Thankfully, we can see the end of COVID-19 and worldwide travel is starting to open, especially for fully vaccinated travelers. Now is also the time to check your documents and get ready as there are many great travel deals, events and opportunities to take advantage of for lost time.
With this in mind, make sure your documents and apps are updated, ready and compliant so you're not denied access. FYI, these documents can also make perfect gifts for the holidays as the gift of travel or a shared adventure is always priceless.
Let's get started...
Real ID for Domestic Travel:
Let’s start with the basics for domestic travel. You have probably heard about all US travelers needing a REAL ID to board a domestic flight or access certain federal facilities.
A REAL ID is a Driver License or Non-Driver Identification card that is a federally accepted form of ID to help prevent terrorism and fraud. ID cards or Driver licenses that are REAL ID compliant will have a gold star symbol in the right-hand corner and can be obtained at your state’s local DMV.
Due to the pandemic the US government as has postponed their deadline for everyone to have a valid REAL ID until May 3, 2023.. You still have some time but don’t delay and be late or you’ll be denied boarding. Contact your local DMV to make an appointment along with required documents needed to apply for a REAL ID.
More information: REAL ID | Homeland Security (dhs.gov)
Passports for International Travel:
All USA travelers regardless of age are required to present a valid passport when traveling by air internationally for entry into a foreign country and for re-entry back to the USA.
Passports are highly recommended for all travelers when crossing the border by land and sea (an exception does apply and other documents may be accepted via the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative). Valid passports can also be used as another acceptable form of government ID and are highly recommended for everyone.
A valid passport must be in good, legible condition with an expiration date at least 6 months past the return date of your international travel. If you currently have a passport, now is the time to physically find and inspect it to make sure it is in good condition and reconfirm the expiration date.
If you were age 16 or older when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for 10 years. If you were under 16 when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for 5 years.
If your passport is expired or will be expiring within 12 months, we recommend getting it renewed now so you’re ready for future travel.
Due to a backlog from the pandemic, the current standard processing time for passports is 16 weeks from the day the application is submitted to the day the new passport is received. Expedited passport processing service is available for an additional fee but can still take up to 12 weeks.
All children aged 16 and under must apply/renew in person with two parents or guardians and all adult first time applications must also apply in person. Renewals for adults can be done by mail which is recommended presently due to the limited in person appointment slots.
Insider Tip: A USA passport is great gift for yourself and others and opens up global travel and opportunities for holders. Don’t delay, get your first-time passports or renewals now so you have an opportunity to travel the world. You’ll need certain legal documents and a photo ID to apply or renew.
More Information: Renew my U.S. passport (state.gov)
U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler Programs:
Not required but highly recommended for expedited processing and less hassle through airport security gates and clearing US Customs when reentering the USA.
The two main programs are:
1) TSA PreCheck for Domestic Flights, Cost is $85 for 5 years
2) Global Entry Includes TSA PreCheck benefits plus expedited entry through U.S. Customs when returning to the U.S. from International Destinations, cost is $100 for 5 years.
Insider Tip: We highly recommend the Global Entry program even if you only take a couple of international trips for the added value of breezing through customs when flying international. An application and in person interview are required for both programs so apply early since the processing time has been delayed.
More information: Official Trusted Traveler Program Website | Department of Homeland Security (dhs.gov)
Not required but having updated travel apps from your airlines, hotels, car rental, shared ride and other travel suppliers can really save you time and make your travel experience smoother and easier to navigate.
I personally enjoy using travel supplier apps for:
Insider Tip: Use a good travel itinerary app to download all your trip details and guides so have all this in one easy area to see. If you use a travel advisor, they should provide this service for you.
Use a Professional Travel Advisor:
COVID19 has taught us that using professional travel advisor will save you countless time, frustration and time as well as help you travel confidently and safely.
Sure, you can still book your travel directly online but when plans change as they constantly have lately , your Travel Advisor can immediately help in rerouting your trip or making sure the fares you book are refundable as well as advising you of what the current COVID testing or restrictions are required for your destination.
Benefits of using a Professional Travel Advisor:
Hope this is helpful. Oh yes, pack your patience and don’t forget your vaccination cards as this will be part of the new normal when traveling for the near future.
Notes from your travel advisor... more about Dan