Checking Your Documents

The summer travel season is coming to a close. Thousands of people have traveled while others are eagerly planning their trips for the shoulder season. One thing that tend to slips people’s mind during the trip planning process is checking that they have all the required documents they need to travel.

Having worked in the aviation industry I can’t tell you how many times people arrive to the airport and are shocked when they are advised they won’t be able to travel. Don’t let this happen to you! It’s easy to avoid.

The first thing you should do if you are traveling internationally is to ensure that your passport is not expired! Passports for adults may have a different expiration period than that of a child. US passports for kids are only valid for 5 years.

As an airline agent there was no exception for kids traveling with expired passports. On more than one occasion the parents of the child with the expired passport would yell, then panic and ask us what to do. It was always airline policy to explain the laws were not set by us but rather by the government. The only people who can issue passports or make exceptions are the Passport Office.

Passport Offices can be like the DMV. You need to ensure you allow enough time to wait in line and plead your case. More often than not, there is nothing they can do except expedite your expired child’s passport. Emergency or temporary passports are not typically issued within the U.S. Those documents are reserved for when you lose your passport or have it stolen abroad.

If your passport does not expire for three months it still may affect your trip. Certain countries require passports be valid for a certain amount of time before the expiration date takes effect. For example, US passports must be valid for 3 months beyond the date you are entering and leaving say France. 

Once you have your passport handy always check if any other visas or documents are required! Countries are always introducing new rules and policies. The last thing anyone wants to do is be told at the airport they won’t be allowed to fly due to lack of a proper visa. Even if you are transiting through an airport for a connecting flight, a visa may be required!

Did you know that even Canada requires certain passport holders to have either a valid visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) in order to enter the country? Australia is another country that requires an ETA or a visa. As an airline agent the answer to the “did you know…” question was always no.

Passengers would become upset at check in when they were told that unfortunately they could not be checked into their flight without an ETA. This is an immigration rule set by a country and not by the airline. Check the dates on the visa or the ETA. If you are entertaining the US with say a British passport and have an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), the ESTA is tied to you and not the date on the passport.

Using the same passenger, lets say our British passport holder is also traveling to Canada. They thought they had one on file, but they had renewed their passport within the last year. The ETA for Canada was tied to the old passport number and not the name on the passport. The British passport holder must apply for a new ETA. 

I hope this post will hope make you further aware of what to look for when you begin your travel plans! Next up in the travel planning series will be advice on planning your flights.