Traveling outside the USA with a valid passport seems a no-brainer, but for passport newbies—or for folks who haven’t worried about their passports in almost 10 years—it’s good to keep in mind a few important tips.
1. A valid passport is required for all travel outside the USA. Granted, there are a couple of US territories that do not require them, but for United States citizens traveling to Europe (and even to Canada, Mexico, and most Caribbean locations), a passport is required. Passports for minors under age 16 expire 5 years after the issue date; adult passports expire in 10 years.
The Schengen Agreement between 26 European countries eliminates border controls for individuals traveling between those countries. In other words, once inside the Schengen “zone,” travelers are not usually required to pass through customs or show their passports when going from one country in the Schengen Agreement to another.
An additional benefit for many travelers to Europe is that the Schengen Agreement eliminates the need for visas in many countries, depending upon the purpose and length of their stay.
Europe’s VAT—the Value-Added Tax—is essentially a sales tax, and can sometimes be refunded. That’s the good news. Every year, however, tourists leave behind millions of dollars’ worth of refundable tax.
Pro Tip: In order to secure a VAT refund, be sure to take your passport shopping with you and ask the retailer to complete the necessary paperwork. If they leave any portions of the paperwork blank, be sure you know how to fill them in.
Please note that due to COVID-19 Global Entry sign ups and renewals have been delayed. Check the official Trusted Traveler Program website for updated timelines and to apply.
Use our simple chart below to discover the difference between the US Customs & Border Patrol’s Trusted Traveler Programs (Global Entry and TSA PreCheck) and their phone app, Mobile Passport Control, to determine if one of these programs is right for you.
Deciding whether to take credit cards or local currency on your vacation—and if so, how much—is a common dilemma travelers face.
Here, 10 points to consider:
1) First of all, alert your bank to your travel plans in advance so that your debit and credit card spending will not be blocked overseas. It is advisable to take both a credit card and debit card for emergencies even if you do not plan to use one of them. It's also a good idea to take more than one card in case there is a glitch and the card is not accepted at a certain vendor location or on a certain day.
What is the ETIAS? First, a little background.
If traveling to Europe for business or pleasure for no more than 90 days in a 6-month period, Americans do not need a visa. However, by the end of 2023, Americans will need a travel authorization.
Most European countries are part of the Schengen Zone--a cooperation agreement between 26 countries in Europe--and in the Schengen Agreement Americans are granted a visa waiver for business or leisure travel of up to 90 days.