Check out these international travel tips — from applying early for your passport to finding health travel insurance — to ensure a smooth vacation abroad.
Before You Go
- Apply early for your passport. New U.S. travelers, if you haven’t had a passport before or meet certain criteria, you’ll need to apply in person at a passport acceptance facility post office. Including mailing time, the U.S. State Department quotes applying for a passport via routine service as taking approximately 6-8 weeks. Paying extra for expedited service is estimated to get your passport back to you in 2-3 weeks.
- At least 6 months left. If you have an existing passport, its expiration date should extend at least six months beyond the anticipated end date of your trip. If yours is close to expiring, check the visa and entry requirements for the country you’ll be visiting. Be sure it also has at least two blank pages for stamps.
- Children’s passports. Passports issued for children under age 16 are valid for only five years, not 10 years like adult passports. Check passport expiration dates carefully and renew early.
- Visas. You may need to get a visa before you travel to a foreign destination. Contact the embassy of the countries you will be visiting for more information.
- Make sure your name matches. Ensure all travel tickets and documents match the exact same name that appears on your passport. ‘Nathan’ and ‘Nathaniel’ may be regarded as two separate people by some border controls.
- Get health travel insurance. Many foreign medical facilities and providers require cash payment up front and do not accept U.S. insurance plans. Medicare does not provide coverage outside of the United States. Check your U.S. health care policy to see if it will cover you overseas. If not, consider buying supplemental insurance. Make sure the insurance you purchase covers any special medical needs or risks you anticipate on your trip. Our Individual Health team can help you get the coverage you need!
- Safeguard your documents. Make two copies of all your travel documents in case of emergency. Leave one copy with a trusted friend or relative at home and carry the other separately from your original documents.
- Research your destination(s). Will you need a visa? Are there any travel advisories or safety recommendations? Learn about document requirements, local customs, dress code/expectations, weather and climate, voltage and outlet plugs, and common tourist scams. Check out the U.S. Department of State’s site to search travel advice by country.
- Tell your bank you will be traveling abroad. Ditto with your credit card issuer. Avoid having your card cancelled due to ‘unusual activity’.
- Register your travel. If you’re traveling to a country that has travel warnings or frequent geographical or weather events (like hurricanes, earthquakes, civil unrest, volcanoes, etc.), consider registering your trip with the local U.S. Embassy. By enrolling in the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, you’ll get travel alerts and warnings for your destination country. The Embassy will also have information to aid in contacting you if an emergency occurs.
- Apply early for your passport – at least 8 weeks before you travel.
- Your passport expiration date should extend at least 6 months beyond the end date of your trip.
- Remember children’s passports are only valid for 5 years, not 10 years like adult passports.
- Check to see if you need a visa before you travel.
- Make sure all your travel documents and tickets exactly match the name in your passport – don’t use short forms.
- Get health travel insurance – LD&B info here.
- Make 2 copies of all your travel documents – leave 1 with a friend/relative at home, carry the other 1 separately from your original documents.
- Research your destinations – document requirements, local customs, dress code/expectations, weather and climate, common tourist scams, travel advice.
- Tell your bank you will be travelling abroad.
- Register your travel with the local US Embassy.