AAA Minneapolis Travel has expert travel counselors available to help you plan your dream vacation or weekend getaway. We’ve tapped into their expertise to provide you with answers to some frequently asked travel questions. If you don’t see an answer to your particular question, ask a travel counselor.
Passports and Visas
Q: What’s the difference between a passport and a visa?
A: Think of a visa as a special “permission slip” from the country you are visiting. The passport is your identification card for crossing international borders. A visa provides a specific time period you can visit, ideally the dates you requested.
Q: When is a visa required? How do I obtain a visa?
A: Some countries require that visitors who enter their country have a visa in addition to their passport for entry. This must be applied for through that country’s government office or consulate. You must complete an application form, and send it, usually along with a fee, and your passport for consideration. When approved, the visa is stamped or attached to the one of pages of your passport. The passport is then sent back to you so you can travel. Your AAA travel counselor can assist you in determining if you need a visa, and with the application process.
Q: Who accepts passport applications?
A: Certain post offices, courts and U.S. government passport agencies. Call your AAA office for specific information.
Q: Must I apply in person?
A: First-time applicants must apply in person if age 13 or older. You can apply by mail if you were issued a passport within the past 15 years and if you were older than 16 years at the time it was issued. Call your nearest AAA office to obtain the application form, DSP-11, if you want to apply by mail.
Q: What do I need to do to apply for a passport at a courthouse or post office?
A: Complete your DSP-11 application www.travel.state.gov/passport_services.html but do not sign it until instructed to do so by the clerk. Bring proof of U.S. citizenship (a previous passport or a certified copy of your birth certificate).
Q: What if I have neither a passport nor a certified birth certificate?
A: Bring along a notice from the registrar of the state in which you were born that no birth record exists. Also bring as many as possible of the following: a baptismal certificate, hospital birth record, early census, school record or family Bible record. Be sure to bring along a notarized affidavit completed by an older blood relative who has personal knowledge of your birth. Click here (www.vitalchek.com) to find out how to obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate from any U.S. state.
Q: What kind of photograph do I need?
A: Two identical 2-inch-by-2-inch photos taken within the past six months. They must show a front view against a plain, light background. Vending machine photos are not acceptable. Members of AAA can obtain the photos at all AAA Minneapolis offices for $9.95 (nonmembers $10.95).
Q: What does a passport cost?
A: The fee for a first-time, 10-year passport (ages 16 and older) is $110, while a five-year passport (required for persons under 16) costs $80, plus a execution fee of $25 per application.
Q: What time do I need to arrive at the airport?
A: Plan to arrive at the airport 2 hours before your scheduled flight departure for domestic flights, and 3 hours before international flights.
Q: Is curbside luggage check-in available?
A: Expect that all luggage must be checked in at the ticket counter. Curbside check-in and off-airport acceptance of checked baggage may not be offered at all airports.
Q: What do I need to know about security checkpoints?
A: All passengers must have a government issued photo ID. Security checkpoints require proof of travel. You’ll need to present either a paper ticket or proof of e-ticket (see the answers to e-ticketing below), along with proper identification.
Q: Is the check-in procedure different now that TSA is screening all checked baggage?
A: This depends on the airport from which you are departing. If you are at an airport where the screening equipment is “behind the scenes,” you will not notice any difference. In many airports you will see screening equipment in the lobby. Unless you see signs directing you otherwise, go to the ticket counter to check-in with your airline. In a limited number of airports, you will be directed to proceed to baggage screening before you check-in with your airline. Please watch for these signs and other instructions to ensure that you go the correct line.
Q: What about my carry-on baggage?
A: If your bag is selected for secondary screening, it may be opened and examined on a table in your presence. Please DO NOT attempt to assist the screener during the search, and do not attempt to retrieve the item before the screener has advised you that the search is complete and your baggage is cleared. Your baggage might also be inspected with an Explosive Trace Detection machine (ETD), which is separate from the X-ray machine.
Q: Will the EDT damage camera film?
A:Equipment used for screening checked baggage will damage your undeveloped film. You should remove all undeveloped film from your checked baggage and place it in your carry-on baggage. At the passenger security checkpoint, you should remove film from your carry-on baggage and ask for a hand inspection.
Q: Are there any tips on packing that will help me save time at the airport?
A: There are some tips that will help you to speed your trip through the screening process:
Don’t put film in your checked baggage, as the screening equipment will damage it.
Consider putting personal belongings in clear plastic bags to reduce the chance that a TSA screener will have to handle them.
Pack shoes, boots, sneakers, and other footwear on top of other contents in your luggage.
Avoid over-packing your bag so that the screener will be able to easily reseal your bag if it is opened for inspection. If possible, spread your contents over several bags. Check with your airline or travel agent for maximum weight limitations.
Avoid packing food and drink items in checked baggage.
Don’t stack piles of books or documents on top of each other; spread them out within your baggage.
Q: Will my family or friends be able to meet me at my gate?
A: Individuals without a ticket will not be allowed beyond the security checkpoint. Provisions can be made for parents who need to meet unaccompanied minors, for disabled persons and persons with special needs who need to be accompanied by healthcare assistants or guardians, and for medical personnel who need to respond to medical emergency situations beyond the checkpoint.
Q: How are e-tickets being handled?
A: Passengers should contact the airline in advance. Within certain guidelines, all airlines will determine what ticket documentation (tickets, boarding passes or reservation confirmations) screeners will allow. Requirements may vary by airline, so passengers holding e-tickets should check with the airline in advance.
Q: Where can I find official Travel Advisory information?
A: For answers to the most common questions regarding security screenings, traveling with disabilities and medical conditions, or traveling with special items, aviation update and travel advisory information, please visit the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Traveler Information page. For the latest Travel alerts and warnings, please visit the U.S. State Department’s U.S. Passports & International Travel information page.
General Travel Tips
Q: What documentation is required to visit Mexico? The Caribbean? Canada?
A: A valid U.S. passport is be required for all travel (air/sea) to or from the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central and South America.
For individual parents traveling with children under age 18, please ask your travel agent or the consulate of the country(ies) you plan to visit for necessary documentation.
Q: Do I need to purchase insurance when booking a rental car in the United States if I have my own insurance?
A: Double check rental car insurance requirements with your insurance provider. In Minnesota, auto insurance covers an individual for personal liability and damage to both the car you are driving and another vehicle in the event of a collision, even when renting a car. Car rental companies offer additional optional insurance. The optional insurance may expedite the claim process if you are involved in an accident, but for Minnesota residents, it would be additional insurance to what you carry under your personal automobile policy. It is important to note that you may be required to purchase insurance from the rental car company if you do not meet the company’s minimum rental age.
Q: What are the basic requirements to rent a car?
A: The majority of rental car companies require that the driver be 25 years of age or older. A major credit card is required at the time of rental, although you can change your method of payment upon return of the vehicle. Debit cards are not accepted by rental car companies. You will also be required to provide a current driver’s license, and all companies require you have a clean driving record.
Q: Do I need to be concerned about drinking water quality when traveling aboard?
A: The International Travel Clinic, provided by Park Nicollet Clinics, can update your immunizations, review your need for medicines that prevent conditions such as traveler’s diarrhea, malaria and more. They can also offer medical “do’s” and “don’ts” for your destination and furnish treatment for, and advice on, illnesses that may be contracted abroad.
You can find International Travel Clinics at the following Park Nicollet Locations:
7775 26th Avenue South, (952) 993-9740
St. Louis Park
3800 Park Nicollet Blvd. (952) 993-3131
Q: What happens to my flight plans if a flight is cancelled?
A: If your flight is cancelled due to weather conditions, the air carrier will do their best to accommodate travelers on the next available flight once the weather has cleared. If you opt to cancel altogether you can get a full refund. When weather cancellations occur, airlines are not obligated to make arrangements for overnight accommodations or meals because the carrier has not caused the delay. They are also not obligated to put you on the next flight of another carrier to get you to your destination more quickly.
A: If the delay is due to reasons within control of the carrier – such as a mechanical problem with the plane, or a strike – they are obligated to put travelers on their next available flight – of if the wait is an unreasonable amount of time, on another carrier to get the traveler to their destination. Each airline has its own delay compensation policy, and some are more generous than others. Typically, the airline will provide vouchers for meals and an overnight stay, if necessary. They will also, at times, provide passengers with phone cards and discounts for future travel to compensate for inconveniences.
Q: Do you have to be a AAA member to purchase travel through AAA?
A: Our full-service travel agency is available to both members and non-members, however, members will find lower rates, and receive special member benefits with select travel partners.
Q: Do I have to be a AAA member to take advantage of special cruise and tour vacation packages?
A: Our tour and cruise vacation packages are available to both members and non-members, however, members often receive special discounts or amenities.
Airline Luggage Rules and Regulations
International Driving Permits
Airline Luggage Rules and Regulations
Q: What are the airline luggage requirements?
A: While there is an industry standard for luggage requirements, be sure to double check with the airline, as it can vary from carrier to carrier. You may typically check two pieces of luggage, with a maximum weight of 50 pounds each. The maximum size, specifically the total of the height, length and width of the piece, is 62 inches. Carry-on pieces may be one piece, plus a purse, briefcase or small bag. The maximum weight for carry-on pieces is 40 pounds and no larger than 45 inches (9″x14″x22″)
Q: What is considered carry-on baggage?
A: Here are some general guidelines: coats, canes, umbrellas, reading material, small purses and camera cases don’t usually count against your carry-on allowances.
Backpacks, laptops, large purses or briefcases may be counted, especially on crowded flights.
Carry-on baggage must fit under the seat or in an overhead compartment. A good rule of thumb is that the bag should measure no more than 9″x14″x22″ (total dimensions) and weigh no more than 40 pounds.
You may be asked to check the ever-popular wheeled suitcases with telescoping handles, on certain flights, because there may not be enough room on the plan for everyone to bring on this type of baggage. Garment bags are generally considered carry-on pieces.
Q: Are there restrictions for checked baggage?
A: Checked baggage should generally not exceed a linear dimension (length+width+height) of 62″ and a weight of 50 lbs. (each piece). Additional pieces of checked baggage may have lighter and smaller restrictions. Most airlines will allow oversized or overweight baggage for an additional fee, which varies depending on the situation.
Q: Are there different baggage rules and regulations for international flights?
A: International flights generally have the same size and weight allowances but may cut down on the number of pieces that can be checked. Also, allowance variations can differ depending on the destination country. Please check with your travel agent for the most current information.
International Driving Permits
Q: How will I benefit by carrying an International Driving Permit on my next overseas trip?
A:The International Driving Permit (IDP) is a document that provides important information from your driver’s license in eleven different languages, including English. This document came into existence by virtue of a treaty signed in 1949 by the United States and other foreign countries. As an official document, the IDP is recognized in over 150 countries today. Carried in conjunction with a regular drivers license, the IDP can help break down language barriers when traveling in non-English speaking countries. In addition, the IDP provides an additional source of identification. The $15 charge for an IDP is a small price to pay for such peace of mind.
Q: Am I required to have an IDP in foreign countries?
A: There are some countries that do not recognize a drivers license from the United States, but officially recognize an IDP (e.g. Hungary). There are other countries that honor a United States drivers license, but require a local language translation (e.g. Spain). The IDP can satisfy these types of situations. Keep in mind, however, that while a certain country’s government may not require an IDP, car rental companies located in that country, such as Hertz, may require an IDP to rent a car. Purchasing an IDP prior to departure can save a lot of potential hassles.
Q: What happens if I am stopped and given a citation against my IDP?
A: The IDP does not hold any powers of its own apart from your drivers license, and therefore, you do not have a separate driving record with an IDP. The IDP is valid only when carried in conjunction with and acts as a translation of a drivers license. If you are traveling in a foreign country and were to be stopped by a law enforcement officer, your U.S. drivers license and IDP should be presented to the officer. If a citation is issued to you, it will be reflected on the driving record that is with your drivers license.
Q: If someone visits the United States from a foreign country and discovers that they need an IDP, can they purchase one from AAA?
A: An IDP must be issued in the same country as the drivers license of the traveler. Therefore, if someone from the United Kingdom has a U.K. drivers license, their IDP must also be issued in the United Kingdom.
Q: I have a U.S. drivers license, but I am a citizen of another country. Where should I obtain an IDP?
A: The IDP must be issued in the same country as the drivers license. In the case of a drivers license being issued in the United States, the IDP must also be issued in the United States. Contact your nearest AAA office to obtain an IDP.
Q: If someone has a drivers license from a U.S. territory such as Guam, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, how would an IDP work for them?
A: Since their drivers license was issued by a U.S. possession, their IDP would also be issued in the United States. Contact a AAA office in the United States, and the IDP can be issued and mailed.
Q: What do I need to obtain an IDP?
A: You need to complete a brief application form (available at your nearest AAA office), provide 2 passport-sized photographs with your signature on the back of them, a photocopy of your valid U.S. issued drivers license (front and back), and a check or money order for $20 in U.S. funds. If transacting by mail, these items would need to be mailed to a AAA office in the United States. Otherwise, everything can be handled in a single office visit. Click here for a printable version of the application. NOTE: If you are currently overseas you can mail your completed application to the following office and address: AAA/IDP, 1000 AAA Dr., Heathrow, FL 32746 Attn: Mailstop #28.
Q: Does AAA take photos for International Driving Permits?
A: Yes. Two photos are required and the prices are the same ($10.61 and $11.68) as passport photos. The IDP is priced at $15, and is also available at AAA.