Planning a trip requires a lot of information. You need to know where you are going, how you will get there and how long you will be gone. Tickets need to be purchased and hotel accommodations need to be secured. But is that all that you need to know before your departure? Actually, no.
What kind of documentation you need for your trip will of course depend on your legal citizenship status, as well as your destination itself. Length of stay can impact what papers you need, so it is best to seek the advice of a well informed authority before a trip even begins. Know that at the very least some form of picture identification is necessary, but there may be much more that you will need.
A passport is needed to enter or to leave most foreign countries and to reenter the United States as well. Passports are issued and verified by the United States Department of State alone, and applications can be a simple process with some exceptions. A renewal passport can be obtained by mail if: “you were older than sixteen when you got your original, if your name is the same or you can legally verify your name change, if it has been less than fifteen years since you received your first passport and most importantly, if your original passport is available for submission and has not been damaged.” (From the U.S. Department of State website)
But a passport and a valid identification may not be all that you need. If you are going to be on an extended stay, (usually defined as longer than six months) or you are going to a foreign country for work, you will need to apply for and receive a visa before your planned departure date. On your application, you will be asked many questions about the purpose of your visit, and how long your planned stay will be. If you find that you will be in that country for longer than anticipated, you will have to file for a renewal visa which may or may not be granted. You can seek the help and advice of the embassy of your citizenship for any questions you may have about visas and their renewal. While traveling in countries that are not considered “safe” you might want to find out where the embassy is as soon as you land for your own peace of mind.
Some countries have health warnings which are posted on travel websites, and monitoring these alerts might save your life. It would be a good idea to call a reputable travel agent and ask about the country you plan to visit- they should be able to tell you if there are any major health scares or concerns and give you advice as to how best to protect yourself, including immunizations and foods and drinks to avoid while there. (Yes, they really will tell you not to drink the water!)
When you get ready to purchase tickets for your trip, gather as much information as you can, some travel documents can take two weeks or more for processing and verification. If you want to avoid having to postpone your trip and possibly losing your deposit and such, make sure your papers are in order as soon as possible.