In this digital age, travelers are increasingly relying on apps found on their smartphones or iPads to stay organized on the road. While that’s great in theory, there’s one small problem: technology always has the potential to fail. Imagine you find yourself standing in an airport in a foreign country late at night with a dead phone battery, and realize you can’t remember which hotel you reserved? Or your airline ticket confirmation somehow got sent to the place where e-mails go to die? With that in mind, I’m a huge believer in having paper backups, just in case. Here is the list of documents you should never leave town without.
It goes without saying that it’s hard to get into many countries without one of these bad boys, so make sure you protect yours like a child! And it’s not just border patrol officers that will want to see it: for example, visitors to Machu Picchu must present their passports at the gate, as well as certain checkpoints throughout the site. It also helps to have a photocopy of it (which you can e-mail to family members), in case your passport gets lost or stolen while you’re on vacation. Having at least some form of ID will make it that much easier to deal with the embassy as you frantically try to secure a new one.
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While travelers can usually decide whether or not to go ahead with suggested vaccinations (aka playing Russian Roulette by heading to Africa without taking malaria pills), sometimes governments just don’t give them the choice. Bolivia is one such place, where officials may ask to see proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever—and if you don’t have the certificate…guess you’re heading back to Chile! Make sure you check for such restrictions before leaving home, and keep those vaccination certificates safe and sound. Having to get another needle in the arm because you lost a piece of paper is no fun!
Travel Insurance Card
No one wants to think about the worst case scenario, which is why few travelers bother throwing this in their carry-on. However, a travel insurance card could mean the difference between a $20,000 medical bill being paid or denied. Some insurance companies require that their clients contact them BEFORE receiving any medical treatment overseas (which is totally bananas in my opinion, but that’s another story) so it’s important to have their number handy so you’re not hunting around for it in an emergency situation.
Many a traveler has found themselves in some foreign land with absolutely no money. This nearly happened to my husband and I in South America once, after we realized he had left BOTH bank cards in ATMs, and my American Express card refused to work. Needless to say, there were frantic attempts at calling and e-mailing the bank to report the lost cards, before we ended up paying for some sneaky Bolivian’s new car. The contact numbers on the back of the cards obviously won’t be much help if you don’t actually have the card, so make sure you write down phone numbers or e-mail addresses somewhere else you can easily access.
Going back to the whole forgetting-which-hotel-you-booked thing, having a complete hard-copy of your itinerary is extremely important. For example, I have found myself hop into many a cab where I had to physically point out an address to the driver that was written down on paper. As you can imagine, that wouldn’t have worked out so well if the info was in a smartphone that had no wi-fi access! A day-by-day write-up of your travel plans can also be a big help on the road, where it’s easy to lose track of days and forget when your next flight out is. Try to print out every flight e-ticket, hotel booking and tour confirmation, and slip it all into a folder before you head out.
Are there any other important documents you’d add to this list? Comment below, or tweet me!
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