Are you planning to travel abroad this year for Spring Break? Research before you go! This simple checklist will help you prepare and stay safe while traveling.
1. Get Informed
No matter where you are traveling, first, check out the country page for your destination at travel.state.gov/destination. Learn about entry/exit requirements, local laws and customs, security precautions, and health conditions in the countries you are visiting, among other things.
• Headed to Europe? Most EU countries require your passport be valid at least six months beyond your dates of travel!
• Going to Mexico? The Travel Advisory for Mexico is broken down by state – make sure you read about your specific location’s security information!
Be aware of the Travel Advisory for your destination country, which describes risks to you and may affect your travel plans. Read more about how you should plan for emergencies overseas at Crisis Abroad: Be Ready!
2. Get Required Documents
Apply for your passport well ahead of time! Whether you are renewing a passport or applying for the first time, apply early to avoid the added stress of wondering if you’ll get your new passport in time to travel.
And don’t forget, you may need to get a visa for your foreign destinations. Check travel.state.gov/destination to find out if you will need one. Check with the foreign embassy for requirements about taking medications into the country. Some countries ban common U.S. prescription and over-the-counter drugs, so make sure you’re not breaking any laws. Their house, their rules!
3. Get Enrolled
Sign up for our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. In return, you will get travel and security updates about your destination, and it will help us contact you in an emergency.
4. Get Insured
Make sure you have insurance that provides coverage abroad. Find out if your U.S. health care plan covers overseas medical costs and whether it pays at the time of service or on a reimbursable basis. Foreign hospitals and doctors often require payment in cash before treatment, and emergency medical evacuation can cost $100,000 or more. Medicare does not provide coverage outside of the United States. Consider buying supplemental insurance to cover these and other unexpected expenses.
We believe that a well-informed traveler is a safer traveler. We hope this checklist helps you better plan for your Spring Break trip! For more details, read our complete Traveler’s Checklist at travel.state.gov/travelerschecklist.
About the Author: Alyssa Zalenski serves as a Digital Engagement Advisor in the Office of Policy Coordination and Public Affairs (CA/P) in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.