Family Travel A to Z: Visas & Passports
Visas and passports are vital if you’re looking to travel overseas. They are the documents that prove your identity and grant you entry into foreign countries. It’s essential these documents are in order for you, and for every member of your family, before you leave. Else, you could be denied entry and deported back home.
To travel safely, your passport needs to be valid and not close to the expiry date. You need to be honest about your reason for travel to ensure you are issued with the correct visa. You need to be able to afford the application/renewal fees for passports and allow yourself enough time before you leave for these documents to be approved.
Earlier in this series, I touched on overseas travel and shared some tips for families wanting to explore beyond our shores. In that post, I covered some broad basics about visas & passports but it’s worth revisiting these topics as there are many elements when it comes to preparing official documentation for overseas travel.
6 TIPS FOR ENSURING ALL IS IN ORDER WITH YOUR VISAS AND PASSPORTS
Independently check visa requirements for each country
To ensure a smooth trip, it’s best to independently check whether you require a visa or entry permit to enter each country on your proposed itinerary. Many countries will allow Australian passport holders to enter without a visa for visits under a certain time period (e.g. 30 days). For instance, we did not require visas to enter the ports we visited as part of our Caribbean cruise and I didn’t require a visa to visit Indonesia last year, when I was in the country for less than 30 days. The last thing you need is to be denied entry to a country purely because you failed to check their visa and entry requirements. Don’t assume anything – do your own research so you are not caught out while you are away.
Investigate where you can get good passport photos the first time around
It was quite the saga to get acceptable passport photos for our youngest daughter last time around. She was 3 and would not sit still for the photo. We spent a good 30 minutes at our local Australia Post office before being told we’d be best to go to an alternate office where there was a specialist in child passport photos. Information that would have been handy before we’d made the booking in the first place! If possible, find out the best places locally to get a good passport photo the first trime around. Putting a call out on Facebook or asking in travel forums will usually point you in the right direction and save you money, time and angst.
Ensure you have more than six months left on your passport before travel
Please, take the time to check the expiry date on your passports. Most countries will not grant you entry if you have less than six months left before the expiry date. If the timing of your travel will be touch and go, it may be best to renew your passports early to avoid any potential issues when you do travel. In Australia, adult passports cover a maximum period of 10 years while child passports need to be renewed every 5 years. Check with your customs or immigration authority to understand the requirements of passports issued in your own country but, do be aware that there are limitations of entry to those with passports due to expire within 6 months.
Prepare your kids for security checks and passport control
With increased security at all international airports, it’s wise to prepare your kids for the longer waits and more intense scrutiny at passport control and security screening points. It can be hard to wait in long queues so it’s worthwhile running through social stories to get your kids prepared and taking along sensory activities to keep them calm. It can also be confronting to be forced to look immigration officials in the eye as they’re checking passport details. Running through these details with your kids beforehand and advising immigration staff of your child’s condition may help the process run more smoothly.
Include the cost of visas & passports in your travel budget
The cost of visas & passports can quickly add up. When we first applied for passports for our entire family back in 2013, it cost us in excess of $800. Just for 5 passports. The fees can mount up quickly and you could be left short of funds if you don’t factor these costs into your travel budget. Aside from the cost of passports themselves, include the cost for passport photos, visas (if applicable) and any costs related to ascertaining your identity in order to apply for formal travel documents (getting copies of birth and marriage certificates, etc.) It’s easy to forget these expenses in the excitement of planning your trip, so be proactive and include them in your planning from the start.
Register with Smartraveller
If you’re an Australian citizen, you should register with Smartraveller before you depart. Smartraveller is Australia’s travel advisory and consular assistance service and provides travel advice, guidance about travel insurance and tips for staying safe and getting help overseas. You can register your travel details so Australian consular officials can keep tabs on you and your family, should you get caught up in an emergency or natural disaster while travelling. You can also subscribe to alerts and messages, so you can keep up to date with the situation in your destination country. To keep your family safe, it makes sense to register with Smartraveller before you leave.
Do you have any tips to add in relation to visas & passports for holidaying families?
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