Getting ready for an overseas trip

Travel flags

It’s that time of year – when everyone takes off for their vacations.  Some places you may have visited before, while others will be adventures to exotic places. If you are planning an overseas trip here are some thing consider to prepare for a safe, enjoyable trip.

Be Aware of Any Travel Alerts and Warnings for Your Destination

The State Department issues Travel Warnings to recommend postponing travel to a country because of widespread civil unrest, dangerous conditions, terrorist activity or, in some cases, because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with the country and may have difficulty helping U.S. citizens in distress. Travel Alerts disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats or other relatively short-term conditions that could pose significant risks to you and affect your travel plans.

Do You Have All Required Travel Documents?

Most U.S. citizens must use a U.S. passport to travel overseas and re-enter the United States. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to issue U.S. passports.

Also, most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave. 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. For many land or sea trips this means you can travel using the U.S. passport card instead of the normal passport book.

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). If you are traveling with small children make sure you have the correct documentation.

Are You Prepared for an Emergency?

Make sure you have the contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you are going. Consular duty personnel are available for emergency assistance 24 /7, 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 worried 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 on your welfare.

Pack Smart!

  • 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.
  • Check your bags, clothing, and vehicle to make sure you are not carrying any banned items or substances, such as weapons or ammunition, into your destination country.  Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity and nationality.
  • Avoid packing IDs, tickets and other vital documents in backpacks or other locations you won’t be able to see at all times.

Have 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 family member at home. It’s always a great idea to let at least one person know  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
  • Foreign visa (if applicable)
  • Itinerary
  • Hotel confirmation
  • Airline ticket
  • Driver’s license
  • Credit cards brought on the trip
  • Traveler’s check serial numbers

Prepare to Handle Money Overseas

  • Check and 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 major credit cards instead (but make sure they are accepted at your destination before departing on your trip).
  • Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill.

For more information visit www.travel.state.gov