So, it’s post-pandemic 2022 and you’re finally going on that international vacation. You’ve figured out your budget and picked a place that should fall within said budget. Planned the itinerary and set a date. What else needs doing? What can you do beforehand to prepare?
My travel mantra: Prepare for the unexpected. But mitigate wherever possible.
Trips – by their very nature – do not always go as planned. Expect it because you can’t control other people, delays, weather, or cultural mentalities, to name a few. Set an expectation for the occasional bump-in-the-road, and tackle as much as you can before your trip, putting the odds in your favor for less of the ‘unexpected’.
The groundwork for your trip is an investment towards the reward: hassle-free travel.
Lao Tzu’s quote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I’d like to include “and preplanning”!
Start with these to simplify.
- Download the app for your airline and the tour and rental companies if applicable.
- Add your phone number for text updates wherever possible for notifications like flight changes or cancellations.
- Have you read current COVID rules for the airport, airline, and any country you’ll be entering? Both the countries you’ll be passing through and your destination? Also, the rules for countries may vary based on how you’re entering: land vs. air. Will you need to test for COVID? Bookmarking the websites will make this easier to check periodically.
Working with a travel checklist is ideal—Google “international travel checklist template” to download or make your own. If you’re making your own, save it (even if there are changes for future trips, you won’t have to start from scratch).
Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! Ugh, the bane of my existence! They say there are two sure things in life – taxes and death. I would add “paperwork”! That said, let’s go over this necessary evil.
Passports. Do you have one for each person traveling? Do you have a valid passport? Are you sure? Have you checked? Children’s passports last five years, and adults, ten.
To renew a US passport:
- Standard processing (USPS): expect a new passport by mail in 8-11 weeks. Detailed page: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/have-passport/renew.html
- Expedited processing: if travel is within 5-7 weeks can be done via mail or in-person. Detailed page: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/get-fast.html Documents you’ll need: Form DS-82 and possibly Form DS-11
- Expedited shipping (a separate charge) is available in standard and expedited mail renewal. Detailed page: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/get-fast.html Scroll down to “Can I pay for faster delivery and shipping?”
- Urgent Travel: if you have travel plans within 5 business days.
- Must call to make an appointment within that timeframe.
- Must show proof of travel.
- By state agencies: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/get-fast/passport-agencies.html
- Emergency travel through Government Passport Agencies: Your trip is within 3 days.
- Limited to a medical emergency.
- Details: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/get-fast/emergencies.html
- Emergency renewal through third party passport services:
- There are local companies that can have a passport expedited within 24 hours. Google search – “renew passport in a day or 24 hours near me”.
- Please be aware that any expedited service will have additional charges.
If you are a permanent resident, you’ll want to ensure your green card is also not at risk of expiration (valid for ten years) and your passport. Equally important is to check on visa requirements, both for pass-through and destination policies.
Sometime towards the end of 2022, most of the EU will require an ETIAS Visa Waiver from all non-EU visitors, including US and Canadian citizens. ETIAS is a quick and straightforward application introduced by the EU to improve security in the Schengen Area. The waiver is designed for short-term stays of 90 days or less and will be valid for three years or when your passport expires (whichever occurs first). It will include a fee (to be determined), and the waiver will return via email.
Additional paperwork to consider/research:
- Medications: Some medications are illegal in some countries. This includes marijuana and derivatives like CBD.
- Consent to travel with a minor: If you’re traveling with a minor without the other parent, you’ll need to check the destination’s requirements. However, it is often a written letter of the absent parent permitting the child to travel with the attending parent. The letter might need to state dates and destinations and be notarized.
- IDP or International Driver’s Permit – is it required?
- Health insurance – check if your insurance has international coverage. Consider purchasing supplemental insurance.
- Travel insurance/trip interruption insurance.
Other paperwork/resources that will make travel easier:
Global Entry (mainly national program with some international): https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry#.html
TSA Pre-Check (mainly a national program): https://www.tsa.gov/precheck
The CDC has a thorough and informative Traveler’s page. Sections of interest are, Pack Smart https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/pack-smart and Traveler Advice https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/resources-for-travelers.
STEP – Smart Traveler Enrollment Program enrolls your trip with the local US Embassy or Consulate, enabling safety notifications for the destination country. In addition, gives US Embassy a way to contact you and gives your family a way to contact you in case of emergency.
As you can see, travel is not without its complexities. The benefits outway the struggle of this groundwork by eliminating last-minute emergencies.
“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, start being excited of what could go right” Tony Robbins
Your trip will leave unforgettable memories that can change you forever. Leaving ‘local’ gives perspective and builds empathy and humility. It helps to clear the mental debris of stagnancy. Journeys can build new friendships, rekindle old ones, and strengthen bonds with those you love (often your travel companions).
“Wherever you go becomes part of you somehow” Anita Desai
Travel is exciting; destinations are places waiting to be discovered or re-discovered! It is inspiration itself! Start that preplanning today!
“To travel is to live” Hans Christian Anderson