If you are planning your first international trip, or your first in a while, it can be overwhelming to sift through all of the necessary paperwork and make sure you are prepared before you take flight. Get started with these basic resources for US citizens traveling internationally.
Travel Safety Information
Social media is the best source to get the most up-to-date information on international travel safety. Use Twitter to search for the country you are planning to visit. Look for users that are natives to that country, both to get a local’s perspective on the culture and also to be aware of any possible political developments that the resources below might not list.
For international health and crisis information, World Health Organization is a good place to start. Information on everything from virus outbreaks to earthquakes and natural disasters can be found on this site.
US State Department Travel Warnings lists warnings and alerts for high-risk countries. Based on comparison to current world news, this list seems to be incomplete. Check as many different resources as possible from as many national and international sources to make sure you are fully aware of all risks.
If you do not yet have a passport, or need to renew your passport, your first stop should be the US Passport & International Travel website. Standard processing time is 4-6 weeks, but there are additional options for expedited timing. Make certain to review all of the documentation you need to bring with you.
Good to know: they will keep your birth certificate with the application and send it back to you. When returned, the birth certificate will not necessarily be mailed with your passport. It may arrive within 2 weeks before or after your passport.
Passport Health is the primary resource and service for international vaccinations for US citizens. Physicians’ offices do not carry all vaccinations and they will likely refer you to Passport Health for any that they do not carry. There are a number of issues with Passport Health to be aware of, however, that will make for the worst customer experience imaginable if you are not aware of them before walking in the door.
Consultation Fees: Make sure to set up your appointment via phone. Their online appointment service does not inform you of the hefty consultation fees. If you have done adequate research on the country/countries you plan to visit, the consultation is unnecessary and the fee is damn near highway robbery.
Insurance: Passport Health does not accept health insurance. They will provide you with forms to submit to your insurance company, but all expenses are 100% out-of-pocket at the time of your appointment.
Vaccination Fees: Passport Health will offer you every vaccination under the sun. Stick with the vaccinations recommended to you by your doctor that your physician’s office does not carry. Get the vaccinations from your physician’s office that they do offer. Again, all costs are out-of-pocket. Depending on your health insurance plan, vaccinations at the physician’s office will likely be of no out-of-pocket cost to you.
Have you found an alternative to Passport Health? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!
Visa Information By Country
While a visa will most likely not be required for a short trip abroad, every country has different travel and visa restrictions. Project Visa allows you to search information for any country and provides you with entry and visa information.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a State Department service that allows you to log international travel plans. In case of an emergency or crisis while traveling, this service provides your contact information to the State Department and nearest US Embassy.