You can use the Midland GXT-1000 radios we recommend or any hybrid FRS/GMRS radio on half of its available channels at low power without a license. If you want to (legally) use its full capability or if you purchase a programmable UHF radio like the WOUXUN KGU-V6D, you will also want to get your General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) license from the FCC. You are not permitted to use the WOUXUN on GMRS without a license. One GMRS license is good for your entire family: your spouse, children, and parents can all use your license.
Family Radio Service (FRS) with no license is limited to 1/2 watt transmit power on 14 channels (7 FRS-only and 7 shared with GMRS) with only a built-in ("rubber duck") antenna. GMRS allows 5 watts on 15 channels (8 GMRS-only and 7 shared with FRS), may have better, removable antennae, mobile units, base stations, and repeaters up to 50 watts. We find that the FRS-only radios do not always adequately penetrate buildings and rubble in an emergency. Having the higher power with the licensed radios can make a critical difference.
Information on GMRS here: http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/general-mobile-radio-service-gmrs. To obtain your license online, go to http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=home, register and create an account, select "Apply For a New License" at the right side, then select license class "ZA - General Mobile Radio" from the drop down. The licensing fee is $85 for five years; there is no test. You will get your license usually within 7-days; give it 2 weeks to be sure.