Visiting throughout the U.S. or an American citizen traveling abroad, it is vital to have all your papers in order.
• Passports & Visas: For a new passport application or renewal, contact the nearest Passport Agency or a U.S. Post Office that accepts passport applications. Visas are available from the embassy or consulate of the country you will be visiting or from a “visa service” which will get your visa processed for a fee. Apply for your travel documents in advance to avoid delays! For more information, check the U.S. Department of State, Travel Information website: http://travel.state.gov/
• Your passport is your most valuable travel document when you are in a foreign country. Keep a copy of your passport number in a safe, separate place and immediately report the loss or theft of your passport or visa to the U.S. embassy or consulate and the local police authorities. Make copies of your passport, traveler’s checks, credit cards, itinerary, airline tickets and other travel documents. Leave one copy with a relative or friend back home and carry one copy with you.
• Be sure your passport is signed and fill in the emergency information page of your passport. Check the expiration date. Many countries require that it be valid for six months after your return date. You can find out a country’s entry requirements by going to travel.state.gov and clicking “Travel Information by Country.”
• Certain countries may require an “International Certificate of Vaccinations” against cholera, yellow fever and other infectious diseases before you are allowed to enter. You can check with Centers for Disease Control: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx for up-to-date information on epidemics or unsafe conditions in your planned destination.
To maximize holiday happiness and minimize the grief, follow these helpful tips.
• Contact us in advance to secure the best-priced airline seats, hotel rooms and rental cars that usually sell out quickly for holiday travel. Be aware that prices generally escalate during the holiday season, as demand is higher.
• Avoid peak travel days. The busiest days to fly are those immediately before and after the actual holidays.
• Take the worry of getting to the airport completely out of the equation by staying at an airport hotel the night before an early flight. The additional sleep is well worth it. In some cases, hotels will allow guests to leave their car in the hotel lot for the duration of their trip.
• If you drive and park at the airport lot, do not leave any valuables in plain view. Remember to put jumper cables in the trunk in case the battery dies during your trip.
• Check in early. Domestic travelers should arrive at the airport two hours prior to departure, while international travelers should arrive three hours in advance.
• To get through the security checkpoints smoothly and quickly, remember the 3-1-1 program: Liquids, aerosols and gels must be in containers three ounces or less. Items must be put in a one quart, clear plastic zip-top bag. Only one zip-top bag per passenger. For more information, visit the TSA website.
• If you do not send your gifts ahead, then do not wrap them before the flight. With safety a priority for all airlines, security personnel will need access to all items. Pack collapsible gift bags to be used as wrapping upon arrival.
• Keep a positive attitude, but also be mentally ready for setbacks. Delays happen, and airlines do the best they can to keep their schedules on time.
Fly-Rights - A Consumer Guide to Air Travel: Guide to passenger’s rights from the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the U.S. Department of Transportation
International Health and Vaccination Requirements: A list of countries and their health requirements or warnings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Also, find a list of cruise ship and aircraft inspection scores.
Passport Information: Apply for a Passport, International Travel for U.S. Citizens, Passports for U.S. Citizens (Status, Renewal, Applications/Forms, Lost or Stolen Passport), Visas for Foreign Citizens, Children & Family for U.S. Citizens
State Department Travel Warnings: Travel warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid a certain country, view the list of countries.
Track-A-Flight: You can track the status of any flight arriving or departing the United States or Canada.
Transportation Security Administration - TSA: Things you should know: prohibited items, travelers with disabilities and medical conditions, watch list, traveling with children, and more.
TSA, Airport Security - 3 -1-1 for Carry-Ons: Prepare for take off, know and be prepared for 3-1-1 for carry-ons.
TSA, Major Airport Security Checkpoint, Wait Times: As a customer service initiative, TSA is providing security checkpoint wait time information to assist travelers in planning for their next flight, which offers wait times at major airport security checkpoints for each hour of the day.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Embassies and Consulates
Weather Channel: National and local weather forecast, radar, map and reports.
World Clock & Time Zones: Current local times around the world.
Worldwide Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency
Here are our quick tips for international travel planning…
Airport Security, Follow the 3-1-1 Rule: Pack smart to get through the airport security checkpoint faster. TSA’s 3-1-1 rule: 3-ounce containers; a 1-quart clear plastic zip-top bag; 1 bag per flier). When in doubt, leave it out. If you’re not sure about whether you can bring an item through the checkpoint, put it in your checked bag or leave it at home.
Check Your Passport: Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport. Check the expiration date. Many countries require that it be valid for six months after your return date. You can find out a country’s entry requirements by going to http://travel.state.gov/ Leave copies of your passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
Call Your Credit Card Companies: Contact your credit card companies and let them know before you go. You don’t want your credit card frozen or ‘declined’ for suspected fraudulent use while traveling abroad (or even out of state).
Blend In: Blending in will help you avoid being targeted by pickpockets and unethical taxi drivers. Do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money. American travelers are usually identified by their white sneakers. Keep your wallet and valuables in your front pockets or in a security pouch. Choose a cab with a meter and make sure it’s running, or set the price before you get in. Do not accept packages from stranger or leave unattended luggage in public areas.
Converter/Adapter Kit: International converter/adapter kits for use on most U.S. travel appliances, usually include a converter and polarized adapter plugs for use in almost any foreign country. Converters keep your 110-volt appliances like a curling iron from burning up in countries that use 220/240-volt electricity. Adapters change prongs to fit international outlets.
Simply plug your appliance into the converter and then plug the converter into the wall or use one of the polarized plug adapters ensure a fit on most foreign outlets. Remember: adapter into the wall, then converter/transformer, then the appliance. Converter/Adapter kits are available at travel stores or online, check it out before leaving on your trip.
What is Value Added Tax (VAT)/Refund? Value Added Tax (VAT) is a form tax is much like the sales tax paid in the United States. The European Union, Japan and some South American countries assess VAT at a rate of 15-25 percent. The main principle of VAT is that governments do not charge the tax on exports of goods to other countries. They extend this principle to include purchases made by foreign visitors when they take goods back to their country. Tourists can apply for VAT refunds on merchandise, but not services. Custom officials must validate this merchandise to prove that the merchandise is indeed leaving the country.
For the tourist, reclaiming a VAT: get documentation when you make a purchase, stipulating the amount of refund due. Allow extra time at the airport to get your sales tax refunded. Show the documents to customs officials upon leaving the country to claim your refund. Most countries specify a minimum amount you must spend in a particular shop to claim a refund.
Another way to reclaim VAT is by purchasing items at stores participating in the Europe Tax-free Shopping program. When your buy from these merchants you show your passport and get a Tax-Free Shopping Cheque showing the amount of refund owed to you. When you leave the country, you show your purchases to an appropriate customs official, who stamps your checks. You then claim your refund from a Europe Tax-free shopping desk on site, or have the refund mailed to you.
Designer jewelry, clothing, handbags, watches and accessories at discount prices? Most of us know there’s no way you can buy a real Hermes scarf for two bucks or a Seiko watch for ten. Did you know that the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) works tirelessly with intellectual property rights (IPR) owners to prevent such goods from being imported? The international trade specialists in CBP’s Office of Strategic Trade work as a team with other internal offices to prevent counterfeit goods from entering the country. Beware when buying the $100 Rolex watch. Customs and Border Protection can seize counterfeit copyrighted and trademarked articles when you come back into the United States. For more information, visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at: http://www.cbp.gov/
Register your travel plans with the State Department through a free online service at: https://step.state.gov/step/ This will help the State Department contact you if there is a family emergency in the U.S., or if there is a crisis where you are traveling. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be released to others without your authorization.
Check your overseas medical coverage. Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.
Airport Departure Tax: Returning home, don’t’ be surprised, be ready to pay a fee at the airport. In many countries a departure tax and an airport security tax must be paid at the airport.