Why you need to photocopy your passport, and other tips

By Benjamin Szweda

AAA World Article

If you’re traveling abroad for your first time, there are some steps you should take that you might not be aware of from your domestic travel experience.  

The International Travel section of the U.S. Department of State’s website is a trove of information for those traveling abroad. I recommend perusing it before you travel or even before you book a trip. Don’t let the information scare you from traveling, but do take note of particular circumstances in your intended destination so you can adequately prepare for them.

The State Department’s website will also give you all the information you need about visas and your passport. Also listed are any Travel Advisories that have been issued and the steps you should take as a result of them.

Topics to research during the preparation phase of your trip might include:

  • Will your health insurance cover you abroad?
  • Does your insurance cover active excursions like sky diving?
  • Will you have access to medications you need?
  • Are there special rules about traveling with your prescription medication?
  • Are vaccinations recommended or required?

Before departure, enroll with the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that will provide you with safety information from the embassy in the country you are traveling to. In the event of an emergency, it also provides the State Department with knowledge of your presence in the foreign country. To register, provide the dates and details of your travel at

The same safety rules that you follow in your hometown apply when traveling. There are probably areas in your city that you wouldn’t wander alone at night. Likewise, such areas will exist where you are going. If you’re unsure if your evening plans take you into such an area, ask at your hotel before going out.

Other good suggestions include making sure purses and backpacks zip closed. In some tourist regions, you should keep your bag on the front of your person and keep your wallet and phone out of your back pocket to prevent falling victim to a pickpocket.

Keep photocopies of your passport in your hotel room and back in the United States with a family member or friend just in case yours is lost.