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Surviving the Bureaucracy of International Travel

- Kathryn

By the end of this summer, I will have traveled to six different countries across three continents. The destinations might be wonderful, but getting there is often a pain, especially when you’re on your own and travel plans get foiled by bureaucracy.  So, here’s my list of top three things to consider when traveling internationally.

1. Make sure you have your passport. Make sure you are traveling at least six months before the passport expiration date and also have space for stamps and any needed visas. Many people forget this, but you cannot use your passport if you only have a couple months left on it. My uncle was on his way to Cebu, Philippines from the US and had to stay in Hong Kong while the embassy over-nighted a new passport. Also, your passport needs to have pages for immigration officials.

2. Plan to get your visa waaay in advance. Really. Generally, with an American passport, getting a visa is fairly easy and many countries don’t require a visa. Some countries, like Nepal, give you the visa when you get there. But, with some passports such as my mom’s Filipino passport, scheduled interviews are required. In preparation for our trip to Paris this summer, my mom scheduled an interview for her visa, but the next slot was a month later, after our intended departure! The French Embassy only has three slots each day. Also, you have to have already booked your tickets before you’re granted an interview. She pleaded with them and eventually got an earlier slot.

3. Ask your parents to drop you off at the airport. Did your mom buy the ticket with her credit card? Are you traveling alone? At nineteen-years-old, I may be a legal adult and fully capable of heading to the airport by myself. But, because I didn’t have the credit card used to purchase the ticket, I was deemed “third party” and had to buy a new ticket. (Don’t worry, my mom got refunded the other ticket and there was no added cost.) Also, when I was sixteen, I was traveling to Cebu for the same trip as my uncle. The flight was only a couple hours, but because I had a couple months before my seventeenth birthday, by Filipino law, I had to travel unaccompanied minor. Not having a parent to hand me off made things tricky, but they made an exception and let me travel UM.

Stay tuned for my article at the end of the month on surviving airport life.

See my previous article on how to plan a trip for just teens. A friend and I set off for Hong Kong by ourselves during our senior year. I share lessons learned from the daunting experience of preparing for a vacation without grown-ups!

Do you have any horror stories of trouble with documents?

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