At the start of each year, many of us make resolutions to travel abroad. If your resolution this year involves international travel, here’s what you should know before you set out on your adventure. This simple checklist will help you prepare and stay safe while traveling!
No matter where you plan to travel, first, read up on your destination at travel.state.gov. Learn about entry/exit requirements, local laws and customs, security information for your destination, and medical care in the countries you are visiting, among other things.
Be aware of any Travel Warnings or Travel Alerts for your destination country, which describe risks to you and may affect your travel plans. Also check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be traveling for the latest security messages. Read more about what the Department of State can and cannot do for you in an emergency.
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We strongly encourage passport applicants to apply for your passport well ahead of planned travel! There has been increased demand for U.S. passports in recent years – we anticipate receiving over 20 million passport applications in 2017! Whether you are renewing a passport or applying for the first time, the passport application process can be completed without the added stress of wondering if you’ll receive your new passport in time to travel. Simply apply early!
Another thing to keep in mind: Inadequate passport photos are the top reason passport applications get held up during the application process. In 2015, we received more than 200,000 unacceptable passport photos! Submitting a passport application with an unacceptable photo will delay processing your application and could interfere with planned travel. Please review our passport photo requirements and tips for a “picture perfect” passport before submitting your application. More information about applying for your passport can be found here.
And don’t forget, you may need to get a visa before you travel to certain destinations. Check travel.state.gov country specific pages, or contact the embassy of the foreign countries you will be visiting for more information.
Sign up for our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to enroll with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. By enrolling in STEP, you will receive travel and security updates about your destination, and it will help us contact you in an emergency.
Make sure you have health insurance whenever you are traveling abroad. If your U.S. health care plan does not cover you overseas, consider buying supplemental insurance to cover medical costs and emergency evacuation. Foreign hospitals and doctors often require payment in cash, and Emergency medical evacuation can cost up to $100,000. Social Security and Medicare does not provide coverage outside of the United States. Learn more at Your Health Abroad.
Also check if you have coverage for trip interruption/cancellation and loss or theft, to help pay for unexpected expenses.
We believe that a well-informed traveler is a safer traveler. We hope this checklist helps you better plan for your international trip – and keep your New Year’s resolution! For more details, check out our full checklist on travel.state.gov.
About the Author: Alyssa Zalenski serves as a Digital Engagement Advisor in the Office of Policy Coordination and Public Affairs (CA/P) in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.