Face it: if you’re going to be flying internationally, you’re going to need a passport, and in most cases a visa, to get around. But while many people are in possession of a passport (even those who’ve never left their home country), even experienced travelers can get tripped up by the ins and outs of traveling with their passport and visa. To ensure your safety and comfort even when you’re exploring distant lands, it’s important to have your facts straight when it comes to common passport/visa mistakes … and also the ways in which you can avoid them. Luckily, we’ve run down some of the most common mistakes you may encounter on your travels, and how to keep them from ruining your whole trip. Read on, and get ready to experience the joys of international travel without the stress these mistakes can create.

You Let Your Passport Expire

How to Avoid Common Visa Mistakes When Flying Internationally: young woman giving passport and ticket back to businessman at airport check-in counter

For a valid visa to your destination, you first need a valid passport. So before you think of looking for flight deals for your next holiday, remember to double check the dates to make sure your passport will still be valid when your vacation rolls around. If it’s expired, get it renewed as quickly as possible; even if you’re not planning any jaunts overseas for the near future, a passport can serve as a useful form of identification in many circumstances. If you do find yourself with an expired passport and time is running short, you can expedite the process — but keep in mind, this move isn’t cheap. It’s safer to regularly update your passport so you never find yourself scrambling for those pesky renewal forms.

You Lose Your Passport

It’s a common fear of international travelers, no matter where their journeys take them: you find yourself in a distant country, and your passport has mysteriously vanished. While it’s easy to immediately jump into panic mode, should this occur it’s important to remain calm. If your passport has been lost or stolen, the first thing you should do is contact your local United States embassy or consulate. You’ll be able to explain the circumstances surrounding the loss of your visa and make plans to get a replacement so you can return to America. And remember: it’s always a good idea to carry a copy of your passport with you when you’re traveling to speed this process along. If a crime has occurred (such as the theft of your passport), you’ll be directed to people who can answer all your questions and help get you safely back home.

You may also like: What You Need to Know About US Passport Application and Renewal

You Don’t Secure Your Passport

How to Avoid Common Visa Mistakes When Flying Internationally: Hand that stealing document from back jeans pocket.

In case it wasn’t obvious from the above section, your visa and passport are pretty important when you’re traveling. After all, without them you’re essentially stranded — which makes it all the more puzzling how many seasoned travelers don’t bother to keep their travel papers secure. If you’re going sightseeing or heading out with friends, keep your passport on your person at all times. Make sure it’s in a safe place; however, professional pickpockets can easily lift your visa when you’re not looking, so skip out on using your back pocket. Keep it secure in a money pouch, or look for special travel gear that includes a pocket for your passport. When you’re hanging out in your hotel room, or if you have to leave your visa unattended for some reason, don’t forget to lock it up securely in a safe before you leave. When it comes to your safety overseas, you can’t be too careful!

Your IDs Don’t Match

It’s absolutely essential that the name on your passport matches the name on your airline ticket — otherwise you may be in for more trouble than you anticipated. If you’ve changed your name for any reason since you last updated your passport, update your paperwork as soon as possible. You can request changes online if your name has changed or there are any inaccuracies that need to be corrected; for international travelers who need to correct the gender identity on their passport, there are various options, including different lengths of time for those still undergoing transition. Whatever the changes, make sure all your paperwork is up to date, accurate, and ready to go before you head to the airport.

Got any other tips on traveling abroad with a passport/visa? Share them with us in the comments.

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