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ASK JOURNEYS: Government lone source for passport requirements

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While not required, you should ensure your passport is valid beyond your expected date of return even for short cross-border trips.

RON PRADINUK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

While not required, you should ensure your passport is valid beyond your expected date of return even for short cross-border trips. Photo Store

Every year, even before the sun-destination season is past, I am fascinated with how the nature of questions shifts to inquires about issues relating to other areas.

It really speaks to what is referred to in the industry as the booking window, the time between booking and date travelled. European trips, worldwide travel and cruises of all kinds have, for the greater part, been booked for some time.

It's now that future travellers are getting into the actual departure-planning phase of their journeys and the need for information and concerns about what they should be doing in advance of their trip enter into many of their home discussions.

For those travelling to places such as Thailand or Egypt, conditions in those countries may have changed since they contracted for their packages or accommodations.

Even though many of today's questions are about U.S. travel, the responses are applicable to worldwide travel as well. With a slew of other inquiries still in my basket, broader information on global travel will be forthcoming in future columns.

QUESTION: I plan to travel to the United States early this summer. My passport runs out in August. Can I still use it for this trip?

ANSWER: At the present time the United States is still one of the countries that only require your passport to be valid up until your expected return date.

In your situation you should have no concerns at all. In circumstances where the return date to Canada is very close to the expiry date of the passport, my consistent recommendation is to have it renewed in case something happens that forces you to stay longer in the U.S.

You could be getting out of a hospital, for example, with an expired passport and be forced to go through a lot of needless stress and anguish as you reapply for a new one.

While most of us think nothing is likely to happen on a weekend trip to Grand Forks or Fargo, N.D., the distance does not change the passport requirement should you be delayed for any reason.

Questions about passport validity come to me so often I could likely devout a part of my column to them monthly. I understand why readers do have those concerns.

While the United States is one of the few countries that only require us to have passport validity for the time we are there, most countries have demands that go to at least six months beyond.

As in the past, I encourage readers to go to our government's travel website at www.travel.gc.ca. It is loaded with other information as well and is the best source for finding out about cautions and warnings about travel to virtually every country in the world.

Especially as related to security and official warnings, they are the singular source for that information.

QUESTION: I always find myself living in fear when going through United States airport security lines, even though I have nothing to hide.

My perception is security south of the border is much more stringent and unfriendly than it is in Canada. Is that true?

ANSWER: I don't think they are more unfriendly. Security is a serious business on both sides of the border.

I must admit I have wondered on occasion whether the training in Canada is done in such a way that the passenger approach is more relaxed and amenable on the surface, thus helping to making us feel more comfortable when passing through.

But I assure you, each and every checkpoint is an exercise in diligence and concern, regardless of the exterior presentation.

Since 9-11, no one is deemed to be naturally innocent, given some of the ingenious methods terrorists have tested in trying to gain aircraft access.

I think it should also be noted when we fly to the United States from Winnipeg, we are obliged to go through both security and customs within a short time span. The two combined can raise the level of stress, as customs people tend to be extremely serious by nature on both sides of the border.

As a side note, I have noticed Canada is sometimes more lenient in terms of having passengers remove shoes when going to sun destinations. They also seem to be more relaxed in manner when an item is inadvertently left in a pocket when going through the scanning devices.

I have seen American security get quite perturbed at times around these transgressions.

However, on the whole, my view has always been that the job they are doing is for my security and yours, and even if I am the one being questioned more aggressively than I would like, it is for the benefit of all of us.

QUESTION: Is there a limit to the number of three-ounce bottles of liquids I can carry on as I pass through security?

ANSWER: The 100-millilitre Canadian per-bottle allowance is the same as the three-ounce measurement and the one-quart bag is pretty much the same as our one-litre capacity.

While there is no limit to the number of bottles, no matter how you try you will not likely get any more than five or six of them in a bag.

There are now shampoos, toothpastes, and other similar products that enable passengers who want more cosmetics, for example, to take with them.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found atwww.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2014 E4

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