Passport and tickets are just a start
Other documents can prevent hassles
- Jane Engle, Los Angeles Times
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Originally Published: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/02/27/TRGBJBFU3D1.DTL
Alexander Anolik was enjoying a carefree, early-morning jaunt before leaving Monaco last year, driving his rental car down streets used in that seaside principality's renowned Grand Prix motor races.
The good times came to a halt after he arrived at the airport in Nice, France, and discovered that his passport was missing.
Fortunately, Anolik, a San Francisco travel attorney, had a photocopy, which he showed to airline personnel. A quick call to border authorities in the States, and he was on his way home.
Having the right documents can be critical when you travel, saving hours or days of hassles. Most us know enough to carry passports abroad and a driver's license (or other identification), e-ticket itineraries, and printouts of hotel and car reservations.
But other papers can prove handy too, especially if you have a chronic health problem or are traveling with minor children or a domestic partner. Call me paranoid, but after talking with experts, I've developed this list of papers I'd consider taking on the road or, if flying, in my carry-on bag.
-- Photocopies of your passport information page. The U.S. State Department also suggests carrying an extra set of passport photos to speed replacement.
-- Contact phones and e-mails for relatives and friends who might be helpful in an emergency.
-- Paper airline tickets or receipts. These rarely are needed in the United States, where most airlines use electronic tickets. But if you fly through a less developed country, especially on an unfamiliar airline, "We would always recommend erring on the side of caution," said Kevin Morris, vice president of marketing at the Americas headquarters in Philadelphia for International SOS, a worldwide travel-assistance company.
-- Medical information. This might include your physician's phone number, prescriptions for drugs and eyeglasses, inoculation history, lists of allergies and proof of health insurance coverage. (Insurance coverage might be limited abroad. Check with your insurer.) If you have a serious medical condition, consider getting them translated into the language of the country or countries you'll visit.
-- Living wills. These typically include do-not-resuscitate requests and other instructions in case you are unable to direct your own medical care. In California, an "advance health care directive" combines a living will with power of attorney, allowing you to designate someone to make health care decisions for you. Some experts advise that you take a copy of these documents, plus an organ-donor card, if you have one, and leave the originals with a friend or relative back home.
If you're overseas, however, "nobody in other countries is bound by American legal documents," Ruden said. "They are not obligated to follow it. They may not understand it. It may even conflict with local laws." That's one reason it's important to have contact numbers for friends and relatives who can intervene.
-- Parental consent form. Minors traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, might need to carry written, notarized authorization from the absent parent or guardian to enter another nation, including Mexico and several others in Latin America.
The purpose is to discourage kidnapping. Rules and the definition of "minor" vary. Canada, for instance, requires notarized letters for people younger than 16 who are traveling alone or in custody of someone other than their parents.
Although no consent form is required for one parent to travel with a minor, you might want to take one anyway "to err on the cautious side," said Chris Kealey, spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency in Ottawa, the capital.
If the parents are divorced or separated, he added, taking a copy of the custody arrangements is "highly advisable."
A nation-by-nation round-up of these and other entry requirements is posted at travel.state.gov/visa/americans1.html. For details, check with the consulate of the country you plan to visit.
-- Domestic partner documents. These papers don't travel well, so don't rely on them to protect rights to visit your hospitalized partner or make medical decisions for them.
That's because only a few states recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships between same-sex or opposite-sex couples, said Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel in Los Angeles for Lambda Legal, a nonprofit national lesbian and gay civil rights firm.
Although it doesn't hurt to travel with a copy of your partner registration form or the certificate that the state sent you, she said, domestic partners also should carry copies of powers of attorney and living wills, which are recognized throughout the United States.
If carrying all these papers seems burdensome -- you'll need to put some toiletries in that carry-on too, right? -- there's an electronic alternative. You can scan documents into an e-mail and send them to yourself.
There are even companies that will do this for you. As part of its "SOS Global Traveler" package of medical referral, evacuation, concierge and other travel assistance, International SOS, www.internationalsos.com, will develop an "emergency record" of documents that clients can print out at Internet cafes and business centers or request by phone.
For a 10-day trip, executive Morris said, charges start at $80 per person or $110 per couple for the package of services.
Paranoid or prudent? You'll never know until you face an emergency. And then it might be too late.