When I travel for long periods of time (i.e.: 5 weeks or more), I don’t tend to plan my trip. Funny as it sounds, I tend to retrace my trip once I’m back (through my travel journal, business cards, random scribblings on napkins or whatever was handy at the time) to share with friends who want to follow the same trip (but probably more efficiently than the bee dance I did!). I like to stay open to any travel possibility (like turning down a random street and finding something fantastic!) BUT I can’t get away from ensuring that I have all the important travel documents with me.
Here’s what you need to take with you…don’t leave home without these things!
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#1 – Passport
So…obviously…but you should never leave home without it! Check the expiry date and make sure you have at least 6 months left on it as most countries will require this.
#2 – Visas
Entry to the country (if required), not the credit card. You may not always need a visa when you visit a country and some even offer visa’s on arrival, however, you should always double check your visa needs and get them ahead of time, if needed. I really enjoy using iVisa to look up what my visa requirements are. You just input where you’re from and where you’re going and ta-da! iVisa lets you know if you need a visa, maximum stay, etc. What I love most about iVisa is that you can get your visa to most countries through the iVisa website for a small processing fee! Which is all kinds of amazing because there’s nothing I hate more than having to take a day off work to stand in line for hours at an embassy to submit my visa application documents and then have to take a SECOND day off of work to go pick it up (or pay a ridiculous fee to have it mailed to me)! I think you and I both have way better things to do than wait in line all day….
#3 – Extra passport-sized photos
Speaking of visas….you should have extra 2×2 passport style photos. You may need one for visas on arrival, to visit some ashrams in India, to enter some tourist attractions, or even to purchase a SIM card. I always have a few of these handy in a little envelope in my travel wallet so that I never have to worry about it.
#4 – Immunization/vaccine record
I always keep a copy of the little booklet that the travel clinic gives me that shows what vaccines I’ve received and when. Some countries require proof that you’ve had certain vaccines (like yellow fever) if you’ve travelling from or through a particular country. Also? Your own country may require that you show proof that you’ve had a particular vaccine before letting you back in the country. It’s small, weightless and worth keeping with you at all times.
#5 – Photocopies of passports, visas, and vaccine records
I always carry copies of the front photo page of my passport, my visas and my vaccine records for a couple of reasons. Some hotels will ask to keep your passport until you checkout (and I never like being separated from my passport) or will ask you to find a copy machine and provide them with a photocopy before they check you in. This process is particularly popular in South America. This way I can provide them with a copy of the info they need to register me without tracking down a copy machine or having to hand over my passport.
Pro Travel Tip #1: Take a photo of your documents so that you have an e-copy on your phone in case your documents get stolen, damaged, etc.
Pro Travel Tip #2: Leave a photocopy of your important documents in a safe place in your home where someone can retrieve it for you if needed OR give a copy to someone you trust (i.e.: like a family member).
#6 – Travel Insurance
You should always have travel insurance before you go and the good kind! World Nomads Travel Insurance (you know, the one loved by Lonely Planet Guidebooks and National Geographic Adventure) is my favourite because it is designed for adventurous travellers with coverage for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities (that a lot of companies won’t cover you for – so hike that mountain and go scuba diving!). What’s really great about World Nomads is that you can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home (like, what company ever lets you do that?!). P.S.: Here are 7 things you ABSOLUTELY need to know about travel insurance with World Nomads.
Pro Travel Tip #3: Keep a paper copy and e-copy of your travel insurance with you plus leave a copy at home and/or with someone you trust.
Pro Travel Tip #4: Keep all the phone numbers for your travel insurance handy. I keep them in my phone because when you need the number fast, you don’t want to be searching through paperwork or e-mails for your travel insurance handy.
#7 – Health insurance
Just because you have travel insurance doesn’t mean you should leave your health insurance behind. This means bringing along your health card or a photocopy of it, at the very least.
#8 – Student ID card
If you’re still a student, bring your student ID with you! Sometimes you can get student discounts at museums or other tourist attractions or bus/train tickets. (Mostly in North America and Europe).
#9 – Another form of ID
Like a driver’s licence, work ID, etc. Anything that has your photo and name just in case. You may have to present more than one kind of photo ID when travelling or to purchase things like train tickets, depending what country you’re visiting.
#10 – Financial info
I always keep my debit/credit card numbers in a safe, retrievable place in case mine gets stolen. It can be hard to get a new card sent to you when you move around a lot from city to city on your travel adventures. And you can still buy airline tickets and book hotels online, even without your physical card.
Pro Travel Tip #5: Keep the phone numbers handy. If you lose your debit/credit card or if it gets stolen, the number to call is located on the back of the card which is absolutely unhelpful if your card has gone POOF. No one ever thinks it’ll happen to them but it’s worth it to be prepared and you don’t have to worry about finding WIFI to look up the number. I also keep my bank’s phone number in my phone in case they cancel or freeze my card while I’m out of the country. (I call them to tell them I’ll be out of the country and using my card in country X, but that doesn’t always prevent them from suspecting fraudulent activity when my card was used in Ottawa on Monday and then in Malaysia on Tuesday – even though it’s me using it!).
#11 – Allergies Card
If you have any allergies or sensitivities – to food or medication – you should create a small card (business card size) to keep with you always. This is especially helpful if you’re travelling to a country where you don’t speak the language – use a website like Google Translate to translate something like “I am allergic to peanuts. Please do not put any peanuts or peanut oil in my food.” (or whatever your food sensitivity/allergy may be). Once you have this printed on a card, you can show it to your server (or doctor if you need to go to a clinic) to help keep you safe while on the road.
#12 – List of any medications you are currently taking
Always good to have on hand, in the event that you need to seek medical treatment while abroad. No one ever thinks they’ll need a doctor while travelling but it can happen – it’s happened to me in Malaysia twice!
#13 – Travel Tickets
If you’re a book ahead person and you’ve reserved your plane/hotel/cruise/train/etc. tickets, make sure to bring a copy with you. Ditto for bringing a travel itinerary, if you’ve made one. This is also something you should leave a copy of with someone you trust just in case.
#14 – Bring contact information for your embassy and/or consulate abroad
Bring the address and phone number of your home country’s Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for each country you plan to visit. It’s easy to do and will save you a world of headaches if you ever find yourself needing the assistance of your embassy/consulate.
#15 – Protect your valuables
Write down the personalized codes on the back of your electronics (like your precious, precious camera, iPhone, iPod, laptop, etc.). If they get stolen, you will be required to provide this number to prove that these items are yours when/if they are found.
How am I supposed to carry all of these travel documents with me?
It’s super easy – I promise. Here’s a few easy, sneaky and creative ways to carry these documents with you.
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