The headlines about traveling overseas seem endless and contradictory. There’s a laptop ban. Wait, no there isn’t. Europe is mad at us so now we need visas. How do I get one? Was it just an attention-grabbing headline? Is it a rule? Here’s what you need to know and where to look online for the most current information.
LAPTOP BAN LIFTED
Since March those flying from any one of ten Muslim-majority countries have been unable to keep their laptops in the cabin. Even a travel writer returning from covering a hotel in Dubai would need to relinquish her rose gold Mac for the fourteen- hour flight. However, the talk of expanding the ban appears to have been just that—talk. What did happen was that 280 airports that are the last points of departure for the U.S. complied with a Homeland Security directive to prove their ability to screen passengers for trace amounts of explosives. At the end of July, the TSA announced that travelers should expect to be asked to place all electronics larger than a cell phone in a separate bin. This includes iPads, e-readers, etc. Your best source for up-to-date rules (believe us, they change quickly) is tsa.gov.
In March the E.U. released a statement that unless the U.S. lifted visa requirements for citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania they would force U.S. citizens to obtain visas to visit all E.U. countries. This made huge headlines. Two months later they announced that visas would not be required for U.S. citizens, and they would seek other avenues for making travel easier for the five affected countries. Not such big headlines. On a related note, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert in May for all of Europe, citing potential risk of terrorist attacks. The warning is set to expire this month.
SIX-MONTH PASSPORT VALIDITY
Of course you know that a passport is required for travel outside of the U.S., but what you may not know is that some countries require that your passport does not expire within three or six months of your arrival. The best place to look for current information regarding passport requirements is at travel.state.gov. Each country makes its own rules, which can change quickly.
DRIVER’S LICENSES NOT VALID FOR AIR TRAVEL
Other big headlines have surrounded the change in ID requirements and the new verified driver’s license or “Real ID.” Go to ct.gov for the list of documents you will need at the DMV to obtain a verified license. The law that will require this new license to fly goes into effect in January of 2018. However, Connecticut has an extension so the effect won’t be felt until October 1, 2020, when every traveler will need to present a compliant license or passport for domestic travel. A list of other acceptable forms of ID are listed on tsa.gov. Children under eighteen will still not be required to have identification as long as they are traveling with a companion. Do you have a Real ID? If your license has a star, you do.
YOU CAN CARRY ON A ZIPLOC BAG FILLED WITH BOOZE. ACCORDING TO THE TSA WEBSITE, TRAVELERS MAY CARRY AS MANY 3.4-OUNCE BOTTLES OF LIQUID (MINI BOTTLES OF LIQUOR ARE 1.7 OUNCES) THAT FIT COMFORTABLY IN ONE QUART-SIZED, CLEAR PLASTIC ZIP-TOP BAG. COMFORTABLY MEANS THAT THE BAG WILL SEAL WITHOUT BUSTING AT THE SEAMS. ONE BAG IS PERMITTED PER PASSENGER.