Everyone knows how critical a valid U.S. passport is for traveling abroad, but a passport is not always enough. Many countries and/or airlines now require that travelers’ passports be valid until six months after the planned return date for your trip, a requirement that left one of us on the staff scrambling to renew his passport at the last minute. (If you find yourself in a similar situation and have a confirmed airline ticket, call the passport office at 877-487-2778 and schedule an emergency appointment for renewal. Under certain conditions, you can get your passport renewed in just a few days. Further information is available at www.travel.state.gov/passport.)
And don’t assume that the country you’re traveling to won’t require a visa. Since 9/11, the United States is requiring travelers from more and more countries to have visas to enter the U.S. In response, many of these countries, quite understandably, are requiring Americans to have visas to enter their countries. To find the requirements of the country you’re traveling to, make sure you check the Web site of the country in question well in advance of your departure date, as visas often take time.
Finally, make sure you request the correct kind of visa. Processing times often vary depending upon whether you’re looking for a tourist or business visa.
— Scott Vogel, Travel section