Updated: Dec 5, 2022
International travel documents: what to bring and how to keep them safe
Planning for your dream vacation can be so exciting — where you're going to stay, what you'll see, the shows you'll take in, all the fantastic food you'll eat.
But what about all your travel documents? Are they all in order?
Here's a list of everything you need, plus practical tips on keeping everything organized, safe, and accessible.
• Your passport. This is the big one. Make sure it hasn't expired and is within six months of being expired. And don't forget passports for your kid(s)! Yes, even on a cruise, it's a good idea and highly recommended that you have passports.
• Any visas can be acquired in advance, including those for countries you'll only be traveling through. If you can't get a visa in advance, bring the letter from the consulate stating that your visa will be granted upon your arrival (the UAE and Oman are two countries that don't issue visas outside their countries, for example). We help with getting all these for you.
• A copy of the picture page of your passport and extra passport photos. Take a picture with your phone to have a copy on you at all times
• A copy of your itinerary; we offer a mobile app with all your information, documents, and directions loaded up for ease of travel.
• Originals and paper copies of your tickets (plane, train, bus, etc.) and confirmation numbers (hotel reservations, car rental, etc.), and all contact info for these companies. Again, this information is in our mobile app, but we sometimes send hardcopies if requested by suppliers.
• Travel insurance card and accompanying information, especially helpful if you have lost baggage coverage or trip interruption.
• Guidebook for the countries you are visiting and maps of your driving route — plus discreet city maps if you'll be exploring a new city.
• Your international driver's license if you plan to drive; yes, this is a real thing.
• Copy of Credit Cards. You need the phone numbers on the back of the card and the complete card number to report the card lost or stolen. Also, notify your bank you will be traveling.
• Contact info for all the people you would want/need to contact in case of an emergency (including me!). Don't forget the numbers of the consulates where you'll be staying. All these numbers can be stored in your phone, as well —designate a consistent label for them (like "France 2017") for easy access, and they can be quickly deleted when your trip is completed.
• Your Yellow (Immunization) Card-the original vaccine passport and your COVID vaccine card. Make copies as once these are lost, it's almost impossible to replace.
When you've assembled all the essential documents/copies, the first thing you should do is check to make sure your name appears the same on all documents. This may seem small, but it can be a big hassle during travel if your names don't match.
Next, scan the papers and send them to yourself and your emergency contact(s) in an email.
In addition, you can carry a USB card with encrypted copies of all these images — so even if it gets stolen, no one can access the documents without the master password. You can keep this USB card in a tiny, discreet pocket, along with some extra cash — an absolute last resort in the extremely rare event that you lose everything.
Choose a family member or close friend who will be your representative while you're away and who can have access to significant accounts if needed. This way, you have a trustworthy contact available any time, and there is someone who always knows where you are.
Store copies of your primary travel documents (passports, tickets, reservations, etc.) in a waterproof plastic zip bag and a separate piece of luggage from the originals. It's stressful enough to have your passport stolen — but having it stolen from the same bag where all the copies are is even worse. When you're out sightseeing, always carry the essential documents on your person, ideally in a waterproof carrier that can be worn under your clothing.
We get it, everyone wants to be digital and save paper, and we agree. However, there are just some things you need to have on hardcopy. As a US citizen, if you misplace your passport when traveling, you can go to the US Embassy and show the hard copy of your passport. Chances are, with that hardcopy, you can have a replacement passport within half an hour and be on your way.
Once you get all this info in order, you can travel with confidence, knowing you're covered in the event of the unexpected. And — bonus! — you'll have laid the groundwork for future trips. If this seems like a lot to have to remember, that's why you hire a travel advisor (that's us) to get all this for you. When you're ready, contact us to plan your next international trip.