Preparing for your trip
Select a package for more specific information. Can't find yours listed? Look for the "before you go" link on the package page or your booking confirmation email.
|☐||Ensure you have a current passport valid for at least six months after your return date.||ASAP|
|☐||Complete your registration. You'll receive a link to the registration form after you complete your booking.||Within 5 days of booking|
|☐||Request any additions or changes you may still want to make to your trip. (Fees and/or additional charges may apply.)||60 days prior to travel|
|☐||Make your final payment, if any balance is due.||See your invoice|
|☐||Obtain any necessary travel visas and review any requirements for entry.||See below|
|☐||Print your itinerary and other final documents, which we will send you via email by 14 days prior to travel.||Prior to travel|
|☐||Print your policy documents, if you purchased travel insurance, and carry them with you.||Prior to travel|
|☐||Enroll in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), if you're a U.S. citizen or national, so the State Dept. can locate and assist you in case of an emergency.||Prior to travel|
In addition, if you booked flights with your package:
|☐||Book connecting flights to your departure city, if necessary. (Please confirm your international flight schedule first!)||After receiving your e‑tickets|
|☐||Make advance seat reservations for your international flight, if you have a preference.||After receiving your e‑tickets|
|☐||Confirm your flight times and any special meal requests with the airline, and print and carry a copy of your e-ticket.||72 hours prior to travel|
|☐||Check in for your flights online and download/print your boarding passes (if available).||24 hours prior to travel|
|☐||Arrive at the airport, ready for the trip of a lifetime!||3½ hours prior to departure|
Documents & Entry Requirements
General Requirements & Guidelines
- In general, you must have a passport to travel abroad, which should be valid for at least six months after your return date. Passports expiring before then should be renewed as soon as possible. Passports contain at least 2 blank pages for each country visited. If your passport does not have this many pages, obtain a new passport as soon as possible.
- if your passport and visa are not in order, airlines and cruise ships may deny boarding, countries may deny entry, and your trip may be disrupted. Travel insurance may not cover such losses.
- Any changes in names or passport information should be reported to us immediately. Airlines and cruise ships may deny boarding if the name on your passport does not match your tickets.
- Minors (age 17 or younger) departing and/or returning to the U.S. without parents or with only one parent may be required by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) to present a notarized parental consent letter and/or unabridged birth certificate (more information). Many other countries have similar entry requirements, especially for minors traveling with a parent/guardian with a different surname; check with the consulates of all countries you'll be visiting to learn more.
Your final travel documents will be sent to you via email by 14 days prior to departure. These will include your daily itinerary, hotel and emergency contact information, and other relevant information. Please print your documents and take them with you. If you're departing in less than a week and haven't received your documents, let us know immediately!
Travel Insurance Documents
If you purchased travel insurance, please print and carry your policy documents, including contact information for emergency travel assistance and instructions on how to make a claim. If you purchased the travel protection plan we offer, we recommend you print the full policy.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
We encourage all U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free service allows you to receive important updates about safety and security issues in your destination, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy, as well as family & friends, to contact you in case of an emergency. To enroll or get more information, please visit the STEP website or any U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Flights, Transfers & Arrival
Questions about your flights before you depart? Read the information below first. If you still have questions, contact our air specialists at
Tour Only Option
Most of our packages include flights from the U.S., but some offer a "tour only" (also called "land only") option without flights. If you purchase a package without flights, you are responsible for arranging your own flights and transportation to the touring program start and end points, usually the first and last hotels listed in the itinerary. Please review the itinerary carefully, as some packages start and end in different cities, requiring "open jaw" flights. Also see airport transfers and what to do in case of arrival complications.
Flights & Tickets
If your package includes flights (or offers add-on flights, and you have selected these), we generally book your flights and issue tickets after your final payment due date.
Some of our packages allow you to request flights from other U.S. cities. If you selected this option, our air specialists will research the best options and send you a tentative flight schedule and quote for your approval within 5 business days of your booking (or approximately 330 days prior to travel, if you booked further out than that).
Once we have issued your tickets, we'll send you an "e-ticket receipt" which contains all of your flight information, including times, carriers, an airline booking reference number, and an e-ticket number. If you have not received this, or have questions about the flights we booked for you, please contact our air department. You will not receive paper tickets. We recommend you print and carry a copy of your flight details, including the airline booking reference number and e-ticket number, as some airports require this to enter the terminal. You do not need to reconfirm your flights with the airline prior to your departure, as we will handle this for you.
That depends on the airline. You can usually request a window or aisle seat, and sometimes specific seat numbers (but not exit row and bulkhead seats) ahead of time. Many airlines now charge a fee for this, and such fees are not included in your package price. If you have a seat preference, let us know when you book, in the special requests section, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org after you book. Then:
If your airline does not charge a fee to pre-assign seats: We'll happily pass along your seat request to the airline and confirm they received it (though we cannot guarantee it will be honored).
If your airline does charge a fee to pre-assign seats: We'll let you know. You'll need to contact the airline directly to request your seats after we have issued your flight tickets, and fees are payable directly to the airline.
If you do not request specific seats: The airline typically assigns them within 24 hours of departure. If you do not like your assigned seats, you may be able to change them, subject to availability, when you check in online or at the counter. Learn more about Advance Seat Reservations.
You can enter special meal requests when you book with an agent or complete your online registration, shortly after booking. We will relay your requests to the airlines and our representatives abroad, but we cannot guarantee they will be honored. Please double check meal requests with your airline 72 hours before departure, and with our representatives upon arrival.
You may be able to earn frequent flyer points for your flights. Contact the airline directly once you receive your tickets to enter your frequent flyer number in your flight record, or enter it when you check in. As you travel, check your tickets or ask the check-in or gate agent prior to boarding each flight to ensure the number has been entered properly. And just to be safe, keep your boarding passes and passenger receipt as proof that you have actually flown the miles you want credited to your account.
Cabin upgrades may be available on your flights. Ask us about price and availability when you book online, in the special requests section, or contact our air department after you book. Please note that our special contracted airfare rates generally do not permit upgrading with frequent flyer points, and that upgrade requests may incur change fees if tickets have already been issued.
If your package includes flights (or offers add-on flights, and you have selected these), you will receive your flight schedule by email once we issue your tickets.
If you requested flights from another city, our air specialists will research the best options and send you a tentative flight schedule for your approval, and a confirmed schedule once we issue your tickets.
Airlines may change schedules at any time, even after flights have been confirmed, and we are not responsible for such changes. Please check for updates to your flight schedule prior to booking any connecting flights and again 72 hours prior to departure.
If your package includes flights, but you need to fly from (and/or return to) a different U.S. or Canadian city, we suggest you request those flights from us, if the package allows it. If feasible, we will try to book all your flights together with a single carrier or a partner network on a single ticket. This ensures that your luggage will be transferred between flights for you, and more importantly, that if there are any schedule changes, flight cancellations, or delays that affect your trip, the airline(s) will adjust your flights to ensure you have sufficient time to make your connections and/or make alternate arrangements to get you to your destination. Besides offering the most peace of mind, this often yields lower fares than purchasing separate connecting flights.
If you plan to purchase connecting flights to your departure city, we strongly suggest waiting until after your final payment due date and after you receive the e-tickets for your international flights, to reduce the chances that that your departure might be cancelled or rescheduled or that your international flight times might change. Before purchasing connecting flights, verify the times for your international flights. Leave at least 3½ hours connecting time between flights, and if you're traveling within a few weeks of Daylight Savings Time changes (in March and November, when flight schedules may change even more dramatically), allow 5–5½ hours between flights. Nobody likes waiting around the airport, but missing your flight is far worse!
If you purchased a package with flights, scheduled group airport transfers at the destination are generally included. When you exit customs, please look for our representative holding a Friendly Planet sign, who will cheerfully escort you to your transfer vehicle and assist with your luggage. If you purchased a package without flights, transfers are generally not included, though private transfers may also be available for an additional fee—contact us for price and availability. Or you may instead arrange your own ground transportation to the package start and end points.
We make every effort to ensure our tours run smoothly and trouble-free. We don't expect any problems, and nor should you. But when things don't go as planned, here's what to do:
- You miss your flights, or your flights are cancelled: Please call us immediately. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox, with a phone number at which to reach you, and we'll get right back to you.
- Your flights are delayed and you're worried about missing your included transfers: Please contact us to let us know about the delay, and we will notify our partners in destination. If you booked your own flights and supplied us with the details, our partners will be tracking your arrival and will plan accordingly.
- Your package includes transfers, but you can't find our representative at your destination: Don't panic—they may have been unexpectedly delayed. Wait up to 30 minutes. Then contact our local partners in destination, listed on the emergency contact page of your final documents. If you can't reach them, call us. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox. If all else fails, make your own way to the starting hotel (or cruise port), and we'll refund you the cost of your transfer.
- Your package does not include transfers, and you run into difficulties getting to the starting point: Contact our local partners in destination, listed on the emergency contact page of your final documents. If you can't reach them, call us. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox.
Packing & Luggage
Baggage allowance: In general, our tours & packages allow per person: one checked bag, not to exceed 44 pounds; one personal item such as a purse or camera bag; and one carry-on bag, which should fit under your seat or in the overhead compartment. If your trip includes domestic flights within your destination and/or travel by motor coach, your carry-on should also fit should also fit under your seat or in the overhead bins on those flights or coaches.
Learn more about Baggage Allowances on your international flights. Note that our baggage allowances may be less than those for your international flights. If you exceed the baggage limits, you may be subject to excess baggage charges levied by the airlines and/or by Friendly Planet.
Regardless of the limits—we recommend a smaller size and weight for both your checked and carry-on bags. It's so much easier and faster for you to get around when you have fewer, lighter bags! For your carry-on, consider a soft-sided bag such as a duffel rather than a hard clamshell-type case, which may not fit as easily into overhead compartments or under your seat, especially on buses. For your protection, we suggest your checked luggage have a TSA-approved lock.
Luggage tags: For your safety, we are no longer mailing Friendly Planet luggage tags to you. We encourage you to use your own. Fill in the luggage tags with your name and contact information and attach to each bag, including carry-ons and camera cases, so that your luggage can be identified should it get misplaced during your trip.
What to pack: Check out our list of top 10 must-haves for international travel, as well as what not to pack. Pack smart: put your travel documents, medications, one change of clothing, and other essentials in your carry-on, in case your checked baggage is misplaced. And pack light, for your own comfort and convenience. For clothing, we suggest packing a variety of separates with climate and comfort in mind.
What not to pack: U.S. law forbids you to carry hazardous materials aboard aircraft in your checked or carry-on baggage or on your person, including explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids & solids, loaded firearms, poisons, corrosives and radioactive materials. Common examples include paints, lighter fluid, fireworks, mace/tear gas and oxygen bottles. Restricted materials may vary by airline and destination. Some items, in quantities of no more than 70 ounces total, may be carried within baggage, including medicinal or toilet articles such as hairspray, perfume and certain medicines that are necessary during your journey. Please check with the airline and/or visit the FAA website prior to travel if you have any questions.
While on Tour
What to Expect
Remember that you're a guest in someone else's homeland, and that you're traveling to experience their country and culture. Be sensitive to local customs and manners, as many things may be done differently than what you're used to. And while we have made every effort to secure modern and comfortable accommodations and transportation, please note that the standards in other countries may be different from those you are accustomed to at home. Overall, you will find a polite, positive, patient, and open-minded approach generally yields the best travel experience!
Eating & Drinking
The meals included with your package are listed in the itinerary. For all other meals, you're at liberty to dine where you like. Your hotels will have several dining choices, from coffee shops to specialty restaurants.
Please see above for special meal requests.
Special Needs & Requests
Please see above for special meal requests and seat requests. If you have any other special requests, including wheelchair or electric cart assistance, please mention your request when you book with an agent, or in the special requests section when you book online. We will do our best to accommodate them!
Terms & Conditions: Please review our terms & conditions.
Cancellations: If something comes up and you need to cancel your trip, please let us know as soon as possible. All cancellations must be made in writing. Cancellation fees vary by package; please see the cancellation fees.