An Idiot's Tips for Traveling Abroad

November 28, 2012
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Let me preface this by saying — I am not really an idiot. In fact, I am a well-traveled professional who is comfortable with wandering around a new city with no plans or a map, communicating with locals when I don’t peak the language and finding a way to soak-up every offered experience in a new country. But that is on solo trips, and now I am planning to a nature travel experience with my family. Suddenly, the collected world-traveler who has lived for weeks out of a carry-on — scarves are the key to looking fabulous! — has turned into a stress ball...and something of an idiot.

So, if planning travel makes you nervous, forgetful or just plain ditzy, here are a few tips and tricks I am learning along the way.

Birth Certificates

Do you have your long-form birth certificate? While they are common now, not horribly long ago most people did not have a certified copy of their long-form birth certificate – the version that also lists your parents’ names, places of birth, etc. As of April 1, 2011, not only are they required to get a U.S. passport, but countries like India are now requiring your long-form birth certificate in order to issue a travel visa.

If you do not have your long-form birth certificate (like my husband) and happen to live in the state where you were born they can be easily attained. Stop by your local health department. With a minimum of fuss and a few dollars, you will be ready to complete your passport application.

Passports

Before you invest money to apply for a passport, invest some time studying all of the different passport requirements on the State Department website: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html.

Take some extra time to study the requirements if you are applying for a passport so that you can travel with children. And don’t forget, all minors regardless of age, including newborns and infants, must have their own passport when traveling internationally by air.

Some things to note:

Both parents need to be present to submit a minor’s passport application to provide identification and sign a consent form. If one parent has sole custody, then you must present the court order granting sole custody (or other appropriate documentation) and if you have joint custody then the other parent must present a notarized Statement of Consent (or you can come to the passport office together).

You must provide the minor’s social security number. What happens if you write it down incorrectly – like I did? It turns out the US Department of State is amazingly easy to work with to correct an error. A simple phone call and five minutes saved me days of worry. Also, try to apply for your passports as soon as all of your documentation is together. Expediting the process – while helpful – is also very expensive.

What are your tips for navigating the non-fun aspects of travel abroad?