Travels with Bob

Vacation Planning Includes Checking Your Travel Documents


Getting your travel documents in order before you leave home is vital.

Embarking on a vacation only to learn that you don’t have proper travel documents may end your vacation before it begins. In fact, you may not be allowed to board the plane to begin your journey without a valid passport and any visas required by your destination countries.

Most people believe their passport is valid for 10 years simply because it’s a 10-year passport. Yet, it may be only a 9-1/2-year passport depending upon your destination. Many countries require foreign visitors to have a passport valid for at least six months from the date you plan to return home. Other countries require at least three months.

Given today’s tighter security requirements, it’s also vital to make sure your flight or cruise documents match the full name on your passport—or other form of identification in the case of closed-loop cruises. Something as simple as transposed letters in the name on your airline ticket may keep you from boarding the plane.

If your journey involves visiting one or more foreign countries, make sure you have any entry visas that may be required for American travelers. Your passport should also have several blank pages to accommodate immigration stamps as you pass through passport control at foreign airports. Some countries such as Australia and New Zealand have adopted electronic visas, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain online.

If Canada is your destination and you have a DUI charge on you record, you may not be allowed to enter the country. Double check with officials before making travel plans.

I also recommend Global Entry especially if you fly outside the United States more than once a year. You must apply online, have an in-person interview and pay a $100 non-refundable fee. Global Entry is good for five years and it will get you in the TSA Pre-Check line for all domestic and foreign flights, while expediting your reentry from abroad. Apply early because the application process may take two or three months to complete.

Ever wonder why U.S. Passports have dark blue covers? U.S. passport covers have been red, green, black and burgundy during the past century. In the U. S. Bicentennial year of 1976, the color was changed to dark blue to match the blue color in the American flag.

Getting a new or renewed passport can take six weeks or longer, so it’s vitally important to double check your travel documents early in the vacation planning process to make sure they are in order.