International Travel – What Documents to Take

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 22,389
    Travel Experts Betsy Sell & Tim Wilt discuss what documents to take for international travel.

    Betsy Sell: Hello! I am Betsy Sell from AAA Travel, and today I would like to talk with you about the basics of international travel.

    Let's start with the five documents you may need for your international travel. First and foremost, you need a US passport for proof of US citizenship. Due to new regulations that began on June1st, 2009, forms of identification that were previously accepted at land crossings and sea port entries, like voter registration cards and birth certificates, are no longer acceptable to gain entry or reentry to the United States. US citizens are required to present documents approved by the US Department of Homeland Security. That means a US passport.

    The fee for a passport is a $100 for those 16 years and older and $85 for minors under 16. The passports are valid for 10 years now for adults and 5 years for minors. It takes four to six weeks to get your passport once you apply for it. So plan ahead. If you need one on short notice, there are expediters who can get your application processed much faster for a fee usually around $60. Check with your travel agent or go to AAA for more information on expediting.

    First time applicants must fill out a form DS-11 and must appear in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility. Go to travel.


    gov to find the nearest facility. You can renew your passport by mail using form DS-82. Renewal cost $75; minors under age 21, cannot use this form. Be sure to include two passport size photos available at AAA offices and other locations.

    Now don't confuse the standard passport with a new US passport card introduced in July 2008. The passport card was created mainly for US citizens, living in communities that border Canada and Mexico and who travel frequently back and forth across the border. The passport card is not valid for air travel, but you can use it as documentation for a cruise trip, if you depart and return at the same US port. The card can be used for land border crossings from Canada and Mexico and for the Caribbean and Bermuda. But remember if you use a passport card for land and cruise travel and an emergency arises, you'll not be able to fly home using the passport card. So I strongly recommend the standard US passport, because it is valid for travel anywhere in the world by air, land, and sea.

    What other documentation might you need? A Visa, depending on your destination and length of stay. It is a document that permits the passport holder entry into or transit through the country that issued the visa.

    The visa is issued by the Embassy or Consulate of the country you wish to visit and it is placed inside a US passport. Your travel agent can provide you information about whether a visa is required or not for your destination. But be sure to apply well in advance, because its takes time to obtain a visa.

    You should also take an International Driving Permit more commonly called an IDP, even if you are not planning to drive, because it's a recognizable form of identification that will help you communicate with foreign authorities. The IDP contains your name, photo, and driver information translated in to ten languages. IDPs are valid in more than 150 countries. AAA Clubs are one of only two entities authorized by the United States Department of State to issue International Driving Permits to those who hold a US driver's license. If you are going to Mexico, Central, or South America and intend to drive, the Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP) is recommended and is required in Brazil and Uruguay.

    Lastly, you should have proof of vaccinations or immunization. You can find more information at the Centers for Disease Control website which divides vaccines for travel into three categories: Routine, Recommended and Required. You may have to show proof of immunization when entering certain countries, and get your immunizations four to six weeks before your trip, because most vaccines takes time to become effective and some must be given in a series over a period of days of sometimes weeks.

    Be sure that you and your family are up-to-date on your routine vaccinations. These vaccines are necessary for protection from diseases as they are still common in many parts of the world, even though they rarely occur in the United States. Visit CDC.

    gov for more information on traveler's health including current outbreaks and vaccinations.

    Now, you know what documents you take but what happens if you lose them. First be sure to check every where before you report a passport lost or stolen. Once you report to stolen or lost it is cancelled and no longer valid and you'll need a replacement. Go to travel.


    gov for instructions on how to report a lost or stolen passport. Be sure make copies of all your travel documents and keep set with you and leave a set at home with a friend or relative. These will help you obtain replacements.

    You need to carry a government issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, to prove you are who you say you are. Keep it with you at all times. Keep other documents in the safe in your hotel room if one is available. And a final word, check with your travel agent for a list of the specific documents you'll need to get to your destination and to reenter to US.

    So, those were the documents that you will need when you next travel abroad. Up next is how to obtain a visa and passport.