Picture the scene. Your bags are packed, your plants watered, your loved ones hugged. But you’ve got this tiny nagging kernel of doubt deep in your soul. So once again you open your bag and start rummaging, hoping that you have everything you need. Stress no more. Here’s your essential travel document checklist, and a few less essential documents that might be useful on your trip. Check these off your list, and you’re ready to roll.
- 1 Travel Document Checklist: Absolute Essentials
- 2 Travel Document Checklist: Important To Have
- 3 Travel Document Checklist: Useful Additions
- 4 Here’s Your Travel Document Checklist
- 5 Travel Document Checklist: Keeping It All Together
- 6 More Help To Plan Your Travels
Travel Document Checklist: Absolute Essentials
This is a no-brainer, but there are several things to check. Firstly, look at the expiry date; if you have less than 6 months at the planned time of your return, then you’ll need to renew your passport before you travel to most countries. Should your travels be many and varied, check that you don’t have passport stamps from anywhere that might cause issues with your destination country. If you keep all the family documents together, make sure the one you’ve picked up for this trip is yours.
Visas & Passport Pictures
Check well in advance if you need visas for your destination, and how to obtain them. In some cases you may need to send your passport off in advance, others can be added electronically, and still more are granted on arrival. Arrival visas may need passport sized pictures, so have a supply.
Tickets – And Onward Ticket
You’ll need your paper ticket if one has been issued. And don’t forget that often you will need to prove that you are going to leave – hence the need to have an onward ticket too.
Record of Immunisation
If immunisations are needed for your destination, check that you have plenty of time to get jabbed at the clinic. Don’t forget to keep all the necessary paperwork together.
It’s really important to keep information on your travel insurance for the trip. You never know when you could be looking up the phone number in the back of an ambulance truck on the way to Chicago North-Western Hospital. That was us, and thankfully it was a false alarm. Insurance was still mighty handy though.
This is important both to enable you to hire vehicles and as a second form of ID if needed.
If you need an entry permit for either a country or a specific destination once you’re there, it would be heartbreaking to be turned away without the required permit. Examples include route permits for specific areas of Bhutan.
Travel Document Checklist: Important To Have
If you’ve got hotel or attraction confirmations, it’s always useful to have them with you, lest the front desk deny all knowledge. It’s only happened to me once, but it was helpful to be able to wave papers around to get it resolved more quickly. (I suspect it also got me a better room, as they had to bump me up to accommodate me.)
If you’ve been issued vouchers for accommodation or a tour, don’t bank on them being available for reissue on arrival. Make sure they’re in your bag.
Particularly if you’ve got a long or complicated trip, it can be a real struggle to remember all the details of what’s been booked. If you’re on a tour, this should be supplied. Otherwise, create it for yourself, with details of where you’re sleeping each night, onward transfer details, any attractions you’ve booked and any other useful information like time differences.
I’ve been asked for this on arrival in the USA and Australia. It’s easier not to have to scrabble around in your phone (assuming you have both data and wifi) to provide this information.
Contact & Emergency Numbers
I can’t say that I’ve ever gone as far as to write down the embassy contact details for anywhere I’ve visited. But if you are heading some place that might be useful, then do it. You might also want to have a record of any important numbers for family and friends that are stashed in your phone not your head.
Copy Important Documents
It’s always useful to have a copy of your most essential documents, including your passport and driving licence. Stash your copy of your passport somewhere inconspicuous and safe, and preferably in a different location to your actual passport.
Travel Document Checklist: Useful Additions
Ever got to the gate and found your phone short of power or refusing to access that essential document? It never hurts to have a printed copy about your person, not least because it can take a while to get one generated at the airport. And that can cost you some of your travel funds too.
Student Or Other Age-Related ID
Discounts aplenty exist around the world, whether related to age, occupation or those needing accessible travel. So take whatever additional documentation you need to enable you to access those discounts.
Note of Card Numbers And Who To Contact If Lost Or Stolen
If you should be one of those unlucky travelers to lose your card or have it stolen, then you’ll need to contact the issuer. At at time when you’ll already be stressed enough, you don’t want to be struggling to give your details. Most cards have the information on the rear, so take pics and/or a written note. Hopefully you’ll never need it. On which note, it’s useful to have more than one card, giving you better coverage if your preferred card is not accepted or gets stolen. But don’t carry every card you possess; that can exacerbate your woes if your wallet goes awol.
Copy Prescription For Any Medications
You’ll be taking ample supplies, of course, but if anything gets lost or damaged, it’s useful to be able to show the local medic what’s been prescribed for you. And don’t forget to check that your prescribed medication is legal in the countries you’re visiting.
Proof Of Funds
I’ve not yet been asked for this, but I’m aware that travelers have been asked to show they have sufficient funds to sustain them during their stay. A copy of your latest bank statement should suffice.
Travel Notes: Places To Go & Things To Do
We’ve already talked about an itinerary. But in addition, you might want to take those notes you made about what to see and do. Sometimes the journey can leave you a bit open-mouthed on arrival, and your brain on overload. Having a physical reminder of all those things you identified before you left can help formulate your plans.
Serial Numbers And Models
If you’re traveling with expensive tech gear, you might want to make notes of the serial numbers of your kit and any model number. Should it be stolen, you may need this information for a police report, which will then form part of your travel insurance claim.
Here’s Your Travel Document Checklist
Why not pin it for later?
Travel Document Checklist: Keeping It All Together
When I travel, I keep my documents under control in two places:
- a small travel wallet which has my passport, tickets for the current leg of the journey, and any accommodation info for arrival
- an A4 plastic wallet that fits in my backpack for the rest of the documents. Thin and brightly coloured does the trick, adding no weight, but making it easy to spot.
All done! Tick off (or identify you don’t need) all of the above, and you can get on with enjoying your trip. And save the pins above to give you an easy checklist for your travels.
More Help To Plan Your Travels
If you’d like more help in planning your travels, we’ve got plenty to support you:
- sorting out your road trip essentials
- packing carry on in winter
- packing carry on in summer
- surviving long haul flights
- planning a big trip without your head exploding
If we can help with any other trip planning or travel hacks and advice, let us know in the comments. So far we’ve clocked up 50 years on the road, and have learned a couple of things on the way.
If you found this useful, why not pin it for later!