In today’s world of international travel, documents have become more important than ever. In less than 70 years, we’ve gone from hand-written travel papers like you saw in Casablanca to our current digital passports with radio frequency computer chips inside storing a staggering amount of data. Anytime you make a change in any part of your itinerary or international travel documents, however minor, you need to check and recheck your documents to make sure everything is correct. If not, you may find yourself stranded in an airport or cruise terminal over a tiny detail.
Start with that passport. Check the spelling of your name and birth date, whether a middle name is used and other key data. Make sure the place of birth is correct. When does it expire? If there is a year or less, we always recommend renewing. For emergency purposes you never know when you will need a passport. Also, some countries will not admit you unless you have at least six month remaining before your passport expires. There is also a section to put in emergency contact information in the first page of your US passport, use pencil and make sure you keep it updated.
International travel documents sometimes involve visas from other countries. Check before you travel whether the country requires a visa. Most tourist countries do not require a visa from US citizens, but check the US State Department website HERE to be sure.
Next, check those airline tickets. Make sure they match your passport exactly. Not closely, exactly. Make sure the name appears exactly the same in both places or you will have a problem. Make sure your first name shows as the first name and last as last, middle as middle. For international travel even something that minor can cause a problem in your trip. Check your hotel reservation for accuracy, slowly and carefully review each piece of information. If you find problems or discrepancies, .
When checking travel documents for dates and times, remember some countries use the 24 hour military time system. I was a victim recently getting a train ticket leaving Machu Picchu at 5:30, which I assumed was PM. It was AM, as 5:30 PM would have been written as 17:30. So verify the information is correct and the dates and times are when you wish to travel. Also note how the date is written as 12-5-08 means December 5, 2008 in the USA and May 12, 2008 in many other countries.
If you need to make a change, contact the travel provider directly. After the change, request a paper copy or receipt for your records and to carry along with your trip. Many providers charge for changes, but you will be surprised how many times these fees can be waived if you are courteous and friendly in your request or if you have a valid reason for the change. Valid reasons include medical or family emergencies, deaths and similar. Also, weather, acts of God and other problems that were not your responsibility. Problems earlier in the travel chain also may qualify. If your flight is delayed and you miss a hotel reservation deadline, you may find yourself charged for the night anyway. Give the hotel a call and ask about a refund, remember they want to keep you as a customer for the long term, especially if you are a frequent stay-er. We always say: just ask, it never hurts.
Whenever making a change, get a paper confirmation or receipt and double check that new document for accuracy and any errors.