The Seven (Paper) Items I Don’t Leave The U.S. Without

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

Last week, James shared a great story of his flight on SriLankan Airlines that required the credit card of purchase at the time of check-in. It sounded like a pretty harrowing experience, albeit one with a happy ending. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both his story and the follow-up experiences that you all shared in the comments.

And it got me thinking.

Because while I like to say that I am a pretty experienced traveler, there are just so many logistical considerations with any new destination. And it’s not exactly like there’s a one-stop owner’s manual out there.

So, we Google like crazy, or we learn by experience. And while I generally believe that experience is the best teacher, there are just some mistakes that I’d rather no one have to make.

On that note, I figured I would amass a list of all of the paper items that have saved my you-know-what on various trips to different parts of the world.

(And no, technically, I don’t necessarily bring all of these items with me to, say, Canada or Switzerland, but the post title “The seven paper items that I don’t leave home without when traveling to various destinations in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Southeast Asia or South American depending on current security, health and/or geopolitical concerns” just didn’t have the same ring to it.)

1. Printed copies of all flight itineraries

Sure, you can store these on your phone, but life is just easier when you can hand off paper copies to the check-in agent. More importantly, I learned a long time ago that some airports won’t even let you inside the door without a print copy of your itinerary.

The countries and specific airports in question tend to vary depending on current security concerns, but I’ve seen this in India, Southeast Asia, and all over Africa. So rather than chance it, I’ll bring printed itineraries along regardless, just because I’m not too psyched to write a blog post on what it’s like to be stranded outside of an airport.

Hiking Kilimanjaro was fun, but getting stranded outside of the Nairobi airport would have been less fun.

Furthermore, if you book a lot of one-way travel, you won’t be able to check into flights to certain destinations without proof of a return ticket – also known as proof of onward travel.

Most recently, I had to show this in order to get a boarding pass to Malaysia, but there are countries all over the world that require this, including – to the best of my understanding – the U.S.

At this point, I just print every flight itinerary for my given trip and call it a day.

2. Printed copies of hotel reservations

Again, check-in will probably be easier with that confirmation number in hand, and I’ve seen more immigration forms that I can count asking for your local address while staying in the country. If I didn’t have that hotel reservation with me, I would probably answer every one of these forms with “That Marriott property a few blocks from the really good sushi place.”

And that usually doesn’t fly. So it’s great to have a “cheat sheet” on hand, even if it’s only my “address” for a day or two.

Again, you could store this on your phone, but I just don’t love handing my phone over, nor do I necessarily trust the battery life, particularly at the end of a long-haul flight.

3. Credit card information

James covered this one at length in his post, and I’m not going to necessarily tell you how to manage your credit card security, but airlines occasionally ask you for proof of purchase at the time of check-in by requiring that you provide the sixteen digit number of the card that was used. While the merits of that security measure can certainly be debated, if you don’t have that card in hand, a piece of paper is probably less likely to get hacked than your phone. 😉

I’ll add that this can be an issue not only if you’ve lost your card, but if your flight was booked by a client or corporate travel agency. While I’ve personally never experienced this one, my husband was almost bamboozled by not having the credit card a number of years ago. On a flight to Paris. That departed from JFK.

So I would check your chosen airline’s policy, but it’s generally a good idea to have that information stored somewhere, if you don’t already.

4. Visa paperwork

For whatever reason, my heart rate reflexively goes into overdrive every time I hear the words “visa check.” Even for those of you less paranoid than I, it doesn’t hurt to have some sort of additional proof that you did your due diligence and your visa was taken care of. Even if you did everything right, you could still run into trouble.

I have a friend and colleague who was traveling to India for business a few years ago. Getting a multi-year business visa to India as a U.S. citizen is no easy feat, but he filed the necessary paperwork and arrived at the airport, ready to depart on May 9th (or 5/9).

The check-in agent took one look at his passport and turned him away. Why? Because, based on what she saw, his visa was set to start on September 5th (9/5). So he high-tailed it to the embassy in San Francisco to have it redone.

As it turns out, his visa had been correct all along.

The check-in agent had read the date (DD/MM/YY) backwards.

Humayun’s Tomb is one of many world heritage sites you can explore in India – assuming they read your visa correctly.

His itinerary was saved and he still made it to his training on time, but his upgrade was long-gone. So he went from a lie-flat seat on the upper deck of a 747 to economy in the back of the plane. In a middle seat.

Who knows how things would have gone if he had brought his application or other supporting documentation along, but it couldn’t have hurt. Middle seats hurt.

Paperwork. Saves. Backs. (And necks, and legs…)

5. Yellow Fever Card

According to the CDC, Yellow Fever is a potentially fatal illness that can be transmitted in parts of South American and Africa. Some countries require proof of vaccination (a “yellow card”) while others don’t necessarily require it, but recommend it. Still other countries require proof of vaccination if you are coming from a country where yellow fever is endemic.

The World Health Organization lists the following as required countries:

  • Angola (even if you’re just reviewing their airline)
  • Burundi
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Congo
  • Cote D’Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • French Guiana
  • Gabon
  • Ghana
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Sierra Leone
  • Suriname
  • Togo

Given how many additional countries are on the recommended list, I’ll generally take my card with me any time I am traveling to South America or Africa.

Why? Because if you don’t have the paper, they may ask to vaccinate you at the airport. 

This happened to my husband a few years ago in Uganda, where the vaccine is technically not required, but is recommended. He was on a last-minute trip and had forgotten his card. They were going to vaccinate him on the spot, until he told them that he was only there for four days. (The vaccine has a ten-day incubation period, so it would have been moot.)

I cannot stress enough how much I wouldn’t recommend experimenting with this.

The good news is that it’s a fairly easy vaccination to get, and one that you typically only need once. The other good news is that if you lose your card and you were vaccinated at your physician’s office, they should be able to print you another copy.

You may not be the most popular person there that day, but it can be done. You know, hypothetically.

6. A photocopy of my passport

Hopefully, you never have to experience losing a passport while traveling abroad. But in the event that you do, one of the requirements for a replacement U.S. passport is some sort of proof of citizenship. And having this ready to go sure is easier than trying to get a scan or fax from overseas.

(Well, almost anything is easier than a fax these days.)

Since I already have it on hand anyway, I’ll typically photocopy my passport and keep it tucked away in something that isn’t my passport. Some of you tech-savvier folks may choose to keep this stored in the cloud, which is probably an even better option, ultimately.

7. New bills

Hey, technically it’s still a paper item! While U.S. currency is accepted in (disproportionally) many parts of the world and at just about every currency exchange I’ve ever seen, not all bills are created equal. The new-ness and crisp-ness probably varies somewhat depending on where you are going, but as a general rule, if I’m planning on exchanging cash, I try to get bills that are dated 2009 or newer and are in mint condition.

No tears. No major folds. No fake mustaches drawn on Andrew Jackson (or Benjamin Franklin, if that’s how you roll). A crease down the middle is typically okay, but I try to avoid even that.

Most major banks are used to this request, so this shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s a good habit to get into.

Bottom line

Okay, so I don’t typically take my yellow card to Australia, or my imaginary visa paperwork to Thailand. But I have found tremendous use in each of these items at one point or another. So any time I have a big trip coming up, I’ll take this list and work my way backwards to the items that I know I need.

While my house might not be the most fun place on the day before a big trip, ultimately, I know that Future Me will thank Current Me in the long run.

Assuming I don’t lose anything.

What are your go-to items for international trips? Have you ever missed any of these? I’d love to hear your stories below! 

  1. Faced most of these issues myself and there are workarounds for most of them. So your absolutist position is not entirely valid.

    But great list nonetheless. No one told me about these until I faced them. But ask for help and the person obstructing you due the bureaucracy will also suggest a workaround.

  2. My cousin was in Bangkok in April 2018. Money changers there refused to accept 2009 series of USD. They wanted the 2013 series or later. Please be aware.

  3. @May Lim

    I second that for Thailand – has happened to us when the exchange outlet refused to accept our $$$ due to wear and tear. Also, you will get better exchange rate is you have $100 bills.

  4. One thing I always ask myself before departing for travel, is whether I could manage the trip in the event of the loss of my phone and laptop. Therefore, my paper list is similar to yours. Fortunately, I’ve never had a loss or breakdown of both devices together but have experienced a phone theft once and a laptop hard drive failure once. However, I am most paranoid about passport theft so I keep a paper copy, an electronic copy, and have memorized my US passport number. I’ve heard some horror stories from fellow travelers who have had to replace one overseas.

  5. Interesting comment on the notes. The only place I had my notes declined was at the Sands casino in Singapore! The notes looked fine to me, but they weren’t having any of it. Still managed to come out ahead, though!

  6. Stupid check-in agent at SFO for your friend going to India. US staff/residents need to realize already that the majority of the world has the DD/MM/YYYY format – ESPECIALLY gate agents!

  7. “Most major banks are used to this request [for new bills]”

    Ha, you would THINK a bank would be able to provide you with, you know, cash money. Prior to a trip a few years ago, I went to my local Wells Fargo to withdraw some hundreds and fifties. After much searching, they said they didn’t have enough of those denominations. (I was only taking out $500 or $600, not tens of thousands of dollars!) When I expressed my incredulity – this is a BANK, after all, where they keep MONEY – the teller exasperatedly told me, “We don’t make it in the back, you know.”

    Needless to say, I moved my business to the bank down the street (a much smaller, local bank) and have had zero problems since then. Maybe they have a $100 bill manufacturing plant in the back…?

  8. “More importantly, I learned a long time ago that some airports won’t even let you inside the door without a print copy of your itinerary.”
    Had that exact experience last year trying to enter airport at BOM. Ended up sending SO (she had her printed itinerary) ahead to CX counter and they printed one out and agent brought it back to entry.

  9. Printed copies of all flight itineraries & 2. Printed copies of hotel reservations

    please sort them in a good way, and only show the relevant ones. if you know what i am talking about.
    for example, if you are travelling in Armenia, do not show any reservation related to Georgia or Azerbaijan.. they could cancel your visa and deport you….

    same could apply in some Arab counties vs Isreal.

    please, sort those well..

  10. Nigeria also requires yellow fever card.
    Would never carry printed credit card #s. Better to store in a secure document on the cloud.

  11. Yup, I also print out all flight/hotel itineraries/reservations as well as any e-mail exchanges I have had with hotels regarding restaurant, spa, excursion, tour reservations as well. This is not just for the rare verification purposes, but so I can also keep track of what I’ve booked and make sure I have all the dates and timings right too. The US dollar notes thing is something i generally do not do, though, mainly because I usually buy any foreign currency in my origin country and primarily rely on credit cards and just withdrawing local money from an ATM overseas. The only time, I did make sure to have good USD notes was when I went to Myanmar because they are notorious for only taking clean looking bills and it was impossible to get Myanmar kyat in my home country.

  12. Great list! In my flight itineraries, I make sure the ticket number is listed on there. Back in 2011 I was flying PLUNA and had my printed itinerary but it only had a reservation/booking code. For some reason they didn’t have my reservation even though they had charged my Chase Sapphire card back then. I had to literally call Chase collect and get them on the phone with PLUNA that my card had been charged, etc. Long story short I made it to the flight but thereafter I always make sure I have the actual ticket number as it’s proof that a ticket is there; not just the booking reference code.
    If I’m flying on an award ticket and the carrier is a partner airline of the original award ticket, I make sure I have the partner airline’s booking reference code and that they can see my reservation beforehand to prevent any issues once I’m at the airport.

  13. Great article, Steph, and some good comments. Your friend with the visa-date-backwards-thing must’ve been kicking himself!

    You asked for other paper items; when traveling internationally, in addition to the items you listed, I will also take paper copies of travel insurance. Most of us who purchase it will have it stored on our computer, but one of the common reasons for needing it is when our belongings, such as a computer, have been stolen. Therefore, I will usually store these items separate from my computer bag.

    Also, if you have children flying unaccompanied by an adult, another paper item to send with them is a copy of any paperwork pertaining to who will be their legal guardian or receiver at the other end, which might even include a photo of that person.

    Thanks for the great travel tips!

  14. Good post. I’ve experienced all of these at some point or another….abd one more.

    One Friday afternoon I drive to the airport and check I have my credit catd with me to fill up my rental car begore returning it.

    Can’t find my wallet or any cards….. and I’m supposed to board a plane to a country I’ve never visited namely Romania…

    Return the car without refueling it! Lucky I checked.

    Frantically try and figure out what happened. I find about 50 Euros in my passport cover… which I exchange for Romanian Lei. I know I already paid my hotel online but worry about a deposit requirement.

    I board the plane.

    I smile at the hotel check in lady. No deposit required.

    I use cheap local busses and make my 50 Euro worth of Lei stretch but have fantastic meals…

    After returning home, i exchange the Lei back to Euros and only spent about 30 on food and transport.

    All’s well that ends well.

    Also had issues at BKK not being allowed to board because of proof of onward travel. Luckily a Skyteam partner airline ticketing desk went into my profile and kindly printed my onward tickets.

    Yellow Fever. I got all my shots before a trip to Ghana, and promptly misplaced my travel shot passport book thing.

    Arrived in Ghana and had a rough time blagging it into the country with no new shots…

    Leaving Ghana was much more difficult. They REALLY wanted to see my shot passport and it took a lot of talking to get let through… to LEAVE!!!

  15. Hiking in the Himalayas, and remote hamlets in the bush excepted, I would never buy currency in advance nor carry a large amount of US notes to exchange. ATMs are totally the way to go in most civilized areas, as you get the best exchange rates.

    I take no fee ATM cards, such as my Fidelity card, which has zero fees for International use, other than the bank interchange fee. That way I can just take out enough local currency for a day or two, and not risk carrying cash, which can be lost or stolen.

    Then again I’m sure there are exceptions, since I’ve never been to Burma (aka Myanmar), and under the current political situation have no desire to do so. Ditto for Iran and North Korea. 🙁

    And I said “cards”, from two different financial institutions, lest one account be shut down due to fraud concerns, or their entire system be down for any reason. Plus it’s not unheard of for the ATM to mangle the card beyond use, or simply fail to return it. Should both ATM cards become unusable at once, one could always get a cash advance from a cc until a new ATM card be FedExed to you,, but in several decades of International travel, I’ve never had to do so.

    I’m surprised no one mentioned always wearing a travel pouch inside your clothes which carries your passport, cc and ATM cards, and large denomination bills. Outside of a few places like Venezuela armed robberies are fairly rare, but highly skilled pickpockets are ubiquitous.

  16. I have always done everything on your list for years (except for the Yellow fever one because I never go to those countries).

    I also always carry brand new crip $100 bills. Months before I go overseas I call my bank and order brand new $100 bills. They then call me to get them when they arrive.

    However, in the past few years I just carry them for emergency purposes and I haven’t been using my cash because I always use my ATM to get local currency. Using the ATM gets me the best currency conversion, I only get what I need, and it is very convenient, and it is fee free.
    Important tip: The ATM card is only connected to a special travel account that only has $1,000 or two. So in the event something bad happens (like someone gets access to my ATM account), my potential loss is very limited. It is not connected to my regular bank account.

  17. If you are traveling with a minor you should also keep a copy of their birth certificate. Happened to me going to JNB. As luck would have it I had an electronic copy, but several families had to miss the flight.

  18. Another paper essential in some situations is a notarized permission to travel for a minor who is not your child. With the global concern over sex trafficking, when my niece (with a different last name) has traveled with me, I have needed that document to fly and even to get on an inter-city bus.

  19. Nice and practical article!
    I keep a list of all my credit card banks phone numbers where they will accept collect calls. And I keep it in my saved email as if all my credit cards are gone, likely my papers are too.

  20. Oh, when will people learn that a correct date format is either DD/MM/YYYY or YYYY-MM-DD 😉

    With the exception of Cuba, I usually don’t carry cash into other destinations. Aside from the fact that bringing $5000+ in cash is illegal in many places, my bank only charges $4 for an ATM withdrawal worldwide (it’s free throughout the EU), which is usually a much better deal than exchanging physical money. While places like Indonesia aren’t big on ATMs, this has never been a major issue for me.

  21. This! I been keeping a printed copies of hotel reservations and flight itineraries for years. I am old school here and for a reason. Along with copies of visa info. A trusted family member got a sealed paper envelope of all my travel reservation, flight itineraries, car rentals, and etc. In the envelope are more sealed envelopes of my passwords for banking, emails, and etc. I always try to have a plan B and C in place.

  22. @Dennis – Yep, not one of the finer moments for United’s check-in staff at SFO. It’s a good (unfortunate) reminder that working in the travel industry doesn’t necessarily equate to knowing cultural norms outside of one’s country of origin.

  23. @simp – REALLY good point – and could probably also apply to proof of onward travel, depending on the destination.

  24. @Boraxo – Yeah, I’m not sure that the WHO’s “required” list is exhaustive, based on your comment and the Uganda story. I tend to default more to their “recommended” list (which is linked, and much longer.)

  25. I’ll be traveling from SYD to Taipei to LAX on China Airlines, on a ticket purchased with Chase UR portal. Naturally, I wouldn’t have their credit card on me, wonder if that’s going to be an issue if China Airlines asks to see the CC used for the ticket purchase.

  26. @Robert Hanson: “I’m surprised no one mentioned always wearing a travel pouch inside your clothes which carries your passport, cc and ATM cards, and large denomination bills”

    That’s exactly what I do, and I’ve NEVER had anything like that stolen. Wallets, pockets, purses and bags are so much more vulnerable. Even if I get mugged, the mugger would have to know that the real goodies are not in my pocket and not in my wallet. That can happen (sometimes the money belt shows under my clothes), but nothing is perfectly secure. And a money belt is a very effective measure against the larger threat in touristy areas and big cities, which is pickpockets.

    I wish more hotels (especially in the US) had safes in the rooms. Putting my passport and everything else of value (laptop etc) in the in-room safe while I’m out gives me a lot of peace of mind. But most US hotels just don’t have them.

  27. I think yellow fever is a must, even when you are going to a country that you know does not need it.
    horror story: 1 month ago in GYE, met a girl who was going to SJO in the airport, chatted her up and decided to walk her to check in. it turns out that Costa Rica mandates yellow fever vaccination if you are coming from a certain list of countries, and that includes Ecuador. CM agents REFUSED to issue her a boarding pass, no matter what method we tried (all the winks included). Finally had to book her an onward flight from SJO to cheat the agents, and cancelled it later. She barely made it to the gates. Never thought Costa Rica would require yellow fever vaccination, and under that kind of circumstances.

  28. Uganda has always required a yellow fever vaccination to enter (or indeed, to even apply for a visa) and they have a specific port health checkpoint before you reach immigration that checks this for arriving passengers. They don’t care what the CDC or WHO says (and believe me, there are plenty of passengers waving printouts indignantly every day) – their regulation is that you must have the paperwork and if you don’t, you will spend a while sorting things out.

    I’ve had a similar issue to @Wonkachocolat in Ghana in that I left my yellow fever card on my desk when leaving home, but fortunately I had a scan on Dropbox that they accepted.

    I have scans of every important document and all my credit cards stored on Dropbox, including of every single page of each and every one of my previous 11 passports as well as a summary spreadsheet of every single border crossing I’ve made in the last 40 years. I also carry my 3 most recent physical passports (or more if they have valid visas for anywhere still inside). Company Crew ID is another important thing I carry always, even if traveling as a revenue passenger. And finally, at least $2000 in USD cash ($100 bills of 2009 or more recent series) in case I have to buy a one-way ticket out of the country in an emergency – only had to do that once but I was extremely glad I had it then!

  29. Great post with good suggestions on what to always bring! I have something to add to the new bills section. I used to work in a hotel and did cash handling and new bills came in all the time (sometimes so new that the bills were still preforated and we had to separate them). We all found out that brand new bills get stuck together very easily and guests would accidentally give us what they thought was one bill but was actually two. It sucks to purposely wrinkle the brand new really beautiful and crisp money but we would grab both sides and move them in opposite directions and also use gel to get the bills unstuck, but to also just be sure that it was just one bill. It can almost be indistinguishable at times but with brand new money, it’s important to check that there is only one bill and not two!

  30. I don’t carry a lot of cash with me, preferring to use ATM machines, however it’s a good idea to have at least 2 cards from 2 different financial institutions. I have run into difficulty when the ATM would not accept my card. On my last trip to India, one of my companions had to take out cash for all three of us, because only her cards would work. Also, when you’re going out, even just for a walk, make sure you jot down the address of where you’re staying and stick it in your pocket. Once I went farther than I realized, got turned around, was lost, didn’t remember the name of the place I was staying, and didn’t have the address. I didn’t have my phone with me. It was getting dark by the time I finally managed to find my way back. My friends were starting to panic, and truthfully so was I!!! Lesson learned!!!

  31. You can add a couple of other items to the list:

    1) a print out of your hotels’ addresses in the local language. Would a taxi driver in Beijing or Bangkok know which Marriott or Hilton you are staying at?

    2) printed directions or a map showing your destination. I was once driven to a university campus the wrong side of Delhi, despite the car being booked by my local office who had scheduled the meeting. I now print out a map showing the location of the meetings, and store the directions on Google Maps on my iPhone to make sure we’re going the right way.

  32. Great list! Quick note on the yellow fever vaccine (just got mine for my first trip to East Africa):

    I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as easy to get, at least for now. There is currently a nationwide depletion of the normal vaccine approved in the US, so the FDA is allowing only select locations to give the other version (used elsewhere in the world). Your distance from an approved clinic plus the 10 day incubation period may mean a bit more advance planning than usual!

  33. I was asked for proof of onward journey at JFK when checking in for JAL flight to NRT. I didn’t have one so I booked an KIX-HKG award ticket using BA Avios on the spot. I figured I would cancel within 24 hours or something but I ended up using the ticket anyway.

  34. To be clear, given this site is read outside the US… The date wasn’t backwards. The US is pretty much the only country that has that date format. So that guy is correct. As a travel site surely you know better!

  35. Steph, great post. I carry everything you mentioned and also my record of any flight upgrades. I had booked Swiss Air flight through Delta and upgraded to business after booking. At check in, Swiss had no record of my upgrade and the agent completely dismissed me until I looked in my printed travel folder and found the email upgrade. Now all of a sudden maybe I’m not a goof. Two managers later it turns out that “Delta didn’t forward the upgrade to Swiss” and there was no business class left. Ultimately Swiss refunded our upgrade, and we flew 9 hours in economy. Little consolation.

  36. I am probably a very jaded traveller by now, but I will only bring point 4 if the visa is not stamped in my passport, and of course point 5 if I go to, or have recently been in, a relevant country.

    The visa confirmations are impossible to know, even in the same country it can vary from trip to trip whether the agent want to see a print of the evisa confirmation.

    However, I have found that everyone ever wanting to check tickets or other reservations are perfectly happy with an electronic copy. I used to print page after page of tickets, hotels, airport transfers, etc. But I have realised that I never showed any of this in paper form.

    The rare occasion anyone asks, my phone apps usually cover, and otherwise I bring out the laptop. Though the latter is exceedingly rare.

  37. @Mark – I hope I didn’t imply anywhere that I thought the date was printed backward! Sadly, the United rep did misread the date, as they were clearly unfamiliar with the DD/MM/YYYY format used around the rest of the world.

  38. @USBusinessTraveller – I’ve experienced that one before, too! Less in Thailand and moreso in China (to use your two examples) but it certainly happens. I’ll sometimes grab a business card from the hotel if I’m around town for a while and I know this to be an issue.

  39. I use TripIt for all my reservations and itineraries, and I also save my flight reservations in CheckMyTrip.
    I believe the craziness about new, crisp U.S. Dollar bills started in Myanmar and has spread to other countries in Asia. That’s one reason to just use ATM’s.

  40. Excellent list, we are in full agreement on the importance of these items!

    I also keep a paper copy of my miles & points spreadsheet. Very rarely — but it has happened — an immigration officer or an airline will seem incredulous about the number of stamps in my passport or my crazy itineraries or ask why I am staying in-country only one night. Whipping out a copy of this spreadsheet in 8pt type always seals the deal; that’s when they realize people do exist who can book themselves into innumerable international hotels using points. If they’re going to be sticklers or attempt to hassle you about funds or what have you this printed spreadsheet is essentially a portable guide to your life neatly laid out on one page. Remember that most immigration officers have seen all sorts of circumstances but rarely travel or even comprehend how to travel as we point freaks do.

  41. Not the sort of paper that you’re talking about but I thought it would be worth mentioning: If I am going to India I always bring a few rolls of toilet paper in checked luggage— I use it on the trip and then have plenty of space for souvenirs. If I am traveling with checked luggage to an airBNB I always take a roll of paper towels if I check a bag. It’s very useful to keep clean and then I have room for souvenirs as well.

  42. Storing in Kayak and PDF is a decent substitute for some of this, but some is a good idea. The US bills of 2006 or newer vintage is absolutely a thing in certain countries, though more and more they take cards (less breakage). Photo copy of a passport is definitely a good idea.

  43. @snic (and others)

    If you leave your passport in your hotel room safe, what do you carry for identification?

    I was stopped by the Monaco Police just 6 weeks ago. A security check. I am a solo traveler taking pictures. I guess that was suspicious.
    I only travel with a backpack. And when I’m sightseeing I only carry my passport, phone and a couple credit cards and some cash.

  44. @Ever
    I carry my California Drivers License and a business card from the Hotel where I’m staying. If the police have an issue with my ID, they can take me to the hotel and I will produce a passport. I’ve lived in several foreign countries and never carried a passport for ID.

  45. US passports and visas are also issued with the DDMMMYYYY format and the ICAO 9303 standard MRP (including that on US passports) uses YYMMDD encoding. There is absolutely no excuse for someone mixing up dates as a result – there are international standards (which even the US adheres to) for a reason.

  46. @SeanM
    Re Cash. About 10 years ago I got caught in Syria without cash. IIRC, you go through immigration to leave the country before checkin for the flight out. Fine, but there was some screw up with my ticket ( caused by my own TA) and I had to buy a new one ( no ATMs and CCs didn’t work/weren’t accepted…something to do with sanctions). I was able to scrape up enough cash in about 10 different currencies to buy a ( discounted) ticket out. If not, I don’t know what would have happened…stuck in limbo maybe. So now I carry a stash.

  47. @Paolo – I know exactly what you mean. I had a similar situation in Erbil a few years ago just after ISIS had taken over Mosul and were just a few kilometers from the city. First flyDubai, then Emirates, then Air Arabia, then Qatar and then Etihad all cancelled flights so my re-re-re-rebooking was also going nowehere. Everyone was either emptying ATMs to hoard cash or was trying to get a seat out – so USD cash was the only way to make it happen at the airport – fortunately our team there had some good wasta and I was able to escape on RJ to Amman without having to sell my left arm.

    The only time I had to actually use my emergency cash to get myself out of the country was in an African country back in 2006. For various reasons, I had some people in the Government who wanted to have a word with me that I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to have with them. I had to use my backup travel document (I kept two passports back then as a contingency for this exact reason) and bought two one-way tickets – one to London in my real name and one to Lagos in another name. Cleared immigration using the London boarding pass and then boarded the flight to Lagos instead. As I later joked, I was probably the first person in history who fled TO Lagos. Not sure what would have happened if I had stuck around or been caught, but thankfully I didn’t have to worry about it and everything was resolved a few weeks later.

  48. very useful article and good reminder all around. my dad always taught us to print out all of the above!

  49. Except from usd cash I do the same.
    Not that those would be hard blockers but could require bribes or just slow you down if you don’t have required documents. I’ve also learned to make sure that hotel confirmation includes phone number. I’ve had issues in India because they wanted bribes or verify my hotelbooking by phone and my confirmation did not have the number. After 5 hours they let us go though

  50. Very useful, we never have too much information. Last year I had the opportunity to do two RTW trips which included numerous airlines, hotels and other necessary purchases. While making the various reservations, I print copies of every confirmation and correspondence associated with the trip from beginning to end. I keep all the paperwork in a light weight folder with see thru plastic pages where I can keep each page in it’s own plastic page and in chronological order including copies of my passport and vaccinations. Prior to leaving I review the folder to insure I have it all arranged and organized and keep it in my carry-on bag . Once the trip is over I file it away for access on future trips.

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