(53) Are You Ready to Travel?

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(53) Are You Ready to Travel?

When it comes to cruising, especially international cruises, it pays to plan ahead to be spontaneous. Isn't that contradictory? Not if you want to be ready to grab a great travel deal and go on short notice. See how you score on this “ready-to-go” cruise travel document checklist.

Do you have a current passport? If you are dreaming of taking a cruise someday, get a passport now. Passport deadline dates fluctuated throughout 2006 and 2007; however, regulations now require a current passport to return to the United States from Canada , the Caribbean , Mexico , Central America and Bermuda by air. That means you can no longer fly down to Jamaica for a Caribbean cruise or Vancouver for an Alaska last-minute getaway cruise unless you have a passport! Passports for cruise travel and road travel may be required as early as 2008 for the same regions. Check the latest passports regulations at www.travel.state.gov.

To obtain a passport for the first time, you must go in person to a passport acceptance facility. Check http://iafdb.travel.state.gov for a list of acceptance facilities anywhere in the U.S. All acceptance facilities have application forms, but it will hasten the process if you print and complete an application in advance. (New passport or renewal passport application forms are online at www.travel.state.gov/passport.)

Heads Up: If you already have a passport, check the expiration date. Many countries won't allow you to visit if your passport expires within six months! Don't put off getting or renewing your passport. The Department of State recommends allowing a minimum of six weeks after application to receive your passport. When new passport requirements became effective in 2007, the number of passport applications increased dramatically. Don't cut it close; allow 90 days and relax. In an emergency you can pay for expedited service, but it is costly.Will you need a Visa? You may be required to obtain a visa when cruising to certain countries outside the United States. While you can obtain a visa directly from the consulate of the country you're visiting, it is much easier to arrange the visa through your travel agent or a passport/visa fee-based service. Travisa is one company that assists in expediting both passports and visas for a fee. Their website (www.travisa.com) is a goldmine of information about which countries require visas and country demographics.

Are your health records and vaccinations current? If you have chronic health problems or severe allergies, always travel with a summary copy of your medical records. Compile a list of emergency medical contact numbers and keep them with your medical records and other important travel documents.

Check immunization requirements for countries you may want to visit if the opportunity arises. Even if specific vaccinations or preventive medications are not required, it's smart to ensure that immunizations such as typhoid, smallpox, tetanus, and influenza are up-to-date. Talk to your physician about a two part hepatitis A and B vaccinations. If vaccinations are required, they must be recorded in booklet PHS-731, International Certificates of Vaccination. Keep vaccination records with your passport.

Are your travel documents organized? File and carry all important travel documents in a documents folder in your carry-on luggage. Never pack important travel document



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Patricia Walters-Fischer