Documentation, Customs & Immigration
What kind of documents do I need to travel overseas?
A valid passport is required when traveling internationally. However, there are countries such as Mexico, Canada, and majority of the Caribbean Islands that only require proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate. In addition, the country you plan to visit may require that you obtain a visa. Visit our Advisories section for more information on obtaining a passport and visa requirements.
We strongly recommend that you make two copies of your passport identification page. Carry one copy with you, but separate from your passport. Leave another copy at home with friends or relatives. Should your passport be lost or stolen, this will make obtaining a replacement much quicker and easier.
Where do I go to get a passport?
You can pick up a passport application at any regional passport agency or at designated Post Offices. You can also download a passport application online.
What's required to obtain a passport?
If you are a US citizen who needs to obtain your first passport you will need a copy of your birth certificate with a raised seal. You may need to contact the Department of Records in the city in which you were born to obtain a copy with the raised seal. Once you have the birth certificate, all you need to do is complete the passport application and mail the application, birth certificate and appropriate fee to the passport office. You can find more on how to obtain a passport, change your name on a passport in the event of marriage, divorce or name change, in Advisories.
How far in advance should I apply for a Passport and what does it cost?
Ordinarily, it takes 25 working days to process a passport application. If you know when you are traveling, be sure to fill in your departure date on the passport application form. If you are 16 or older, there is an $85 USD fee for your passport and your passport is valid for 10 years from the date of issue. If you are 15 or younger, the fee is $70 USD and your passport will be valid for five years.
What if I need a passport or passport renewal at the last minute?
You can request expedited service for your passport application for an additional fee of $60 USD. The Passport Agency processes expedited passports within three working days from receipt of the passport application. When using expedited service, two-way overnight mail is strongly suggested. In some major cities, such as New York, the passport office also offers same and next-day service with proof of your imminent departure (i.e. a plane ticket). Consult your local passport office for availability of this service. In many major cities, there are also services who will stand in line at the passport agency for you and handle the paperwork - for a fee, of course. You'll generally find these services listed in the yellow pages.
What is a visa and how do I get one?
In addition to a passport, some countries also require that you have a Visa before visiting. A Visa is a stamp in your passport that authorizes you to visit a specific country for a specific purpose for a defined length of time, subject to final approval by immigration. You can obtain a Visa from the appropriate foreign consular representative. Most foreign consular representatives are located in principal cities. To find out if you need a Visa for your trip, consult the Foreign Entry Requirements area. Be forewarned: if you do not obtain the appropriate Visa in advance, you will NOT be allowed entry into a country requiring a Visa. You should also allow ample time to process your Visa.
Do I need a passport to travel to Canada or Mexico?
No, but proof of citizenship is required. Proof of citizenship includes an expired US Passport, a certified birth certificate with a raised seal, certificate of naturalization, certificate of citizenship, or a Report of Birth Abroad of a U.S. citizen. To prove your identity, either a valid driver's license or a government identification card that includes a photo or physical description is acceptable.
Health and Safety
How do I find out about recommended inoculations?
For specific information about health concerns of the destination you plan to visit contact the Centers for Disease Control hotline at 404-639-2572 or click here for online information. When you book with VacationWired.com, you must contact your physician for all required inoculations required for your itinerary.
Where can I go to find out about any government-issued Traveler's advisories?
You can find a listing of current government issued Traveler's advisories in Advisories.
Is there a list of U.S. Embassies worldwide online?
Yes, you'll find a listing in Advisories. If you are traveling to a foreign country, it is always a good idea to write down the address and phone number of the local embassy before you depart.
Tips on avoiding jet lag
Here are a few tips on avoiding jetlag:
- Once you've boarded your flight, re-set your watch to the local time of your expected destination and adjust your behavior accordingly.
- Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water. Remember alcohol and caffeine promotes dehydration, which makes jet lag worse.
- Wear comfortable clothing.
- Modify your sleeping pattern to minimize jet lag. For example, prior to departure go to sleep later and rise later if you're traveling west and vice versa if you're traveling east.
- Consider a sleep aid such as Melatonin or Benadryl, but consult your physician first.
- Whenever possible, request a specific seat in advance. Consider the bulk-head for more leg-room, or an aisle seat in the middle section where the seat next to you is more likely to be empty.
- Frequently, rows in the back of the plane are more likely to be empty as well. When you book through VacationWired.com, our agents can request seat assignments for you in advance. If you have neglected to reserve a seat in advance, consider arriving a little early for your flight and asking for the exit row. These rows generally have more leg-room, although on some planes the seats do not recline! (Exit row seats can not be assigned in advance.)
Staying Connected: Computers, Cell Phones & Other Devices
Will my laptop and other electrical appliances work overseas? Do I need a currency adapter?
Most of Europe and many other parts of the world use a different voltage system. This means that you'll need adapters for anything you plan to plug into the wall, including your laptop. In addition, some countries have noise on their telecommunications lines, (Germany & Austria) you may want to consider purchasing a filter as this noise can be disruptive to modem communications.
Currency, Credit Cards & Tipping
Is it best to exchange currency in advance or once I get to a country?
You've got several options here. Depending on how long you will be visiting a given country and what time of day or day of the week you will be arriving, you may want to convert some money in advance. Ask your local bank for exchange rates and fees. Many banks now offer advance exchange services via a toll-free number as well as traveler's check in local currencies.
Every major international airport will have an Exchange Center. However, you may not get the best rate and you will most certainly pay a fee. If you are arriving on a Saturday, Sunday or bank holiday this may be your only option if you have not exchanged any currency in advance. In general, you should avoid changing small sums of currency as you will generally be charged a fee for each transaction. Find the place with the best rate, and then exchange the amount of currency that you estimate you will need for the trip. You can, of course, change money back upon your departure to the US (and pay another exchange fee.) Or you can simply tuck the loose change and bills away for your next trip!
What's the deal with the Euro?
The Euro unites 11 nations under one common currency. Though introduced electronically in January 1999, Euro notes and coins went into public circulation on January 1, 2002. Monetary policy for the common currency will be controlled by the European Central Bank. Of the 15 members of the European Union, 11 began using the Euro this year: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Four others, Denmark,Greece, Sweden, and Britain, have opted to take a "wait and see" attitude before joining. For travelers, the Euro has greatly simplified making purchases when traveling abroad. You'll be able to compare the price of similar goods between countries and the cost of converting between currencies will be eliminated.
Can I use my credit cards overseas? What kind of exchange rates will I get?
Yes, you can use your major credit cards overseas. It is recommended that you carry multiple cards (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Diner’s Club) because not all establishments accept all cards. The credit cards will convert all of your purchases to U.S. dollars when they bill you at the current exchange rate. Generally, the rates are very favorable. Using your credit cards for large purchases is also a good way to make sure you don't get ripped off on exchange rates, especially when dealing with merchants who don't speak English.
Is it customary to tip outside the United States?
Tipping customs while traveling outside of the United States vary - some countries include a service charge or gratuity automatically; while others frown upon tipping or consider it an insult, and still others are very similar to American and Canadian standards. Our advice is to consult the concierge at your hotel about local tipping customs. When in a restaurant, be sure to read the fine print. Most menus will tell you if gratuity is included.
General Travel Related Questions
Are pets permitted to stay at the hotel or resort?
As always, it is best to check with the hotel in advance. Increasingly, many hotels are now not only accommodating of cats or dogs, but rolling out the red carpet! At the high end, the SoHo Grand in New York, the Hotel Monaco in San Francisco, and the Four Seasons in Boston not only welcome your pet but also provide amenities ranging from doggy room-service to a grooming salon to dog-walking services! In New York, Le Parker Meridien Hotel welcomes not only dogs and cats, but has played host to a whole zooful of animals, ranging from kangaroos to cheetahs to koala bears. On a more modest scale, chains such as Holiday Inn, Ramada, Motel 6, and Red Roof Inn welcome pets at most locations. Finally, if you're looking for a place to go camping with your pet, visit petswelcome.com which lists animal-friendly state parks and campsites.
At what age can I rent a car?
Most car rental companies require drivers to be over the age of 25. Some locations have lower minimum age requirements, such as 18 or 21, and may require a surcharge. Government employees over age 18 traveling on government orders and employees 21 years and older with a corporate account traveling on business may also be eligible to rent if under the age of 25.
Do I need a credit card to rent a car?
Yes, a valid major credit card in your name is required.
Can I use my debit card?
Although you must present a major credit card at the time of rental, when you return the vehicle, you have the option to pay with your debit card, by cash, with the credit card on record or with another credit card. Since car rental companies ask for credit approval on the estimated car rental charges when you pick up the car, that amount will be held against your credit balance on that card for up to 30 days, regardless of how you pay upon return. Some rental locations do not accept debit cards. Verify that the rental company will accept a debit car prior to arrival.
What's included in my car rental rate?
Typically the only inclusion with car rental rates is time and mileage. Time is calculated in 24-hour intervals. There are times when unlimited mileage will not be included and a surcharge will apply. Taxes, waivers, gasoline, insurance, and surcharges are not included in the car rental rates. As surcharges and inclusions vary per car rental company it is important to understand your rental agreement before leaving the rental car desk.
Is my U.S. driver's license acceptable overseas?
In most cases a valid U.S. driver's license is acceptable overseas when renting a car.
Will I be charged a fee for canceling my reservation?
Generally, no. You should always cancel your reservation with the car rental company or with a VacationWired.com agent. Often there are fees for failure to pick up a reserved vehicle without canceling in advance. Many times these fees are associated with deeply discounted rates, and premium vehicles such as convertibles, 4 X 4's, and luxury cars.
What is a Vacation Package?
A packaged vacation is a vacation that includes air, hotel, and possibly car, meals, and site-seeing excursions. Since many vacation package companies purchase air and hotel inventory in bulk direct from the airlines or hotels, vacation packages frequently offer a great value to the consumer. Our VacationWired.com agents know all the top vacation packagers.
I would like to use my frequent flier miles; can I still purchase a package?
Yes. Many vacation packages are "land only," and include transportation from airport to hotel accommodations, tax and sometimes meals. Tell our agents that you are interested in a "land only" vacation package and they will make recommendations.
What is the difference between charter vacation packages and scheduled air packages?
Charter flights are specially scheduled flights reserved by a private group or tour operator. Scheduled service consists of flights offered to the public for designated routes. Most likely, a tour operator has reserved a block of seats on a scheduled flight. Both frequently offer you great value.
What is an escorted tour?
On an escorted tour participants travel together as a group and are always accompanied by a professional escort, who is responsible for ensuing that the tour goes smoothly. Generally, the itinerary for each day is planned in advance. If you are the kind of person who doesn't like surprises and prefers to leave the details to someone else, this is the perfect kind of trip for you. Escorted tours are also great for solo travelers, such as singles or seniors, who want to see the world but would also welcome the chance to share the experience with fellow travelers. Many escorted tours focus on a specific area of interest, such as wine tasting in France, cathedrals in Europe, or ruins of Mexico. Sign-up for our Singles, Seniors or other specialty e-mail alerts and we'll keep you informed about escorted tours that may appeal to you.
I want to travel to a destination that is not currently being promoted on your site, can you help me?
Yes - we have a large network of resources, and are able to book virtually all vacation destinations. Simply visit our vacation planning area, view our great offers and either book online or contact our sales associates to finalize your travel arrangements.
How far in advance should I make reservations?
All travel space and rates are based on availability, therefore as soon as you know travel dates it is best to secure space. When you book a vacation package, you will generally be required to make a deposit with the balance of the cost due at a later date. Because so many vacation packages are booked so far in advance, it is always a good idea to purchase Travel Insurance. The cost is nominal, and you are protected should you be unable to take the trip due to medical reasons or a family emergency.
What do I do if my travel plans change?
Call VacationWired.com immediately upon deciding to change or cancel. A VacationWired.com sales associate will call the wholesaler and advise them of situation. You may be subject to a change or cancellation penalty. We highly recommend travel insurance, which may cover penalties due to change or cancel due to medical reasons. Generally, the earlier you make a change or cancel a reservation, the cheaper the penalty will be.
How does Traveler's Insurance work?
We are all aware of the unforeseen circumstances that may come up unexpectedly right before we are about to depart on vacation. That is why the staff at VacationWired.com highly recommends travel insurance. The highlights of most packages include: Trip cancellation and Interruption due to illness, injury, or inclement weather, Travel Delay, Baggage Delay, Medical Expenses, and 24 hour Travelers Assistance. If you consider the value of your investment, the additional cost seems minimal. Please ask your sales associate for additional details, or visit our Travel Insurance page.
I'm taking my children. Are there packages that specialize in family travel?
Yes, there are many vacation packages that specialize in family trips. Tell our sales associates the ages of your children and about the kinds of activities your family likes, and we will make suggestions. Feel like doing all yourself? Visit our vacation planning area and you can be booked and confirmed in a matter of minutes!
Do all resorts and hotels accept children?
No. There are some resorts that are only for adults, and there are some resorts only for couples. On the flip side, there are many resorts that cater to children. Hyatt, for example, has run their Camp Hyatt program since 1989. Designed for "campers" three to 12 years old, the program offers supervised activities and is available at over 20 Hyatt resorts, including locations such as Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Hilton Head, Beaver Creek, and Bali. Other major chains offer similar programs or will arrange for babysitting service for you. Sign-up for our Travel with Kids E-Mail Alerts and we'll tip you off to special packages and deals when we hear about them.
Will I receive travel documents and how will they arrive?
Most tour companies and cruise lines will send travel documents approximately 2-3 weeks prior to your departure. Once we receive your travel vouchers, we will notify each client and ship them to the address specified. There is a small shipping additional fee of $12.00 that will apply to all bookings. This fee is charged at the time of shipping and affords us the opportunity to track and locate your documents, should they not arrive on the scheduled date. Should you wish to avoid the shipping fee; documents can be sent via regular mail. However, VacationWired.com is not responsible for any lost documents sent via regular mail.
Do I need identification when checking in?
Yes, you need picture identification to check-in on all flights, including domestic, if you are 18 years of age or older. A passport or drivers license is highly recommended. Corporate IDs, health club cards, and photo credit cards are generally not accepted.
My flight was overbooked and I've been bumped. What are the rules for both involuntary and voluntary bumps?
Airlines routinely oversell flights, actoring in a percentage of cancelled reservations and no-shows. If the flight is overbooked, no one will be denied a seat until airline personnel first ask for volunteers willing to give up their reservation in exchange for a payment of the airline's choosing. Typically, compensation for those who are bumped consist of free miles, tickets or upgrades. Before you volunteer to give up your seat, make sure you completely understand what compensation is being offered and any restrictions that may apply, particularly on free tickets. In addition, you may want to ask for a meal credit or the use of a telephone if you are going to be spending some time in the airport, as well as transportation and accommodations if you are required to stay overnight.
With few exceptions, if you're bumped involuntarily, you will be entitled to compensation. The complete rules for the payment of compensation and each airline's boarding priorities are available at all airport ticket counters and boarding locations. Always ask for as many amenities as possible when the airline is at fault. Such amenities could include transportation via another airline, free tickets, or accommodations if an overnight stay is required, among other things.
What are the rules on carry-on luggage these days?
Generally, smaller, stricter and non-negotiable, but rules vary by airline. Some carriers have adopted what they call the One-Plus rule - one carry-on bag, which must fit under your seat or overhead, plus another small item such as a handbag or laptop.
I am physically challenged - what services are available to assist me?
The best thing to do is to notify the airline in advance that you are physically challenged and will require special assistance. If you are traveling with your own wheelchair, notify the airline. Under federal law, airlines are required to return wheelchairs as close as possible to the gate, and in a timely manner, upon your arrival. If you do not have a wheelchair, but would like to request one to transport you from the gate to a connecting gate, the baggage claim area or airport exit, make the request at least 24 hours in advance.
I've heard kids under age two travel free. Is this true?
Currently, for travel within the United States, children under two do travel for free. However, they do not receive an actual seat, but are seated on the accompanying adult's lap. When traveling internationally, infants are typically charged 10 percent of the regular fare, but are still seated on the lap of the adult. When you are making your reservations, be sure to indicate that you will be traveling with an infant so that this can be included in the record.
Do I need to bring a car seat for my infant?
It is recommended that if you have purchased a seat for your infant (under two) that you bring a car seat for the child. Remember if your child is traveling for free, the child is not entitled to a seat and must travel in your lap.
What is a bereavement fare, and who and when can you use it?
Most airlines offer special fares for emergency situations, such as a funeral or to visit an ill relative who is in critical condition. These special fares are known as bereavement fares. The rules and regulations for bereavement fares vary per airline, as well as the discounts. Discounts range from 15 percent to as much as 50 percent off regularly scheduled fares. Another type of consideration some airlines offer is to waive the advance purchase requirement.
What do I need to know if I want to travel with my pet?
Always contact the specific airline to confirm exact policy regarding transporting a pet. Most airlines transport pets in one of two ways; in the cargo hold or in the passenger cabin. Typical requirements and tips to bear in mind:
- Call in advance to confirm the availability and cost. Some airlines restrict the number of pets they will carry. Verify the kennel or carrier you own meets the requirements of the airline. Mark the carrier with your name, address and phone number.
- Have on hand a health certificate from your vet dated 10 days or less prior to departure that certifies your pet's health.
- Try to book travel via the most direct route, preferably non-stop flights. Try to avoid travel during extremely hot or cold months.
- If your pet will be traveling in the cargo area, prominently mark the box in which he/she will be transported as "LIVE ANIMAL." Put extra food inside for your pet as well as a deep bowl with ice cubes that will melt during transit.
- Make sure you understand the liability of the airlines on which your pet will be traveling in case your pet is harmed or lost while enroute.
Will my pet be safe when traveling?
The vast majority of pets arrive at their destination without problem. According to the Air Transport Association, more than 99 percent of the estimated 500,000 dogs and cats that the airlines handle each year arrive in good health. But that means up to 5,000 animals encounter a problem on the trip. Whenever possible, it is recommended that you leave your pet at a boarding kennel or with a pet sitter. If the pet must travel with you, follow the guidelines above.
Can I send my pet even if I'm not flying?
Yes, since you will not be traveling with your pet, you must ship your pet as cargo. Unfortunately, when shipping your pet as cargo there is no guarantee as to the particular flight your pet will be on unless you choose "priority" or "counter-to-counter" shipping, which is recommended. Reservations are required and should be made as far in advance as possible as airlines are limited to the number of animals they can transport. These capacities vary per airline and aircraft.
Can my pet travel overseas?
For information on requirements of the country into which you will take your pet, write to that country's embassy in Washington, D.C. or to its nearest consular office.
How do I book a cruise vacation?
Our professionals at VacationWired.com will help you pick the cruise that fits your vacation schedule, tastes and budget. We can make all the arrangements to get you from your doorstep (or desktop) to your ship and back.
Is cruising a good vacation value?
Cruising is the best vacation value! There are cruise vacations to suit every budget. Your cruise fare includes all meals, your stateroom, on-board activities and entertainment, plus transportation from port to port. You'll know what your vacation will end up costing you before you go. (Your only extra expenses will be drinks, optional shore excursions, and personal services such as massage or hairstyling.)