Travel tips from our experienced professionals
It’s always best when things run smoothly on a vacation and our team does its best to get the details right so there are no delays to your fun. Obviously, any trip requires careful planning. Here are some travel tips & steps you can take to prepare for a safe and enjoyable trip outside the United States.
Make sure you have all the required travel documents and they are up-to-date.
Most U.S. citizens must use a U.S. passport to travel overseas and reenter the United States. A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies your identity and citizenship. Most foreign countries require a valid passport (valid for at least six months) to enter and leave their country. Some countries may allow you to enter with only a birth certificate, or with a birth certificate and a driver’s license, but all persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air, must present a valid passport to reenter the United States. If you are traveling by land or sea, you must provide evidence of both your U.S. citizenship and your identity when you reenter the United States. If you are traveling with children, be aware that some countries have instituted requirements to help prevent child abductions and may require travelers to present proof of relationship to the children and evidence of consent from any non-accompanying parent (s).
- Pack light so you can move more quickly and have a free hand when you need it.
- Carry a minimum number of valuables and plan places to conceal them.
- Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity and nationality.
- Avoid packing IDs, tickets, and vital documents in backpacks or other places you won’t be able to access them at all times.
- Make sure you have a change of clothes and toiletries along with any medications in your carry-on luggage just in case your checked luggage is delayed.
- Pack a pair of comfortable shoes and take an extra sweater or jacket in your tote so you can add or remove layers (as local weather can change in the course of a day and from one destination to another).
Travel with photocopies of your Itinerary and Travel Documents
Make two photocopies of all your travel documents in case of emergency or if your documents are lost or stolen. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home. It is always a great idea to let at least one person know exactly where you will be staying and how to contact you in an emergency. Carry the other copy with you stored separately from the originals. Documents to make copies of include:
- Passport ID page and foreign visa (if applicable)
- Itinerary including hotel confirmation and airline ticket
- Driver’s license
- Credit cards brought on the trip
- Emergency contact Information
Make sure you have the contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Consular duty personnel are available for emergency assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular agencies overseas, and in Washington, D.C. If your family needs to reach you because of an emergency at home, or if they are concerned about your welfare, they should call the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (during business hours) or 202-647-5225 (after hours). The State Department will relay the message to the consular officers in the country where you are. The consular officers will then try to locate you, pass on any urgent messages, and, if you wish, report back to your family in accordance with the Privacy Act.
If you plan to drive overseas, you may need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). Many countries do not recognize U.S. driver’s licenses, and it is illegal to drive without a valid license and insurance in most places. You should check with the Embassy of the country where you plan to travel to find out more about the driver’s license and car insurance requirements.
- Prepare to handle money overseas by checking that you understand the exchange rate before you travel.
- Before you leave, notify your bank, credit card company, or other financial institutions that you are going overseas.
- Avoid carrying cash and consider using traveler’s checks or major credit cards instead (but make sure they are accepted at your destination before departing on your trip).
- Change traveler’s checks only as you need them.
- Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill.
- Learn about local laws and customs.
While traveling, you are subject to the local laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own and it is very important to know what’s legal and what’s not. If you break local laws while abroad, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution, and the U.S. Embassy cannot get you out of jail.