If you are thinking of traveling abroad, start your research by visiting the U.S. State Department website to learn about travel requirements (is a visa/immunization necessary?), safety alerts, and other important information for the country/ies you are considering.
Travel blogs or Travel Groups in Facebook or other social media can offer tips, itineraries and more. This is helpful to get an idea of places you want to visit and things to pack or purchase as gifts while you travel.
Travel guide books – Popular publishers include: Lonely Planet, Frommers, Rick Steves among others. Guide books offer itineraries, photos, maps and anecdotes. You can buy these guides in stores or online (Amazon/Barnes and Noble/BooksAMillion) or borrow them from your local library (editions may be older).
Traveling outside of the United States generally requires a current passport. Processing times can be a few weeks up to two months or longer once you have submitted your passport to an official passport office. To begin the process, you will need four things:
- a passport application – available online at the U.S. State Department and some local libraries. The two forms used most often are DS-11 for new applications and DS-82 for a renewal application.
- evidence of citizenship– if you were born in the United States, you will need to provide an official birth certificate. Copies are not accepted. If you have your birth certificate, examine it carefully to make sure it doesn’t have a watermark with the words VOID on it. Some states will use a watermark and others will use an embossed seal to validate that it is official. If you need a new copy, some state Department of Motor Vehicles provide this service. Otherwise, you will need to go to the County Birth Registrar in the county and state in which you were born. Fees an length of time to process vary so start this process early if you need to get a new birth certificate. If you born outside of the U.S., a variety of documents may be acceptable.
- photo identification – a government issued ID (driver’s license, expired U.S. passport, etc.)
- passport photos – need to meet specific requirements including size, position/size of your head in photo, and more. Generally your local drug store or photo center may provide this service. CVS, Target, Costco and other chain stores offer passport photo services. Prices vary.
Certain countries require additional travel documents such as a visa. Visas are issued by the embassy of that country. You can search by destination on the U.S. State Department website.