What travel documents do I need? Pre-trip checklist

A checklist against a yellow and blue background.

A scene: you’re packing your luggage, excited to go, but then freeze in cold panic. “Wait, what have I forgotten?” 

Travel anxiety is no fun – but neither is getting stuck at security without a passport. Not to mention all the other travel documents you need these days! Vax certification what? Mandatory travel insurance who?

So for your peace of mind, here’s a handy pre-departure checklist. Ready, set…travel docs!

Passports

A close up of an American passport.
Photo by Levi Ventura.

If you do nothing else, pack your valid Australian passport. Everyone going on your trip will need one (children included), so having this document in place is as important as your plane ticket. Without it, you can’t leave the country – and if you lose it and don’t report it, there could be serious legal consequences

Your passport must be valid at least six months from when you plan your trip to end. This way, you still have a passport even if you get waylaid abroad. If your passport is about to expire, renew it at a participating Australia Post Office with at least 6 weeks buffer before your trip.

While travelling, keep your passport in good condition and in a safe place (like in a document pouch on your person). As a precaution, scan your passport and email it to yourself or take a photo on your phone so that you have a spare copy.

Visas

Close of a pink and blue visa logo

Depending on where you’re travelling, you may need a visa. The type of visa you need will depend on border entry requirements and the purpose of your visit. Visas come with specific rules on what you can and cannot do while in the country, so make sure you are thoroughly aware of the guidelines that apply to you.

You can contact the embassy or consulate of your destination country if you have any questions about their visas or application process. They can also answer questions about entry and exit requirements. 

If you’re travelling to Europe, keep in mind there may be special Schengen area visa requirements that apply to you.

Tickets, reservations, and itinerary

Blue airplane tickets with an airplane symbol watermark.

Pack printed and electronic copies of everything you’ve booked on your itinerary. This includes:

  • Tickets (planes, trains, ferries, etc.).
  • Accommodation bookings. 
  • Rental car bookings.
  • Entertainment and event bookings/information.

You can even set reminders about when to take COVID-19 tests so that you can move between countries.

Driver’s licence and/or international driver’s permit

A yellow punch buggy car.
Photo by Dan Gold.

If you are planning on driving while travelling abroad, pack your valid Australian driver’s licence and/or international driver’s permit (IDP), which translates your Aussie licence into nine different languages. 

Note: an IDP is only valid if you bring your domestic licence, as well. 

Electronic licences may not be valid at your destination, so always bring the original and keep electronic copies for emergencies only.

Different countries will have different requirements for foreigners operating vehicles (such as hire cars), so research beforehand to know what you’ll need.

International COVID-19 vaccine certificate

A woman checks her COVID vaccination status on her phone while packing a suitcase.

Ongoing disruptions and health risks from COVID-19 have forced many countries to adjust their border entry requirements. Therefore, it’s critical to provide valid proof of vaccination from an approved vaccine (electronic and/or hard copy). 

Different countries will have different approved lists of vaccines, so you can compare the doses you received with what’s required by your destination.

If you are not fully vaccinated but have an exemption, make sure you pack your exemption certificate (electronic and/or hard copy).

RELATED: Travel vaccinations

Negative COVID-19 test result and/or declaration

A latex gloved hand inserts a q tip into a COVID test tube.

Most countries require a negative COVID-19 test result at least 24-72 hours before you travel, so book a doctor’s appointment and obtain a copy of the negative test result to have on hand at border checkpoints.

Certain countries may also mandate you sign a COVID-19 entry declaration, so get across your destination’s border restrictions and obey accordingly.

Banking documents, foreign currency, and travel credit cards

International money notes.

Getting stuck without access to money abroad can leave you in dire straits. Before you travel, let your bank know where you’re going and organise access to foreign currency. Check how much cash you can carry into your destination country and carry copies of your bank’s international contact details in case of emergencies.

If you are looking for ways to keep your money secure while travelling, a travel credit card can provide additional protection while avoiding foreign currency fees, overseas purchase fees, and international ATM fees.

Travel insurance policy

People stride over a pink and blue map of Europe.

Travel insurance has quickly become as important and necessary as your passport. If you have purchased a policy, ascertain what you’re covered for by reading the product disclosure agreement (PDS) and carry a copy while travelling abroad. 

You should also have your provider’s international contact details on hand in case of emergencies; contact them for assistance once you’re no longer in immediate danger. 

Some countries these days require foreign travellers to purchase a travel insurance policy that at least covers the medical costs associated with treating COVID-19. Read the PDS carefully to make sure your policy gives you adequate cover.

As a precaution, you could also take proof of ownership for any special or expensive items (like a laptop) that you might be taking with you, in case they get lost, damaged, or stolen. Proof of ownership includes purchase receipts or photos. This way, you have important evidentiary support if you have to lodge a claim.

For more information on what to take on your travels, check out our travel insurance guides or browse policies below.

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