How to Prepare for Your International Adoption Trip
The Ultimate International Adoption Trip Checklist
Preparing for an international adoption trip can feel like a monumental task, even after all of the complex steps you’ve completed to get this far. But you’re in the final stretch and you’re very close to finally meeting your child.
To help you get ready to go, we’ve compiled the ultimate international adoption trip checklist, along with some tips for before, during and after your trip. Here’s what you should know:
1. Before You Go
No matter how much time you put into preparing for your international adoption trip, nobody is ever 100% ready. There will always be a few surprises. But these pre-trip tips and checklists will help you be as prepared as possible.
Here’s our advice for parents about to set out on their international adoption trip:
- Talk to other families created through international adoption about their experiences.
- Learn as much as you can about the country and culture.
- Learn the language as fluently as possible, but download translator apps and bring a language book, just in case.
- Learn as much as you can about your child so you can prepare accordingly for your meeting and the trip.
- Be ready to roll with the punches and relax into the uncertainty.
- Remember that you’ll need to be able to carry whatever you pack.
Here are four pre-trip checklists to help you get ready:
It’s best to be over-prepared when it comes to bringing along paperwork. You’ll leave your child’s country with even more paperwork, so be sure to bring a folder to help you keep things organized. You should pack:
- Copies of your adoption paperwork/dossier
- Printouts of directions to basic locations
2. What to Pack for Yourself
If you forget something, you’ll likely be able to purchase it in-country. It’s good to pack light, or to pack things that you don’t mind leaving behind so you can free up packing space on the return trip for your child’s supplies. Don’t forget:
- Comfortable clothes that you can layer as needed, but keep the culture in mind
- Something to safely store cash inside, like a money belt
- Travel-safe snacks, like granola bars or nuts
- Prescription medication and over-the-counter medicine you might need, like anti-diarrheal
- Glasses or extra contacts, if needed
3. What to Pack for Your Child
- A backpack or diaper bag for your child
- Photos of your home, family and pets to show your child and their caretakers
- A carrier or stroller, if you’re adopting a baby
- A small gift, toy or snacks for when you meet your child
- Some basic children's medicine (pain reliever, anti-nausea, etc.) for the trip
- Toys to entertain him or her on the trip
4. Arrangements To Make at Home
Everyone will need to make different arrangements to get things ready on the homefront. But don’t forget these standard preparations.
- Get your immunizations, doctor’s clearances, and stock up on medicines you need to pack.
- Make plans for childcare and/or petcare, if applicable.
- Make plans for house-sitting, checking your mail and more, if needed.
- Update your employers about what’s happening, and talk to them about your travel plans, as well as your parental leave.
- Let your bank know that you’ll be travelling internationally, so they don’t freeze your cards.
- Let close family and friends know that you’ll be out of touch for a while, so they don’t worry.
2. During Your Trip
Once you’ve arrived in your child’s birth country, you may want to settle in for a bit. Communication between sending and receiving countries can take some time, but you can use this as an opportunity to prepare for your return trip with your child, experience the culture, and of course, get to know and bond with your child.
A few tips to help you make the most out of this life-changing experience:
- Keep a journal for your child detailing your experiences and thoughts, even if you only have time for short notes.
- Be cautious with your money.
- Be cautious with what you eat and drink, so you don’t upset your stomach in a new environment.
- Be socially and culturally aware and respectful.
- Try to see the sights when you can — your child will likely be interested someday.
- Bond with your child as much as possible.
- Be flexible with timelines and travel arrangements — this process is time-consuming.
- Experiment to see what your child does and doesn’t like — food, games, etc.
While you’re in your child’s birth country, take the opportunity to:
- Secure your child’s visa
- Secure your child’s passport
- Obtain your child’s birth certificate
- Apply for your child’s social security card
- Complete any additional documentation required by the sending country
- Donate to your child’s orphanage or caretakers
- Purchase some small toys to keep your child entertained
- Purchase some extra clothes and shoes in your child’s size
- Purchase extra snacks for the trip
- Purchase any needed hygiene products for you and your child
- Purchase a couple meaningful souvenirs for your child to have someday (even just a postcard where you write a note about the day you met him or her)
3. After Your Trip
Now that you’ve made it home, you’ll want to put the finishing touches on your adoption before you can consider the process truly finished. This is also an important time for you and your new child.
Adoption is a lifelong process, and it requires us to continue learning and growing. Here are some tips to help your family, now and in the future:
- Don’t worry too much about carefully disciplining your child right away.
- Spend as much time as possible cuddling and bonding.
- Talk as much as any language barrier will allow.
- Understand that there will be a grieving period — internationally adopted children just lost contact with their original culture and country, and this will even affect newborns.
- Ease into your routines, and expect some bumps in the road ahead.
- Be patient.
- Continue learning about how to support your internationally adopted child, especially if he or she is a transracial adoptee.
There are still a few legalities and practicalities to take care of at home, even in the midst of the excitement. Don’t forget to:
- Finalize the adoption or complete a re-adoption on U.S. soil
- Go clothes-shopping with your child, now that you know his or her size
- Set up your child’s room together, based on his or her tastes
Remember, if you have any additional questions about your international adoption trip, reach out to your adoption agency or other adoption professional for advice and suggestions.