When the idea for a trip abroad first came up you no doubt scoured the internet looking for the perfect destination, fun things to do when you got there, and probably made reservations for accommodations and transportation so everything would be ready for you when you arrived. Right? Excellent! But there are a couple more very important things you need to arrange before you leave home because without them you might not get to enjoy even a minute of your trip and I would be absolutely gutted for you if that happened!
So first things first- check the expiration date on your passport! Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months beyond the return date of your trip so if yours is due to expire sooner than that they won’t let you in and you likely won’t even be allowed to board that plane. In addition to that some countries have rules about how many blank passport pages you must have available to enter for visas and/or entry stamps. For example a US citizen visiting China needs two blank pages, but to visit the United Kingdom only one page is required. Each country makes its own rules for these requirements, and the rules can change, so it is best to check before each trip to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Helpful sites for Passport Renewal and Visas Requirements
For American citizens
Passport Application and Renewal for US Citizens- current processing times are 4-6 weeks for regular applications, 3 weeks for expedited, or 8 business days with an ‘expedited at agency’ service. Fees for passports range depending on your needs (passport book and card, book only, or card only), your age (16 years and older are adults, or under 16 years are minors), and how fast you need to receive your passport. Click here to estimate your fees.
International Travel for US Citizens– provided by the US Department of State this website allows you to enter your destination country and receive information about visa requirements, vaccinations, currency restrictions for entry and exit, and Embassy and Consulate information.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program– a free service that allows US citizens and nationals to register their trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. The program will give you information about safety conditions for your destination countries and help family and friends reach you in emergencies.
For Canadian citizens
Passport Application and Renewal for Canadian Citizens– current processing times are 10 business days if you apply in person at a Passport Canada office, or 20 business days by mail from Canada or the United States (not including postal delivery times). On a personal note- I am Canadian but reside in the United States so I apply by mail and find it is worth the extra cost to send my passport and application by FedEx (or similar service) and receive my new passport back the same way. This lets me track it and it gets there quicker. I’ve renewed passports like this several times over the years I’ve lived here and it has never taken more than 3 weeks total time to get my passport renewed and I don’t pay any additional fees to expedite it.
Travel Advice and Advisories for Canadians– provided by the Government of Canada this website allows you to enter your destination country to receive travel advisories (if any and for what reason), visa requirements, vaccinations, and other information about laws and culture.
For British citizens
Passport Application and Renewal– current processing times are 6 weeks for new passports and 3 weeks for renewals.
Foreign Travel Advice for British citizens– includes safety and security, entry requirements, laws and customs, and health information. This site is also searchable by the country you wish to visit.
Once you’ve got your passports and visas all in order it is now time to help yourself prepare for losing these precious documents. Even the most diligent people in the world can have a lapse and leave one behind, or they could be stolen. Stuff happens. All you can do is be as prepared as possible when it does and it will be a lot easier to replace them if you have copies to get the process started.
Before you leave make at least two sets of your passports and visas (and all your other important documents while you’re at it), one set to pack to take with you and one set to leave with a trusted friend or relative at home and they can fax or email them to you if needed. You could also scan them and email them to a web-based email account or store them on a site like Google Docs but don’t make that your sole source of copies because it won’t help you if you’re without internet access.