Planning a trip requires a lot of preparation and information. You need to know your destination, how you will get there, and the length of your trip.
Your suitcase needs to be packed, a flight ticket must be purchased and hotel accommodations must be booked too. But is that all that you need to know before you go? Actually, no
Travel documents are the most important part of your travel planning, and the type of documentation you need for your vacation will of course depend on your legal citizenship status, as well as your destination itself.
Length of stay can impact what papers you need, so it is best to know all that information before a trip even begins. Know that at the very least some form of picture identification is important, but there may be other several things that you will need to prepare for before your departure.
8 most important travel documents
Listed below are the most important travel documents you should have, so make sure to be prepared!
#1 Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is one of the most important documents that you will need overseas. It’s a policy that can protect you from several unexpected circumstances, that could affect your travel plans, trip investment and your health as well while traveling.
Why Purchase Travel Insurance?
There are 3 major reasons to buy a travel insurance policy:
o 1 Trip cancellation
The basic purpose of a standard trip insurance policy is to reimburse travelers for their insured prepaid, and non-refundable trip costs if they have to cancel a trip due to a covered reason.
Terrorist attacks that occur in the destination city, mandatory evacuation order by local authorities at your destination due to hurricane or other natural disasters, weather events that cause cancellations or accidental injury, sickness, or death.
o 2 Emergency Medical Coverage
This is particularly important for international travelers as standard health insurance plans sometimes won’t cover medical bills from other countries,
o 3 Affordability
Travel insurance is affordable, especially when compared to the potential risk of a canceled trip. So, when searching for travel insurance make sure to read travelers’ reviews and compare plans, prices, and benefits too.
#2 International Driving Permit
An International Driving Permit or IDP is a document that along with your valid home driver’s license and allows you to legally drive a car while abroad.
How to get an international driving permit?
For citizens of the United States, the US government requires you to apply for an international driving permit with either the American Automobile Association (Triple-A) or American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).
Also, keep in mind that an international driving permit is not mandatory in every country you travel to, so just do your homework and check before you go.
For example, if you travel to Costa Rica you can rent and drive a car without issues.
#3 Passport Book Vs Passport Card
If you plan on traveling the world, you’re going to need a passport. So, let’s compare two types of passports: The passport card and the passport book.
From the image, you can see that the US passport book is actually a booklet. On the other hand, the US passport card is just a card.
If you ask for the difference between those two passport types, so let me explain it to you. They are actually used for two things:
o Passport Book
If you get a passport book you have access to everything whether it’s by land, sea, or air. You can travel anywhere.
o Passport Card
With the passport card, you can only enter the United States and land border crossings and seaports of entry from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean only.
The passport book is good for 10 years if you’re 16 years of age or older, same as the passport card. And if you’re under 16 whether it’s the passport card or the passport book it’s only good for 5 years.
#4 Proper travel ID
Here are the different types of required IDs:
o Acceptable IDs for strictly US travel
This would be your US passport, your US passport card, permanent resident card, boarding crossing card, or your regular driver’s license, or state identification card.
o ID recommendations for children
For domestic flights within the United States, TSA does not require children the age of 17 and younger to have any kind of identification to get past security, but it’s always a good idea to have the child carries some kind of ID even if it’s not a passport that way they can identify the age of the child.
o Enhanced driver’s license
One thing I will highly suggest is an enhanced driver’s license. This is a state issue driver’s license that provides proof of identity and US citizenship as well as additional information. This is nice because you can use your enhanced driver’s license instead of purchasing a passport card to re-enter the US from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean.
o Consent for travel with minors
If you are traveling alone with a child, foreign border officials could require you to have custody documents or notarized written consent from the parent.
#5 TSA PreCheck & Global Entry (For American Citizens)
The TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are both eligible for US citizens, the US lawful permanent residents. Each membership is good for 5 years and its $85 for TSA PreCheck, but why pay $85 when you can pay $100 for the Global Entry which includes the TSA PreCheck?
How to get a TSA PreCheck?
A passport is required for the Global Entry but not for the TSA PreCheck. The TSA PreCheck is pretty easy as far as the application process, you would pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center, provide your fingerprints, and they will verify your identification.
o Cost of TSA PreCheck
As we said earlier, the TSA PreCheck will cost you $85 for 5 years membership.
How to get the Global Entry?
With Global Entry you have to pre-enroll online, then you have to visit an enrollment center for an interview. You can find enrollment centers throughout the United States at various airports. The cool thing about that is if you are traveling and you decide to get your Global Entry and you have a layover or some time, you can actually have your interview scheduled for that time.
And lastly, during the interview, you will provide your fingerprints, and they will verify your identification same as TSA PreCheck.
o Cost of the Global Entry
The Global Entry will cost you $100 for 5 years membership as well.
TSA PreCheck & Global Entry benefits
o TSA PreCheck Benefits
There are many benefits to TSA PreCheck. When you enroll in a TSA PreCheck your boarding pass will automatically show this special status, you don’t have to remove your shoes, jacket, or belt which is nice you don’t have to worry about stripping at the airport. Leave your computer and 3-1-1 liquids in your bag.
o What is the 3-1-1 rule?
The 3-1-1 rule allows for 3 ounces or small containers of liquid or gel, 1 quart-size clear plastic zip-top bag which holds to 3 ounces or small containers, and 1 bag per traveler.
I will also like to add that sometimes as a marketing ploy, the airlines will add TSA PreCheck out randomly to some boarding passes.
Global Entry Benefits
The greatest benefit of Global Entry is obviously the TSA PreCheck eligibility, but outside of that there’s no paperwork, no processing lines, it’s available in all major US airports, it reduces wait time, and you receive access to expedited entry benefits into other countries.
#6 Travel vaccinations
Always trying to make a habit of getting vaccinated before our travel out of the country, it’s not necessarily a bad thing but you have to think about it. If you’re traveling everyone doesn’t have the same background, lifestyle, they’re not eating the same foods.
Simply log on to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention website, type in where you will be traveling, and they’ll give you a list of different things you could do to prevent common health issues in that area or sickness.
#7 Visa Application
Before traveling outside of the country, be sure to research if a visa is required for that country. A travel visa is a document that allows you to enter a specific country, for a specific length of time and a specific purpose.
It’s a pretty simple process, you can apply online for it and then you get your visa. Depending on what country you’re in you usually get the visa for a certain period of time. There’s no extra paperwork it’s simply added to your passport, so make sure to check it’s required before you go.
#8 Customs Declaration Form
Whether you are a visitor to the United States or a US citizen arriving at the United States you must fill out a customs declaration form. Which is basic information about who you are, and what you are bringing in to the United States, such as agricultural and wildlife products, and whether or not you have visited a farm before traveling to the USA.
If you are traveling with your family members, then you can complete one form for the entire family.
When you get ready to buy tickets for your trip, gather as much information as you can, some travel documents can take from 2 to 3 weeks or more for processing and verification.
If you want to avoid having to postpone your trip and possibly losing your deposit and such, make sure your papers are in order as soon as possible.