Today’s traveler has one mantra: travel light! Trying to shave every ounce possible, it’s easy to see the temptation to leave as much paper behind as possible, and many documents are indeed electronic. Still, there are certain documents almost every traveler needs…and only the real thing will do.
If your trip takes you outside of the U.S., you’ll need a passport. Most countries require your passport to be valid for at least 6 months AFTER you plan to return home, so check the expiration date at least several weeks before your trip to make sure you have time to renew if necessary. (To see how to apply for or renew your passport, visit the US Department of State website.) Many countries will also require a visa. Electronic visas can usually be obtained quickly and easily, but others are much more difficult and time-consuming. Again, check your destination’s requirements well in advance. (A great resource for visa requirements is CIBT Visas.) Make two photocopies of your passport, as well. Keep one in your luggage separate from your actual passport, and leave another copy at home with a friend or relative. If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re traveling, this will make obtaining a replacement much easier. (TIP: You can also scan your passport, and bring the files along on a thumb drive. As long as you can access a computer, you’ll be able to print your copies.)
2) TICKETS & VOUCHERS
These days, airline tickets are generally all electronic, so there’s no worry about losing them. It’s still a really good idea to print paper copies of your itinerary (including your booking reference numbers) as a backup. Other tickets might be paper only (and irreplaceable!). Train passes and tickets, tour vouchers, car rental agreements and hotel reservations are some of the documents that often require paper copies.
If you’re traveling within the U.S., you’ll need a valid photo ID, such as a driver’s license or state-issued ID card. Naturally, if you’re driving you’ll need a driver’s license; and if you’re driving overseas, it’s a good idea to bring an international driver’s license (you can get one at AAA). The international driver’s license simply translates your license into a variety of languages; some countries require it, while in others it’s optional. If you’re a student or teacher, you might also want to bring an International Student ID Card (ISIC) or International Teacher ID Card.
4) TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY
Having a good travel insurance policy in place gives you peace of mind should something unfortunate happen during your trip. Most travel insurance will cover trip cancellation, interruptions & delays, loss of luggage, medical emergencies and more. However, policies can be complicated, and knowing who to call in an emergency is crucial, so this is one document you should definitely bring along. Need help finding the right travel insurance? Contact Susan at Distant Lands Travel for a quote.
5) CREDIT & DEBIT CARDS
Obviously while these are crucial, they’re not documents. However, you should make photocopies of the front and back of your cards, and keep them separate from the cards. In case a card is lost or stolen, you’ll have all the information you need to report the loss to your bank, and request a new one. (TIP: Remember to call the issuing banks of all your credit and debit cards before you leave, and give them your travel dates and destinations. Tighter security measures can result in your credit card being blocked after only one transaction that’s outside of your usual spending pattern.)
6) PRESCRIPTIONS & MEDICAL DOCUMENTS
Be sure to bring your insurance card along in case you need medical attention during your trip. Depending on your destination, you may also need a vaccination card to show you’ve had required immunizations (such as yellow fever). (To find out what immunizations you might need, check out the Centers for Disease Control website.) Pack any prescription medications in their original prescription packaging so that it’s clear what they are. It’s also a really good idea to pack photocopies of any prescriptions you need as well, just in case a medication is lost. This applies to prescription glasses and contact lenses as well.