While it’s a relatively simple matter to have your travel paperwork in order, practically speaking, it’s such an important detail that it’s vital you familiarize yourself with the procedure to do so. Read carefully; every destination outside of the United States will have its own procedures, and you’ll want to make sure you have everything covered wherever you are headed.
First and foremost, you’ll need a passport. If you have one, great; just make sure it’s up to date and won’t expire before your vacation (U.S. passports expire after ten years). If you don’t have one, plan accordingly: It generally takes 4-6 weeks for the entire process of applying for a passport to come to an end, with your passport in hand and ready for travel. Start well in advance of your vacation.
If you only plan to travel to neighboring countries, and not by air, you can apply for the less expensive Passport Card. (This would work if, say, you were on a cruise that departed from the United States but sailed to Mexico and the Caribbean.) With a Passport Card, you can travel by land or sea to and from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean, but nowhere else.
More likely, you’ll want the Passport Book, which allows for international travel anywhere. The Book costs $110 as a base price, but is certainly worth it; it’s the only way you’ll be able to travel globally. (As a note, if you are pressed for time, you can pay a fee both to expedite the process and to have the passport shipped overnight. Best not to play with fire, though.)
The important step, in the meantime, is to gather the documents you’ll need to prove your identity and qualify for a passport. You’ll need a primary form of photo ID (a driver’s license or other government ID will work) as well as an original document of primary evidence of U.S. citizenship. A U.S. Birth Certificate will suffice; if you were born outside the country but are now a citizen, your Certificate of Naturalization/Citizenship will work as well.
Then you must take a photo for your passport. While it may be possible to look up the rules for such a photo and adhere to them, it’s usually easier to go some place that develops film or specializes in photography and request a passport photo.
With all that taken care of, you can go to the State Department website and begin the process of application. Any further questions you may have, they are likely to be able to answer.
While your passport will be enough to allow you entry into many countries, others will require specific visas. You’ll have to apply for these in advance as well, and they generally are only effective for a specific time. Visit the State Department’s section on country-specific information to determine if any of your destinations will require a visa, and which kind they will require. (Many countries in South America and Asia that are on some of our travel itineraries are among them, so do your research.)
When you’re ready to book your vacation, visit AffordableTours.com or call 1-800-935-2620. Our professionals will get you the best deal on the vacation that’s right for you.