Traveling to Adopt
By The Ties Program Team
You are about to have one of the most wonderful experiences of your life…
becoming parents of an internationally born child.
Stay flexible and open to new experiences.
Let the country captivate you.
Your love for your child’s country and respect for its people
will forever be important.
Many years ago, Tempo Travel was kind enough to offer office space to The Ties Program, which was initially intended to provide heritage journeys to adoptive families. Then, an interesting thing happened. We started getting calls from pre-adoptive parents who needed help traveling to pick up their baby or child.
As experienced travelers and adoptive parents, we really enjoyed helping with this most precious trip. It has been wonderful to be able to “talk families through” what is often their first experience in both parenting and international travel. After many years of working with adoptive families traveling to adopt, we are pleased to offer this helpful information.
Preparation for Traveling
- Get your passport early. Some adoption agencies require you have it as you file your first paper work for international adoption. Adult passports are good for 10 years. For detailed passport information, visit the government website for passport information.
- Carry a copy of your passport and a copy of the passenger receipt part of your airline tickets, secured away from those actual items. In case they are lost or stolen, both are much easier to replace if you can produce a copy.
- It is never too early to let us know you will be traveling to adopt. The sooner we know, the better we can serve you when the time comes for you to travel. We suggest you complete and return a “Pre-Adoption Information Fact Sheet” so that we have specific information on file so that when your time to travel arrives, you are not caught up in so much detail all at once.
- Consult your doctor on vaccinations. Physicians get regular updates from the Centers for Disease Control and can advise you with the greatest accuracy based on your personal medical history and makeup.
“Thank you so much for getting us here on time. Elizabeth is now officially our daughter. We are so sorry for having to call you at such an inconvenient hour when we were stuck in Tokyo. Thanks to you for your outstanding efforts. You are the greatest. ~Denise and Steve Petit (email from China)
When searching for the best airfares, here are some things to know:
- Airlines themselves usually have the highest international airfares and always have the least flexibility. When you book directly with the airlines, you will need to make a commitment (even if you don’t have one from your adoption agency) according to the ticket rules.
- Travel agencies need to comply with airline ticketing rules but are able to provide you with insights helpful in deciding whether it is time to purchase your tickets.
- Travel agencies can offer a variety of airfares including sale fares, adoption fares, and business & first class airfares.
- Adoption Fares: Some airlines offer special discounts to adoptive families. At one time they were a huge advantage to families, offering reasonable airfares with maximum flexibility. Over time, prices have escalated to the point of “crazy” and as a result, IF they are offered, they tend not to be very practical at this point. They are not usually the lowest fare in the market, but offer the maximum flexibility, no fees for changes and preferential seating.
“Just a quick note to thank you for your help in arranging our travel to Korea, to bring home our beautiful son. You made the trip SO much easier for us, and the extra info you put in the packet was SO helpful!” ~Nancy, Jim and Kai Covell
Many adoptive parents ask about flying business or first class. Both business class and first class are extremely expensive. One way to reduce the amount significantly is to fly on Adoption Fares that allow a 50 percent discount for adoptive families flying business class. A fare to China, as an example, would then be approximately $6000.
- Infants to age 24 months traveling internationally pay 10% of a full adult one way fare from the originating airport to the first point of entry into the United States. Infant fares rarely exceed $300. That fare does not entitle the infant to a seat—it is really more of an airline service fee. Infants to 24 months traveling domestically are free.
- Children (2-12) usually pay 67% of an adult fare from China and Korea and are entitled to a seat. A one way child’s fare from Russia is usually discounted by 25%. Currently one way child fares from Central and South America are not discounted. The fare is usually based from the originating airport to home city airport in the United States. Note: On Adoption Fares, children 2-17 pay half of the adult adoption fare.
- Seat maps for most flights open two to three months prior to flight date.
- Adoptive parents rarely get even a month’s notice before travel.
- Those realities create a problem for getting adoptive parents good seats (sometimes any seats) because people who can make their arrangements well in advance secure seat assignments leaving precious little for people who book at the last minute by necessity.
- The good news is that airlines usually retain about 30 percent of their seats for assignment at the airport on the day of the flight. So, if you do not like your seats or can not get advance seat assignments, arrive a little ahead of the crowd, and chances are the airline will be able to help you.
- Bulkhead seats are usually first choice for parents traveling with children. The bulkhead is a row where the rows break and you have no seats immediately in front of you, allowing you more leg room and easier access in and out. Some airlines allow pre-assignment of the bulkhead. Most retain those seats for airport check in.
Working As A Team To Bring Families Together
Within the last few years airlines have made the decision to no longer pay commission to travel agencies. One reason for this move is to push the consumer into purchasing their air tickets from the carrier’s own website, thus eliminating the ability to compare fares between companies and reducing the need for customer service agents. The airlines also want a customer to finalize a purchase by securing a name and credit card number so the tickets can be issued and the rules of non-refundability become effective immediately. Families working in partnership with Tempo Travel Service, Inc. have more flexibility and are able to think about their newest family member rather than focusing on their travel arrangements.
Working in adoption, we:
- Coach families through the waiting process, talking with them before their actual travel preparing for that important day
- Help families think through their travel plans prior to receiving dates
- Evaluate airfare choices by looking at prices and change / cancellation rules
- Provide information on baggage limitations and policies
- Provide lots of useful information about the in-country experiences
- Help families evaluate whether it is the right time to purchase their airline tickets
- Place a family’s name on a waiting list with the airlines if seats are sold out on a desired flight, working to clear space on a flight
- Provide families with our home phone number and e-mail address in case something comes up during the night or over the weekend (as things do when talking about children)
- Offer help and follow-up when there are changes or problems
- Request seat assignments, place other special requests and open frequent flyer accounts
In order to be able to provide these services, Tempo Travel Service, Inc. charges a per person processing fee that applies only to airline tickets. No further fees are levied to make other arrangements related to your adoption. We provide tailored, professional and compassionate service to adoptive families as well as efficient, accurate and expedited service to adoption agencies on projects that need quick turn around. In short, we become a part of the team that makes the adoption process go smoothly.
Traveling With Your New Family Addition
- Anytime you travel with kids, the name of the game is to keep your hands free for shuffling passports, attending to little ones, etc. A back pack rather than a diaper bag is really handy. And a baby front pack for infants is a real blessing.
- Carry an extra supply of diapers and formula in case you are delayed anywhere or suddenly on a 15 hour flight with a baby with diarrhea. Your carry on should also include infant’s or children’s Tylenol as well as a couple of changes of clothes for your child. It is also a good idea to have an extra shirt per adult just in case!
- Flight attendants cannot legally handle soiled diapers as they are handling your food.
- Try to keep your baby on the same formula she has been drinking until you arrive home.
- If you are traveling with children, order a child’s meal for the plane—they are much more likely to eat.
- Ear pressure can be extremely painful. To help alleviate that pain for an infant, have a bottle on hand for take off and especially for landing, which is usually the more difficult of the two.
- Learn a few key words in your child’s language, even if you are adopting a baby. Things like “Mama” and “Daddy” and “I love you” for a baby. Add “Are you hungry?” and “Do you need the toilet?” for older children.
- When traveling internationally with a baby, airlines will provide a bassinet on request. They are designed for very small babies and attach to the wall in front of you in some bulkhead seats.
In all that you do when traveling and in life, remain flexible and calm.
In doing so, you will smile each time you see the moon and recall a phrase we have come to love:
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on another side of the world.” –Mary Ann Radmacher
Enjoy this beautiful experience!