want to calculate the cost.
Traveling to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador and need a little money? Master Card ATM Locator ( lists most countries, cities, and towns in the world and specifies the location of their ATMs. By the way, the Galapagos has two ATMs—and you might even spy some giant tortoises on the way to get your cash!

Name any aspect of travel ...restaurants, history, culture...and you’ll find a travel book devoted to it. So how do you trim your choices and select the perfect books for the entire gang? A premier book site is Book Passage (, which reviews travel related books on most countries in the world. Browse a wide range of reads, to include general travel guides, intriguing cultural and historical selections, cookbooks, and children’s books.

Can’t decide whether to pack bathing suits, sweaters, or parkas for your journey? To get the weather updates for every country and most cities in the world, Yahoo! Weather ( ) is your best bet. Click on a continent, a country, and a city, and get weekly weather reports for your destination.

Whether you’re pocketing Ecuadorian Sucres, Indian Rupees, or Thai Bahts, your conversion complications are simplified on Oanda’s Currency Converter ( Displaying over 160 currencies, Oanda checks current rates, and even provides a wallet size reference to take with you.

Culture and Traditions
Information on etiquette, religious practices, and social interactions of a country helps family members appreciate and become involved in the host country. The book series, Culture Shock!: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette, features over 50 countries and provides practical information and advice. The series also includes a cultural quiz at the end of each book testing your newly acquired knowledge. Published by Graphic Center Publishing Company, this series can be ordered online at the major booksellers or at the Culture Shock! Website (

To find out valuable information about every country in the world, check out The World Factbook ( In addition to providing a map of each country, this all-inclusive site includes information on demographics, geography, government, economy, and transportation. Got your destination nailed down? Then go to Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory ( which gives the official tourist website for every country in the world.

Eating Bugs
Ever wondered what it’s like to eat a tarantula? How about a marinated grasshopper? And what the heck do you call bug eating? Before you head off to insect-eating destinations (and there are many of them), purchase the book “Man Eating Bugs” by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. These world travelers have dined on meal worm spaghetti, raw scorpions, and stir fried dragonflies. With startling photography, the authors document the history and practice of bug eating around the world. This intriguing book can be ordered online through ( and other major booksellers. By the way, the formal name for bug eating is “entomophagy.”

Can your teen not travel without her beloved hair dryer? And do you cart your laptop everywhere you go? If you are traveling out of the country, you will need a transformer and/or a plug converter. Electrical appliances used in North America operate on 110-120 volts AC (Alternating Current). Going outside of our borders, however, requires conversion appliances, as most of the world operates on 220-240 volts AC. Failure to convert the voltage severely damages or destroys your appliance. Voltage Valet ( provides information on transformers and converters, adaptor plugs, and surge protection for your laptop. There is also a chart listing most countries in the world with the configuration of plugs and outlets, voltage, and the type of modem adaptor required. You can order all products online through Voltage Valet.

What better way to involve your family in the culture than by attending a local festival? ( lists thousands of world events. Pack off to Puno, Peru, and delight in decorated llamas parading through town carrying firewood. Then hang around as the wood is set alight and dancers leap through the flames.

Food and Drink
Sampling local food is part of the travel experience. But adhere to the most important and easily followed health rule: take care in what you eat and drink. The best advice for developing nations is “Cook it, boil it, peel it...or forget it.” And if you’re not certain if the water is safe, don’t drink it. Hotel food is generally safe, as are busy restaurants that look clean and well run. The authoritative site for comprehensive information on global food issues and warnings is the Center for Disease Control site (

Foreign Languages
If you are unable to book a language lesson at your ethnic restaurant of choice in your home city, try an Internet resource. Travlang Foreign Languages ( presents over 85 languages for reading and listening so that you can bone up on useful words and phrases before you head off. There’s even a quick quiz to test your knowledge. With Travlang, you can have a word a day sent to your email in your language of choice. Travlang also offers language translators, audio language CD’s, and Harry 24 languages.

Foreign Travel
The best way to insure a happy and healthy trip out of the country is to plan ahead. Traveling families should learn about travel basics, to include passports, visas, customs, immunization, and culture. Your Trip Abroad ( presents accessible, important information on significant aspects of foreign travel. The site also provides links to other sources of travel information.

Health Issues
For official information on all travel health questions, go to the Center for Disease Control’s comprehensive site, ( Specifics on traveling with children, safe food and water, outbreaks, vaccinations, and special needs travelers are available for every country in the world.

Historical Information
The UNESCO World Heritage List ( features over 690 different sites around the world selected by the World Heritage Committee. Some might be immediately recognizable, such as the Great Wall of China, the Galapagos Islands, and ancient Thebes in Egypt. But other worthy sites might remain obscure, and unvisited, if not for this informative resource. Each site leads to related links covering historical and cultural information, along with personal travel narratives, and even multimedia experiences. Click on the Moroccan city of Marrakech, for example, to listen to traditional Moroccan music, view slide shows of the city, and even learn a bit of Arabic.

The most reliable authority on country specific vaccinations for children and adults is the Center for Diseases Control’s website, Travelers’ Health ( This site provides information on required and suggested vaccines for all countries and gives an overall immunization schedule for children.

Jet Lag
Jet lag occurs when you travel by air across more than three time zones. Fatigue, insomnia, lack of concentration, loss of appetite, and disorientation are common effects. It may take children longer than adults to adjust, but there are ways of minimizing the impact.
On the plane, set your watch to your destination’s time. When flying during your destination’s bedtime, sleep. If it’s daytime at your locale? Stay awake. Don't think what time it is back home, and also avoid taking a nap once you arrive; it impedes adjustment to your new time zone. If you feel you have to, make it brief.
And if you are an active person exercise. A German study concluded that sedentary travelers experienced more jet lag than those who remained active. Physical activity, on the plane and once you arrive, circulates the blood and helps you feel re-energized. Some think that dehydration causes jet lag, so drink two glasses of water before boarding the plane and at least four cups in flight.
For advice on how to handle jet lag, log on to Doctor Travel. (

Over-the-Counter Kits
“Remember when you took enough Pepto-Bismol to supply the entire city of Quito?” my husband persistently taunts, harkening back to our trip to Ecuador. I have now refined my first aid kit, and take only enough Pepto Bismol for the family (and a few extras, just in case). My recent addition is lice shampoo, following an outbreak in my daughter’s hair in Morocco. Unbeknownst to us, the itchy critters had hijacked her locks at a Vermont camp and hitched a free ride to Marrakech.

Although tailored to your family’s needs, recommended first aid kits include many of the medications and supplies families use regularly and stock in their medicine cabinets. Don’t forget to pack Tylenol or aspirin, Band-Aids, tweezers, tape and gauze, antiseptic cream and most importantly, any prescription drugs the family is taking. Among the sites containing recommendations for over-the-counter kits is The Travel Clinic (

Passports and Visas
If you don’t own a passport, there are multiple ways to get one. Aside from official passport agencies located in 13 major U.S. cities, most county or municipal offices and post offices can provide the DS-11 application form. You can also download your own form at ( A 25-business day turnaround is standard. However, unplanned and emergency travel, with proof of departure within the next 10 days, can speed the process overnight. Don’t forget two colored or black and white 2”x2” photos, taken within the last six months. The best place to get a photo taken is at a professional photo shop that knows the requirements for size and type of paper. Passport fees are $40.00 for children under 16 and $60.00 for those over 16.

Children under 14 must obtain a passport, and must submit proof of U.S. citizenship in the form of a birth certificate, Unless requested, children under 14 need not appear, however children 14–17 must appear.
The official government website contains an easy-to-use locator to find the nearest passport office to your home town.

European countries do not require visas from Americans, however many other countries do. It is advisable to determine before you leave if your destination requires visas. Internet links to United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide ( ) provide this information. Visas can be obtained through Embassies or consulates of the country you are planning to visit. For additional information on visas, call the Visa Services' Public Inquiries Branch at 202-663-1225.

Safety Abroad
Following common sense rules of safety in developing countries is not dissimilar from what you would adhere to in America. Don't leave luggage unattended in public areas...don't accept packages from strangers...avoid being a target with flashy clothing and expensive jewelry...and don't carry large amounts of money or extra credit cards. If you get into trouble, contact the U.S. State Department ( to locate the American embassy. Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings can be obtained 24 hours a day by calling (202) 647-5225 from a touch-tone phone.

Travel Illnesses
When traveling to a foreign country, families need to know what health precautions to take. Log on to WebMD Health ( This informative site includes information on motion sickness, traveler’s diarrhea, and altitude sickness, among others. There is also a valuable chart that lists diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and cholera and tells how they are transmitted, what countries harbor them, the common symptoms, prevention, and treatment. The site also gives recommendations for travelers with special health problems such as diabetes, heart and lung problems, and pregnancy.
The International Society of Travel Medicine ( provides information on travel clinics in over 40 countries. Most are in major cities and all speak English. So before you head off, check this site for a nearby clinic, just in case.

For official information on all travel health questions, go to the Center for Disease Control’s comprehensive site, ( Specifics on traveling with children, safe food and water, outbreaks, vaccinations, and special needs travelers are available for every country in the world. And if you think you might require a doctor during your travels, sign up before you go for the free services of The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) ( This non-profit group can connect travelers with English speaking, western-trained doctors in over 300 cities.

U.S. Embassies and Consulates
Links to United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide ( is an all-inclusive site that lists every American Embassy and Consulate in the world. Most pages contain comprehensive information regarding services offered to American travelers, to include passport replacement, help in getting funds, and emergency situations.

World Clock
Need to know what time it is in your destination—let’s say Sofia, Bulgaria? World Clock ( shows what time it is in your city of choice. It also lets you know what time the sun rises and sets, provides the international dialing code, and as an extra bonus, lists travel books on the destination.

Writing about Travel
For children who want to try their hand at writing and submitting a travel article or related piece, author Elizabeth Winthrop ( offers writing advice and links to markets that accept young writers’ works. ( is a leading source for adult travel magazine markets.

You’ve Got Mail
“Aw, mom, can’t I just check my email?” Not in the middle of the Sahara, dear! But venture into most any city and log on at the friendly cybercafe to reconnect with the world. ( lists 4,208 Internet cafes in 140 countries. In Caye Caulker, Belize, you can sip your espresso and have your hair braided while you surf the web at the Netto’s Cybercafe.

Excerpted from Exotic Travel Destination for Families by Jennifer M. Nichols and Bill Nichols. Copyright © 2004 by Jennifer M. Nichols and Bill Nichols. Excerpted by arrangement with Santa Monica Press. All rights reserved. $16.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800.784.9553 or click here.

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