The Thrifty Traveler: Skip Vacation Drama With Proper Travel Documentation
By Myscha Theriault, Tribune News Service (TNS)
Finding yourself away from home or out of the country without the necessary paperwork can make you the unwilling star of your own personal docudrama. Such was the case when a recent banking snafu had me chatting with three different departments trying to verify my identity and solve an unexpected problem after finally checking into our hotel room after a long and challenging day on the road.
Fortunately for me, the document they were demanding was only a cross-city drive away in a lock box rather than an international plane ride followed by multiple bus transfers. Also fortunate was the fact they finally agreed to let me answer a few additional security questions rather than forcing me to make a lengthy round-trip drive to access an ATM card I never use due to the purpose of the account to which it’s attached. Still, it was a wrinkle neither my husband nor I saw coming, and an excellent reminder to add scanned copies of all account cards to our list of cloud-stored documents before hitting the road for our international travel adventure.
Your passport and tickets aren’t the only critical documents you need in order to take off for parts unknown. Following are a few types of documentation that can result in undue travel stress if left at home.
Medical: Part of my husband’s travel reality is always having a copy of his current eyeglass prescription. While he always travels with a back-up pair, adventure travel involves a constant risk of something happening to both sets. Since he literally can’t see very far in front of his face without them, having a digital copy of the prescription to print in the event of an emergency is crucial.
Food allergy mom Robyn Nickerson Skvorak finds extra EpiPen documentation to be a critical part of her travel plan. Her son Joey has severe contact reactions to a number of common food allergens, but the boxes EpiPens come packaged in are quite bulky and difficult to pack. Her solution? Have the pharmacy staff print out extra labels. Says Skvorak, “This way, you can wrap them around the pens.” The mother of two also carries her son’s food allergy action plan and a doctor’s note documenting each of his allergies.
Injectable medicines in general are something for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend carrying documentation. According to the CDC website, carrying a note on letterhead stationary from the prescribing physician is advised. This travel tidbit is something Ceci Romero Al Fahad learned the hard way. As a traveler who needs to carry a significant supply of insulin and needles, Al Fahad was taken by surprise at the Houston airport when the security agent checking her bag demanded documentation for her medications. After being held aside for a fairly lengthy time, the security supervisor finally cleared her for the flight. However, the experience made a significant impact. Says Al Fahad, “Needless to say, I now carry my prescriptions with me.”
Banking: Front and back scans of all credit and ATM cards, routing information, copies of identification documents as well as written procedures and access codes are a good idea to have on hand when traveling. Having such items stored securely in the cloud will enable you to solve most problems from anywhere in the world, provided you have reasonable access to reliable Internet and phone communication.
If you’re going to be on the road for some time, you might also want scanned copies of any business EIN forms, articles of incorporation, trust documents and similar paperwork. When coordinating the sale on a piece of out-of-state real estate recently, my husband and I had just sold our home and were in the middle of our first professional house-sit. Having scanned copies of critical papers and access to a printer and scanner enabled our attorney to finalize everything upon our approval. While the morning of the closing was a bit hectic with the last-minute checking of line-item amounts, we were able to give written approval and head out for a day of sightseeing. All without ever having to travel back to New England for the actual transaction.
Professional: If you’re going to be traveling for any length of time, you may find it necessary to pick up some work along the way. This is when having access to professional paperwork is a good idea. Diving and teaching certifications, scans of your college degrees and digital copies of any technical certifications are all helpful to keep in your personal cloud. A master document with access information for all professional sites is also a good idea. For me, that includes things such as sites where I upload digital content to sell, places where I submit freelance assignments and paid subscription sites that feature job feeds relating to my skill set. For you, such a document might look completely different.
Bottom line? If you’re taking off for more than a few weeks and don’t have anyone maintaining a home office while you’re away, your list of recommended travel documents is likely to be quite lengthy. If you are exploring the world indefinitely, chances are you’ll need to update and edit this list fairly frequently as well. The good news? Eventually, having back-up copies of all critical documents becomes second nature for those who embrace this lifestyle. Once you get the hang of looking at every new item in your life as something that will need to be tweaked to suit the life of a nomad, these chores will simply become part of your regular to-do list.
(Trekhound.com founder Myscha Theriault has sold her home, all her furniture and most of her other belongings to travel the world full time with her husband. You can follow her adventures on Twitter via @MyschaTheriault.)
©2015 Myscha Theriault. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Photo: Liisa via Flickr