Travel Tales

Visas for Americans?

Just a reminder for those of you planning to travel overseas, check the expiration date of your passport. The airlines will not accept you if you are six months away from this date of expiration. You may think it is acceptable but they don’t and can refuse to let you fly. 

No passport is needed to fly domestically to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, etc., but should the airplane develop a mechanical problem and have to descend in Mexico or Canada, it would be advisable to have a passport with you. You need a passport to drive and fly to Mexico and Canada even to visit for just one day as you will need to show it to Immigration upon re-entering the USA.

Your passport is valid for ten years, but a child’s passport is valid for only five.

Now with the new development of facial recognition technology, the government identifies you with a passport or ID photograph. Not to worry if you changed the color of your hair or grown a beard, the Department of State only wants a new photo if you have had facial surgery, or a gender change, or have removed facial tattoos.

Under the “Real ID Act,” you might not be able to fly with your driver’s license. The state IDs must have certain security features with data attached to them in order to be valid. Without a valid ID you will not get on a plane. But not all states have standardized these security features. Please log on to the Department of Homeland Security’s website to see whether your state is in compliance. A U.S. passport card is the same size of a driver’s license, but it is not good for international travel, only domestic.

In the event your passport was damaged it is no longer valid. The U. S. Department of State requires you to go in person to replace a damaged passport. Or if you lost it: Form Ds-64 Statement regarding lost or stolen passport. You will need to take with you: the damaged passport, a signed statement explaining how it was damaged, Form DS-11 (Application for U. S. passport); evidence of citizenship, i.e. birth of naturalization certificate; a photocopy of citizenship evidence; your present I. D., and one passport photo, and pay fees. If your citizenship evidence was lost or damaged, you can request a file search for a fee, if you had a previous passport.

If your passport will expire this year or next year, do it as soon as possible as the Department of State is backlogged, if you want to avoid long waits or an expediting fee. However, you might be able to renew your passport by mail. 

The airlines will request a government issued photo I.D. such as a driver’s license or state identification before selling you a ticket. It takes about six weeks to obtain a new passport or even renew your old one. If you want to avoid paying an extra $100.00 for rush fees, calculate a minimum of six weeks prior to your date of purchasing a ticket as they will not sell you one without this information for their records, and this is also true for cruises. Should the ship need to dock in a foreign port due to weather or any other emergency, it would be better to have a passport with you. For further information contact:  http://travel.state.gov/passport.

Now the EU Parliament wants Americans, and those with dual nationalities, to obtain visas for travelling to their 28 nations, and could implement such requirements by May 2017. They are also trying to decide whether this new rule should be on a temporary basis. Keep in mind that it takes weeks to obtain a visa, so if you are planning on a trip to Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia, etc., check well in advance with their consulate before buying your airline ticket.  

There was talk about Americans needing a federal I. D. to travel from one state to another, but that has not yet been determined, and as soon as I find out about this situation, I will post it here under Travel Tales with the proper sources.

The airlines are getting very strict about the sizes of carry-on luggage and not all suitcases will be permitted on board for the overhead compartments, so be prepared to pay an extra $25.00 or more for them to check it at the gate. Also, only the Airbuses have a large opening under the seat in front of you for a bag, which means you have to place it in the overhead bin, and the flight attendants will not help you lift it as their union does not permit them to handle baggage.

Passengers sometimes complain about getting sick on airplanes as quite honestly the planes are full of germs, especially on the table tops. I always travel with packets of liquid antibacterial hand sanitizing wipes and clean my tray before I place food on it, but I normally don’t eat airline food. I eat before I board or carry packets of granola bars and trail mix, and buy a small bottle of water in case there is a departure delay. I also disinfect the armrest regardless of the stares I get.  Buy a small plastic bottle at the Dollar store and carry it empty until you have passed security as TSA will not permit liquids, then fill it up at the water fountain near the restrooms or be prepared to pay up to $3.00 for a bottle of water.    

I prefer to carry liquids such as makeup and creams in packets rather than in bottles to avoid being detained at security, as these go through the TSA x-ray machines without problems, because if you have more than 3 ounces they will simply throw away expensive cosmetics.     

Magellans.com, 1-888-450-7715, sells items to the frequent traveler, and has an assortment of travel accessories that make travelling easier. I have been a satisfied customer of this American company for over fifteen years. The company was started by a furloughed Pan Am pilot who was selling suitcases out of his garage and it evolved into a fine source for travel gear.

They carry various adapters and converters for wall currents:  100V-125V and 220V-250V.  They also sell inflatable pouches with leak-proof seals which safely transports a bottle of wine or an expensive perfume.  One of my favorite items, which I purchased, is the Voyager Jacket with secure hidden pockets for an iPad, phone, maps, money, passport, glasses, handkerchief, tablet, hood, or portable umbrella.  For security purposes no need to carry a purse.  

Alinka

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