An American vacation is often a dream come true for first-time visitors to this country. Going through the innumerable holiday destinations and picking one or more of them is thrilling. Deciding on the duration of stay, itinerary, accommodation, and local commutes automatically take the next priority. No matter how you execute this standard planning process, the most crucial part is getting your travel papers in order.
Essential travel documents to enter the US
We don’t intend to recommend destinations, itineraries, food and dining options, or the best hotels /motels in the country in this post. You are free to work on that exciting part by yourself. We would, however, like to add a few pointers on what travel documents and other essentials foreign tourists must have handy before embarking on their American vacation.
Travelers must have a valid passport to enter the US. While this is a fundamental prerequisite that you can’t afford to miss, a last-minute dash to the airport can upset even the most carefully planned trip. Make sure your passport is valid throughout your holiday in America. A six-month validity period from your vacation date and an empty page is essential.
Pack a couple or more copies of your passport. This way, you can leave the original at the hotel and travel with the passport copy without the risk of losing/misplacing it. Before venturing out, you will need to ascertain if the hotel/motel is safe enough to leave the original travel documents and valuables.
If you hail from one of the 39 countries mentioned in the Visa Waiver Program, you do not require a visa to enter the US. You will, however, need a travel authorization, approve by the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). You can apply for it using an e-passport with an embedded chip.
Travelers from other countries will need to apply for a Visitor or Travel Visa (B-2) online. You may require a return flight reservation, a copy of the mail from your hotel confirming your reservation, and other personal id proofs for your visa application.
While travel insurance is not mandatory for vacationing in the US, you better have all travel-related risks adequately covered. Without insurance cover, you will be paying for all the unexpected medical and other expenses in USD!
Apart from carrying a minimum amount of cash for incidentals, bring your international debit or credit cards to settle hotel and restaurant bills and other expenses. It would be best to inform your bank about your travel plans in advance so that your overseas transactions don’t seem suspect. If you miss intimating your bank, your card will likely be blocked. Do remember to enable international payments and set a limit on the withdrawals.
You can always buy foreign currency when you run out of cash, but only from credible sources.
Personal ID Proofs
Remember to pack copies of your identity proofs, your driving license, a couple of your photos, birth certificate, etc. These are likely to be helpful if you lose your passport and need to apply for a temporary/duplicate one to get back home. Bring an international driving license if you intend to hire a vehicle to explore the country at leisure.
A family vacation?
When planning for family trip to the US, including elders and/or kids, carefully check what travel documents are required and applicable exemptions. Plan your visit suitably to avoid last-minute disappointments.
Travel documentation formalities and regulations are bound to differ based on your home country, the purpose of travel, travel with children, single parent with a child, and other factors. If your travel documents or identity proofs are in a foreign language, check with the concerned authorities if you need to carry a certified translation of the same for visa clearance purposes.
Traveling light is advisable but not necessary if you don’t plan to move around much. Your list of essentials will include regular medications, first aid, season/destination-friendly clothing and footwear, sunscreen, and bug/mosquito repellant creams. A portable water bottle with a decent capacity and portable power banks will prove a welcome relief.
Sometime during your vacation, if you fall in love with America and decide to settle here permanently, you will need to prepare for immigration. The process can prove more challenging than preparing for a vacation, though. Most importantly, all supporting non-English documents required for immigration clearance must be perfectly translated into English and certified for the USCIS to approve your entry into the country as an immigrant.
Hope you have a memorable US vacation!