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Travel like a Pro! Five Legal Tips for Your Overseas Vacation

Ah, June. The kids are out of school, the A/C is working overtime, and if you’re like many Americans, it’s also the time to plan a summer vacation. While most of us focus on the fun stuff (like which beaches will help even out that farmer’s tan) it’s important to remember that traveling — especially international travel — can be fraught with pitfalls, legal or otherwise.

Avoiding travel hassle takes a little bit of planning. Here are five things you should do before you leave to make your trip as fun as it should be.

Get Your Passport in Order

The first thing you need to have in order is your passport. If you don’t have one, you’ll need your birth certificate or some other evidence of citizenship and you’ll probably be waiting at least a month from the time of application. The process can be expedited for a fee but it’ll save you time and stress if you get started as soon as possible. We know: it’s not a lot of fun. But you can’t enjoy that luxury hotel unless you can make it out of the airport.

Call Your Credit Card Companies

Unless you’re a habitual traveler, your credit card companies are going to get suspicious when charges stop popping up overseas. And while they’ll have your best interests in mind when they freeze your account, you don’t want to be that person in the front of the line pleading to “just run my card one more time.” This is why calling your banks and credit card companies is important. Simply inform them that you’ll be taking the family to England and they won’t get suspicious when the pub charges start piling up.

Prepare for Emergencies

It’s always a good idea to leave copies of your itinerary with your family and friends back home, but there’s plenty more you can do to be prepared. First off, make sure you sign up for STEP (the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) offered by the Department of State. STEP will help contact your family in the event of a family emergency in the states as well as alert you if there’s a political or environmental crisis where you’re headed.

Second, in case you get into legal hot water abroad, make sure you have your lawyer’s contact information with you when you travel. He or she might not be an expert in international law, but a good lawyer can help you navigate crises and likely has a copy of your important documents. It’s also a good idea to know the location of your embassy before you head out.

Double-Check Your Health Insurance

All health insurance is different and some policies are robust enough to protect you while abroad. Of course, others do not. Call your health insurance provider to find out. If not, consider supplemental insurance, especially if you’re heading to Pamplona in July.

Find Out If You Need a Visa

If you’re a U.S. citizen, in over a hundred different countries, the answer to that question is “no.” Still, the Visa process can be a slow one, so check early when you’re planning your trip. Visas can limit the amount of time you’re allowed in a country and some requests may be denied. If you’re planning on studying in the country or staying a while, checking on Visa requirements is even more important.

It sounds like a lot, but in the end, a few minutes of your time stateside can save you days of hassle when you’re on foreign soil. You can read up on all of these issues in our free legal help section as well as at the Department of State’s website. Get informed before you jet overseas and you’ll spend less time haggling in front of a desk and more time to spend working on that tan.

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