When you are traveling, you need to have your wits about you. Not to mention checklists galore! Specifically when it comes to your travel documents.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has made traveling a little more complicated, especially when it comes to the extra paperwork.
Thankfully the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the States Department have put together country-specific info about COVID restrictions and travel document requirements for international travelers.
Of course, trusty Google will also lead you in the right direction, like to this article. Since regulations are changing so often, it’s important to keep checking – especially in the days leading up to your trip.
It’s also important to remember that specific airlines, cruise lines, and other transport providers have their own rules for passengers – so be sure to check those before your zip up your suitcase and head out the door.
What Travel Documents Do I Need?
Identification (Besides Your Passport!)
But before we skip over this one: Your passport is one of the most important documents when traveling abroad. Make sure your passport has at least six months left until it expires. This is an entry requirement for some countries.
Travelers going via land or sea to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and other Caribbean countries can make do with just a passport card. But if you’re crossing borders via airplane, then you’ll need your full passport.
Whether you’re traveling overseas for an exotic expedition or venturing nearby to explore your local realm, you need to bring along proper identification documents. As of October 2021, all domestic travelers in the US are required to have a Real ID – an identification card that meets the standards laid out by the US government in the Real ID Act of 2005.
Copies Of All Identification Documents
It’s not just a good idea to bring copies of your identification documents; it’s a very good idea. It’s not fun losing your identification and travel documents – especially when you’re on foreign soil.
So, pack in multiple copies of multiple identification documents to cover you in various situations. Lost the original identification? You now have copies to get new ones or at least return home. It is also a good idea to make digital copies, so you have them on your phone or laptop.
Speaking of digital copies, the new mobile passport app allows US citizens to breeze through customs when they return from an international trip – it might also be a lifesaver if you misplace your passport during your trip. At the moment, mobile passports are available for use at four cruise ports and 28 airports nationwide.
When it comes to international travel, most countries require travelers to obtain visas – whether ahead of time or upon arrival. In-advance visa processes can be lengthy, so make sure you do your research and allow for plenty of time before your flight departs to get your documents in order.
Proof of Insurance
Some countries (and more are joining the ranks) require proof of travel medical insurance or health insurance for entry. In some instances, they require a certain amount of coverage or specific types of care related to COVID-19, especially for travelers who are unvaccinated. Make sure you check the requirements for your destination and then review your insurance policy to find out if you need additional coverage.
Regardless of COVID, travel insurance comes in handy for delays and cancellations. You might also need auto insurance coverage if you’re planning on driving abroad.
Did you know many travel insurance companies have mobile apps which hold your travel insurance plans? Check with your provider to find out how you can best keep your proof of insurance documents on hand during your travels.
Another important one on the travel documents list is your medication documentation. If you take prescription or over-the-counter medication, it’s important to check local regulations for your destination. Some substances may be subject to different regulations in different countries, or they might be illegal. You might even need to bring along a written prescription, and can only carry a limited supply of certain drugs.
It’s always best to check with your destination country’s embassy for the most recent requirements. Here is the CDC’s guide to traveling with medication.
Some countries require international visitors to complete digital locator forms before their arrival. You might be asked to provide your contact information, in-country address, flight or other itinerary information, and vaccination and testing status. It’s essential to check the requirements for your destination – sometimes, these travel documents are due within 48-72 hours before your arrival.
Travel Itinerary Details
Whether you only have one reservation or several, when it comes to travel documents, you’ll want to keep copies of your itinerary handy while you’re traveling. This will prove useful in many ways. Keep digital and hard copy proof that you’ve already paid for all your tickets, hotel bookings, and other tickets to avoid any questions if you arrive and your reservation is missing. And if you don’t have an itinerary yet, here are our top tips for shopping around for travel deals.
If you need to give your travel insurance company a call for any reason, you’ll have all the details right with you to explain your situation without any hesitation. Also, sometimes we just forget things! So have a reminder available for when you need it.
Some countries require travelers to have proof that they plan to exit within a certain number of days. A return ticket or onward ticket to a different destination might be requested at the border. So, keep a digital and hard copy with you just in case.
COVID-19 Travel Documents
Now for the fun part! While we aren’t quite sure what travel holds at the moment, common trends are already being set. Travel document requirements for COVID-19 are doubly important to ensure your trip doesn’t face any delays or cancellations.
COVID-19 Test Results
One common requirement for entry into most destinations is proof of a negative COVID-19 test within a specific timeframe. Keep in mind testing policies vary from country to country. Some require a negative test even if you’re vaccinated, and some specifically require PCR versus antigen testing.
Make sure you know the rules; otherwise, you might have to undergo COVID-19 testing upon your arrival and quarantine in the meantime. Keep physical and digital copies of your results with you.
When you’re returning, make sure you find out about testing requirements for getting back into your own country.
Here’s our guide to the latest COVID travel requirements per country.
Proof Of Vaccination
Just like testing requirements, vaccination requirements vary by country, but if you are vaccinated against COVID, you’ll want to have proof with you. It’s recommended you carry your physical card, a digital copy, or a photo of your physical card. And while you’re at it, be sure to double-check which vaccines are accepted by your destination country.
And remember that just because COVID is the talk of the town, it doesn’t mean it’s the only vaccination you need to travel. Stay up to date with routine vaccinations in your own country and check to see if your destination requires other kinds of vaccinations for entry.
Now that you know the travel documents needed, you can plan your trip with greater peace of mind. Plus, being overprepared is far better than being underprepared. You don’t want to be stranded without something you need while you’re abroad. And if there is a digital option or app alternative, consider that over carrying a folder filled with papers.