I experience a fair amount of synchronicity. Recently a friend shared that on a trip to St.Lucia a family friend was denied boarding due to his Passport not being valid any longer. It was “good” till July of 2017, the trip was in May of 2017. The next morning in the elevator two girls from my building were discussing an issue with a Passport not being usable due to hole punches in it. 

I put the following piece together to provide some valuable info so you can avoid being a “bad” travel story vs coming back with stories and pics (the photos in the blog are all mine) to share from your next great vacation.


Passport

If you go to Travel.State.Gov it will say your Passport is good for 10 years. Keep reading a few lines down where you’ll see it’s not. Your Passport is not good for 10 years. It’s valid for 10 years…however pretty much every country wants your Passport valid for over 6 months before you leave their border. Thus, if you plan on going outside the country, once it hits 9 years get yourself a new one. I’ve found ItsEasy to be a great service. You can use the Post Office, but I prefer the level of service, especially if you want expedite options. 

Of note, when you get your new Passport, they will send the old one back. It will have Holes punched in it to invalidate it. Even If the date of the Passport has not expired, it is not good any longer. If you try to use it, you will get denied entry. 



Airline Seats

This drives me nuts and I find this practice disgusting. I’m buying a damn seat on the plane…this new scam of charging you another $50 + each way to book your seat at time of purchase is ridicules. If you choose not to, then it’s case by case by airline but generally its 24 hours before the flight to choose the seat and then hoping to not get stuck in the middle or a nightmare at the airport. For the record, I generally wait the 24 hrs before. Great way to kill loyalty, Marketing geniuses. 


VISAS

Visas vary by county. Some you need in advance, others you can get at the airport. For example for Vietnam I had to get it in advance through an agency (I used ItsEasy), though for Cuba I got mine in advance but actually didn’t need to on JetBlue, since when you check in you can buy it. Check out VISA Info for details on major countries and there are links to find info on others. 



Currency

I use my AMEX as much as I can so I don’t have to carry much cash and they get a good exchange rate. I do get some cash in the countries currency I’m visiting before I go, primarily for cabs, tips, and drinks. Most major banks can get the major currencies within a week, but it’s always best to check with them first, some currencies are harder to come by. I use the XE currency app to get approximate rates. Please note, that’s not the rate you will get it’s what the banks are trading the pairs at. They will charge you a % for their services. 



Disease 

Its not just for going on a safari or remote locations in third world counties. Outbreaks can happen anywhere .ie Zika. While planning your trip check out CDC.Gov for what shots and meds you may need. When I went on Safari and on a trip to Asia I used PassportHealth for shots and meds and have been very happy with them. 


Trouble Zones

We live in crazy times. Stuff happens any and everywhere. Always good to check with the State Dept at Travel.State.Gov to see if where you are going has any issues. This is especially important for backpackers and those doing to a GAP year. You  may need to reroute as you go. 


Packing

Stop over-packing. You don’t need half of what you stuffed in your suitcase. Yes, you can wear it again. Buy some wool or capeline t-shirts, underwear, socks and polos. Airlines are charging extra for luggage which is nothing compared to the time wasted waiting for luggage to arrive or having it lost altogether. 

Along with you Basics…


Backpack-Pack stuff in it as your “personal” carry on. Unload it at the hotel and use as your daypack and/or pack an ultra-lite the REI…or Timbuk2 has some small foldable travel bags for use by day or to carry gifts backs. 

Phone Recharger- I like the Bolt. Some new luggage like Away and Raden have chargers built in. Don’t forget the cords for your device or it will be useless. 

Earbuds/Headset. I pack these for survival while traveling. Why? I’m dumbfounded by how many inconsiderate morons either blast their music or movies without a headset, talk on speaker or think giving a kid an iPad without a headset to play a game with the volume on high there are. I wear mine…to save lives. 

Meds- Do not count on getting allergy medicine, pain relief or Prescription meds (that you need regularly)while away. Bring what you need. I carry mine in what looks like a big Tylenol pill

Sunscreen- I always bring my own and put it in a carry-on sized bottle. Many places what they have is lacking or grossly overpriced. 

Bug Spray- If you’re going somewhere where it’s an issue bring your own, you not be able to find it. For Mosquitos I’ll get Deet, but otherwise there are all natural lemon based ones out there. REI and EMs carry them. They do have small carry on size bottles.

Camera- No your phone isn’t a camera, though it makes a good back-up and for use at night in restaurants. For most people I recommend a good point and shoot. I like the Olympus Tough since it’s waterproof to 30ft so I can use in rain or snorkeling. If you’re good or really into it, then get yourself a DSLR or a Mirrorless with the appropriate lens. Don’t forget the recharger and the cords. 

Flashlight and Batteries…doubles as a light in the dark and if need be a weapon😈

Bottle-Opener/Corkscrew(Important Note: The Corkscrew cannot have a blade)- I usually have one, the other or a combo, cause you never know when it might come in handy…

Rain-jacket-I prefer it to an umbrella(can work as a windbreaker as well) but your choice.

Swimsuit – even if you are not hitting the beach, maybe the hotel has a pool, the Chalet has a hot tub or you want to hit a Spa. 

Pen- Yes I know, you’ll just take notes on your phone. Can you use your phone to fill out the Entry documents they give you on the plane…didn’t think so. 

You did remember to bring/pack your Passport and Visa’s right? Have a great trip. Feel free to add additional websites, info, must haves to pack in the Comments section. 

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