Not exclusive to only travelers from the U.S, but being American myself, most of the tips for traveling through the States or overseas as an American.
I will try to include anything that will help all foreign travelers that I pick up along the way. (I also work for a visa processing company, so I have some knowledge to share about that process as well).
Most of this will pertain to short visits and tourist visas, not residence in a foreign country.
Make Sure Your Passport is Valid This is a mistake I see most often, because most people check their passport, see that they haven't reached their expiration date and assume they are just fine. NO! Still check your passport. The reason why?
Most airlines will not let you board an international flight with your expiration date within 6 months from when you come back, from your trip. This means, that your trip is for 1 week, your passport must be good for 6 months AND one week.
It is hard, and can be very very costly, depending on whether you live near a passport agency (or embassy if you are a foreign passport holder), or can overnight your passport and required documents into a third-party passport company that can take passport to the agency on your behalf. And don't even think about trying to have it your passport renewed on a weekend (the passport agencies will be closed). So double and triple check your passport before and while you are booking your flight. It can save you a ton of money and headache.
Make Sure You Do Not Need A Visa
WHAT THE HECK IS A VISA?
I describe it as pre clearance to enter a foreign country with your passport. It only pertains to international travel, so if you are driving around the States, obviously you do not need one.
Even if you think your international travel destination doesn't require the citizens of your home country to get a visa, always double check. I have seen rules change for international travel from one week to the next, so always check with your nearest consulate website for the country you will visit to see if you need a tourist visa.
You may also think, "well, that country isn't in current conflict with mine, so I don't need a visa." Wrong! Places like Brazil and Cuba still require a visa for a majority of passport holders.
It really just depends on the type of passport you hold. You have a U.S passport? Definitely better make sure if you need a visa for Brazil. Mexican passport holder? No visa needed to enter Brazil for tourism. If you need a visa, definitely make sure you have enough time to obtain it before your trip. The processing time for visas, vary from consulate to consulate, so Brazil can take up to a month for some places, while China can be done in a few days.
Click here for a pretty neat Wikipedia list of the countries that U.S passport holders need a visa to travel. But do always double check with the consulate website of the country you are visiting.
You can find whether or not you need a visa, or how much the fine would be for overstaying your visa. Such as, visa and immigration offenses in Brunei are punishable by canning, OUCH! So, do not overstay your visa, always check the date once you obtain it. This site feature for VisaHQ has a great map feature, which allows you to put your country of citizenship and your destination to see if you need a visa. Pretty handy!
Register with The State Dept
If you are feeling very nervous to travel, that is okay and common. You do get anxious when entering a foreign land or even state! If you do, you can register with the State Department about your travels. This website can help you register with the State Department, embassy or consulate of your travels. This program, STEP, helps in case of natural disaster while abroad and also in case of family emergency and they need to get in touch with you. Keep in mind, you should also let your friends or family know where you are going, just in case!
Call Your Credit Card Companies
If you are going to use your credit card or even your debit card overseas, give the company a call and let them know the region you will be using the cards. This way, you will less likely to be declined at a shop. You can also check into any travel related features your card has, such as travel insurance.
Travel with a Copy of Your Itinerary When you are traveling overseas, I always recommend to have a copy of your return itinerary in your carry-on luggage, just in case customs asks you for it. Not all countries will upon arrival, but if they see that you have not returned to your home country for some time, they may ask to make sure that you will not overstay your visa in their country.
Share any of your travel tips below!