All the Basic Travel Documents You Need Right Now, Except Your Passport
The global pandemic has certainly made travel abroad more difficult, not least due to the additional documentation of your vaccination and testing status required to travel and re-enter the country. But the reality is that you have always needed certain important documents for international travel – COVID just reminds us how important it is to be fully prepared before leaving.
Both the CDC and the Department of State have compiled country-specific information on COVID-19 restrictions and documentation requirements for international travelers. You can also google “[country] entry requirements” or some variations of them to find official government websites or travel agency websites that will tell you what you need. Be aware that the rules change frequently, so keep checking a few days in advance to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Also, keep in mind that certain airlines, cruise lines and other modes of transport have their own rules for passengers, so you should also check them before heading out.
Here are the basic travel documents you can take with you on your next trip.
What documents do I need for international travel?
Your passport is one of the most important documents when traveling abroad. Make sure yours has at least six months left before it expires – a requirement to enter some countries.
For those traveling to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and several Caribbean countries by land or sea, a passport card is sufficient. However, when crossing the border by plane, only the full passport booklet can be used.
Many countries require travelers to obtain a visa in advance or upon arrival. The preliminary visa process can be lengthy, so be sure to do your research and allow enough time before leaving to get your paperwork in order. You can find visa requirements on the Department of State’s information page for your destination, and more details on the process for obtaining them on the country’s embassy website.
Proof of vaccination
Vaccination requirements differ from country to country, but if you are vaccinated against COVID, you should definitely have proof with you. It is recommended that you have your physical card, a digital copy, or a photo of your physical card with you, and update any digital health app such as Docket or Excelsior Pass that you regularly use, as not all countries adhere to every format. You should also double check which vaccines are accepted in the destination country.
While COVID is currently the most talked about vaccine, it is not the only vaccine you will need when traveling abroad. CDC recommends that you stay up to date on routine vaccinations that are being introduced here in the United States and check any recommendations or requirements for your destination. The yellow fever vaccination is one of the few stringent travel requirements for certain countries that you will need to register for, but depending on local health concerns, there may be other vaccinations you should consider.
COVID test results
As with vaccination regulations, admission testing regulations differ from country to country. Some require a negative test even if you are vaccinated, and you need to make sure you get the correct test (antigen-PCR) at the right time. Make sure you know the rules or you may be required to get tested on arrival and quarantined in the meantime. Have physical and digital copies of your results handy.
In addition, you must complete a COVID test before returning to the United States by air within one day of your flight. Explore local testing options ahead of time, or schedule an FDA-approved self-test led by your telemedicine provider. The requirements are complex, but we have an explanation for the most recent updates. CDC also has a flowchart describing the testing and documentation required for the return trip.
To facilitate contact tracing, some countries require foreign travelers to complete digital locator forms before arriving. You may be asked for your country’s address, contact information, flight or other itinerary information, and vaccination and testing status. Again, check the requirements for your specific destination as these forms can be submitted 48-72 hours prior to arrival.
Some countries require visitors to have proof that you plan to leave during the days you are allowed to stay as a tourist. A return or onward ticket – which may be at a different destination or other mode of travel – may be requested at the border, so have a physical or digital copy ready.
The Department of State advises those taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs with them when traveling to check local regulations for your destination, as some substances may be illegal or subject to other regulations overseas. You may need a written prescription and may only be allowed to carry a limited 30-day supply of certain drugs with you.
The International Narcotics Control Board has country fact sheets describing the required documentation, although you should always check with the destination country’s embassy for the most up-to-date requirements. The CDC also has guidelines for travel abroad with drugs .
Proof of insurance
Some countries require proof of health insurance or travel health insurance to enter – in some cases with certain COVID-related coverage or services, especially for the unvaccinated. Review the requirements for your destination, then review your insurance policies to determine if additional coverage is required.
Travel insurance can be helpful in the event of delays or cancellations regardless of COVID, and you may also need auto insurance if you plan to travel abroad.
Consent of a minor child
Some countries require documentary evidence of travel consent from both parents or legal guardians of minor children upon entry. If you are traveling alone with children or if you do not have sole legal custody, the Department of State recommends that you contact the destination country’s embassy to determine if additional paperwork is required.
International Driving Permit (IDP)
If you are planning to go abroad, you may need to apply for an IDP . Your US driver’s license is not valid in all countries, and even then you may need a local translation. On the other hand, IDP is recognized in over 150 countries.
What documents do I need for domestic travel?
To travel within the United States, you will definitely need proof of identity – such as your passport, passport card, or driver’s license – and proof of vaccination and / or COVID test results, depending on your airline’s requirements and destination health department regulations . … It is also wise to have all of your insurance information close at hand.
When it comes to paperwork while traveling, it’s better to prepare than not enough. You don’t want to be caught without what you need and cannot easily get abroad. Also, if there is a digital or app alternative that you can protect with a strong password, consider doing this if you carry around a stack of paper that is easy to lose.