Oh the Places you can Go and the Information you NEED TO KNOW to get there!
In June of 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative became effective. This mandates that all United States citizens and residents leaving the country present a valid U.S. passport to U.S. customs officials upon their return trip. This includes persons traveling to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean islands. Remember each country has its own visa and passport requirements for foreign visitors, so get the specifics before boarding the plane. Some do not require that U.S. citizens be valid passport holders. Regardless of your destination, however, you will need to present one on the way home. Remember, a valid U.S. passport is one that has not yet expired and will not expire within 6 months of your trip.
- To find out information on obtaining a passport click here.
- For information on international travel click here.
- For travel advisory information click here.
- For information on international health and vaccinations click here.
When you travel overseas make sure you make a copy of your passport (of take a picture of it on your phone) and also leave one at your house where someone can find it. In the very unlikely event your passport gets lost or stolen it will be useful when you visit the U.S. Embassy.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
- Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
- Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
To enroll click here
It is always advisable to travel with a small amount of local currency to be able to pay for taxi-rides, tips, street vendors, etc. while traveling. Most banks in the USA will have a supply of Euro’s and Pesos on hand, but do not wait until the day before your trip to exchange your currency in the event they need to order it. To find out the current exchange rate click here.
The best plan for currency is to bring a credit card and/or ATM card. When you make a purchase or withdrawal money you get the current exchange rate and you do not have to worry about the conversion! Also most credit cards and banks can replace a card right away if it is lost of stolen and work with you to access your funds, unlike with Cash. A couple of things to remember when using a credit card/debit card however:
- Make sure you notify your credit card company and back of your travel plans, including countries you may only have a layover in.
- Make sure your card has your name printed on it. Most places in Europe will not accept the credit card gift cards.
- Make sure you know and/or establish a pin number for your cards. Even credit cards.
- Many people set up a separate debit card account for their travels so in the unlikely event their information was to be comprised, they could only have access to a limit amount of funds.
Keep your cash, cards and passports on you at all times! Never leave them back at your accommodations. Backpacks and back pockets are easy targets for pick-pockets, so invest in a travelers belt, wallet chain, or a cross shoulder bag. Do not travel with large amounts of cash. While pick-pocketing is unlikely to happen to you, it does happen, so plan ahead and plan smart!
Know before you go! There is nothing more frustrating than showing up at the airport and finding out you have to get rid of items in your carry-on luggage. Well except when one country lets you bring the snow globes you bought for souvenirs on board, and the USA won’t. Take a few minutes before you travel to familiarize yourself with the TSA guidelines and make for a smooth security check!
TSA information can be found by clicking here.
Anymore we rely on our smart phones for more than just constant contact. They can tell us the weather, directions, even translate for us! Make sure BEFORE you take off on your trip that you contact your cell phone provider and talk to them about an international plan if you are planning on staying connected! Your phone may work in the country you are visiting without a plan, but the charge per/minute and data usage can be outrageous!
One great trick to using your phone overseas is to keep it on airplane mode and use it to connect to WiFi at your accommodations, Cafe’s. etc. Use applications such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype on WiFi connections to check in with people back home if needed (Or to upload your photos to all your social media outlets!). It does not require an international plan or data.
Remember you are on vacation, so the best advice is to disconnect! Check in occasionally as needed, but spend the majority of your time connecting with the incredible places you are visiting and people you will encounter. I have even gone back to carrying a digital camera to decrease the need to check the phone.
One last resource to share is a great translations app I use, Google Translate. It has a camera translate features as well which makes it great for signs, menus and the like. It is not attended to translate deep, intellectual conversations, but rather a way to communicate in the every day. You can check it out here.