When we decided to send our son to Spain for some training, we figured he just needed a current passport and he would be good to go. Not so! There are a bunch of hairy details that need to be attended to before you send your child out of the country to play tennis. Here is a list of the things we’ve encountered so far along with our fixes:
- Cell phone: Since my husband and I just returned from a trip to Europe, we knew we needed to make some arrangements for our son’s cell phone that were very different from just getting him an international plan through Verizon (which, by the way, wound up costing us several hundred dollars for our 2-week trip). I called Verizon and asked to speak with someone who has knowledge of adapting an iPhone 5 for international use. Turns out that the iPhone 5 is easily adaptable. The key to keeping down usage costs is to buy a SIM card in the country in which you’ll be staying so that any data usage is charged at that country’s local rate. Then, to make calls or to use text messaging, download the app called Viber – it’s a free app that allows calls, texting, and video messaging at no charge as long as both the sender and receiver have Viber on their phone. So, once our son gets to Mallorca, he will buy a Mallorcan SIM card and pop it into his iPhone 5 then use Viber whenever he wants to communicate with someone back home. If WiFi is available, there is no charge whatsoever; but, if he has to dip into his data to make the call, then it will simply be subtracted from his pre-paid SIM card plan.
- Money: Our bank keeps Euros on hand at several of its branches, so getting some cash for my son to take with him was relatively simple. We decided to send him with 50 Euros in case of emergency during his travel from Atlanta to Mallorca. Other banks allow you to order Euros online then pick them up at your local branch, so check your bank’s policy on this one. Given that my son is under 18 and given that he is not a Spanish national, he will not be allowed to open a bank account in Mallorca. So, the challenge was to find a way for us to get him spending money without incurring astronomical wire transfer fees. My husband did some research and found that Charles Schwab has a high yield checking account, which requires that you have or open an investment account. The former reimburses all ATM fees, domestic or foreign. We opened the account here in Atlanta and will be able to deposit money in it as needed for our son to withdraw via the ATM card. The local Mallorcan banks may still charge an ATM withdrawal fee, but it’s very small, especially compared to the double-dipping fees other bank cards incur (one from the American bank and one from the foreign bank).
- Credit Card: We wanted to send our son with a credit card to use instead of cash whenever possible. However, many US credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee with each use. My husband researched this topic at CreditCards.com and found a few cards that have no foreign transaction fees. He applied and got a card for our son. Easy peasy!
- Medical Insurance: This has proven to be the trickiest area of all! Our current health insurance doesn’t cover travel abroad, and most travel insurance programs don’t cover sports training or competition. NOTE: If your child competes in ITF or other international tournaments, please check your current health insurance policy to be sure he/she is covered in case of a medical emergency or illness! Again, my husband came to the rescue! InsureMyTrip is an agent that offers policies from many different insurers. The insurer we’re using is Trawick. According to insuremytrip.com, the policy we bought, and all medical-only policies, can be bought while already on a trip, as opposed to package policies that have to be bought before you leave. Also, Trawick, unlike some other policies, provides primary coverage, meaning you don’t have to go through your own insurer first (and get declined) before Trawick will pay. For a premium of $32.43 for one month of Safe Travels International Plan coverage, my son will have short-term coverage with an optional rider for injury during sports training or competition. The policy also includes trip interruption, travel baggage, $50,000 medical, $500 dental, unlimited emergency medical evacuation (in case, G-d forbid, he needs to be transported back to the US for care), and hospital confinement coverage (among other things that are too awful to think about). If my son decides to stay longer than the one-month commitment, we will have to buy a new policy to cover the additional time in Spain.
- Passport: If your child already has a passport, be sure to check the expiration date (if your child was 15 years old or younger when the passport was issued, the passport is valid for 5 years; if he was 16 or older, the passport is valid for 10 years). According to the FAQ on the Travel.State.Gov website, “If possible, you should renew your passport approximately nine (9) months before it expires. Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six (6) months beyond the dates of your trip. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.” Given that I couldn’t find my son’s passport anywhere in our house, and given that it was definitely issued when he was younger than 16, we had to get him a new one. Since we were short on time and the US Passport website was estimating 6-8 weeks for delivery, we had to use a passport service that could expedite the process. Luckily, there’s a company in Atlanta called TIS, Inc. International Visa Service which takes care of the entire application (for an additional $98.00 fee) – including taking the passport photo – and which got my son’s passport to us in less than a week. He’s now good to go!
(Edited July 19, 2013 12:45pm)