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It takes more than a passport to speed you on your way

It takes more than a passport to speed you on your way

Carrying the right documents can prevent trouble, especially for parents or those with medical conditions.

From the Los Angeles Times
By Jane Engle

November 28 2004

Originally published here.

Alexander Anolik last year was enjoying a carefree early morning jaunt before leaving Monaco, driving his rental car down streets used in that seaside principality’s renowned motor races.

The good times came to a halt after he arrived at the Nice airport and noticed his passport was missing.

Fortunately, the 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 you hours or days of hassles. Most us know enough to carry passports abroad and a driver’s license (or other identification) and e-ticket itineraries, along with printouts of hotel and car reservations.

But other papers may 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 a list of these other papers I’d consider taking on the road or, if flying, in my carry-on bag. Here it is:

• Photocopies of your passport information page. The U.S. State Department also suggests carrying an extra set of passport photos to speed the replacement of this vital piece of identification.

• Contact phones and e-mails for relatives and friends who may be helpful in an emergency.

• Paper airline tickets or receipts. These are rarely needed in the U.S., where most airlines use electronic tickets. But if you’re scheduled to 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 company that provides travel assistance.

• Medical information. This may include your physician’s phone number, prescriptions for drugs and eyeglasses, inoculation history, lists of allergies and proof of health insurance coverage. (Insurance coverage may be limited abroad. Check with your insurer.)

If you have a serious medical condition, said Paul Ruden, senior vice president for legal and industry affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents, consider getting these papers translated into the language of the country or countries you’ll be visiting.

• 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, a form called an "advance health care directive" combines a living will with power of attorney, which allows you to designate someone to make healthcare decisions if you are incapacitated.

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, these papers may not help you because "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 so 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 may 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 those 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.

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 http://www.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, including California, 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 should also carry copies of powers of attorney and living wills, which are recognized throughout the U.S.

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, http://www.internationalsos.com , will develop an "emergency record" of documents that clients can print out at Internet cafés 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 may be too late.
Hear more tips from Jane Engle on Travel Insider topics at latimes.com/engle. She welcomes comments but can’t respond individually to letters and calls. Write to Travel Insider, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012, or e-mail jane.engle@latimes.com.
Copyright © 2004, The Los Angeles Times