but you aren’t.
It is nice to plan a trip yourself: you can often find cheaper deals and book everything from your pc, however you can also miss some important information that travel agents would have given you.
That happened to me!
I have been preparing like mad for this trip and as a final check I just wanted to make sure that my Dutch passport (which expires by the end of January 2010) was OK to travel with to the US. So I called the US Embassy in London and checked with them, and yes all was fine.
Oh and by the way had I registered on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization? Uhh, what? Uhh, no? Never heard of it? Didn’t need to last time I went to the US?
No, but you need to now!
So how do I do that, I asked the lady?
Well I could Apply here.
Allrighty, will do that I said.
Yes and you have to do it 72 hrs before you leave.
Ehrm, I am leaving within 48 hrs..? (I could feel a heart attack brewing)
Well we can’t guarantee you’ll have it in time then.
But my flight is going on Friday? What happens if I don’t have it by then?
You can’t get on your flight.
But why didn’t British Airways tell me?
It’s the responsibility of the traveller.
Is there any way in which I can get it faster?
Nope. There wasn’t. And really the Embassy woman could not care less.
And I thought But. I. Really. Have. Been. looking. Forward. To. This. Trip…. and could see the plane flying away without me Friday.
You better apply as fast as possible – she told me.
And so I did, barely able to type my name correctly because of the stress and the thought that my trip would be cancelled. I entered the application form, prepared for some nervewracking hours to come waiting if they would be able to process my application before Friday or not. And – I got approved within 10 seconds.
I did not believe it at first and had to read the page 5 times, but yes I was approved and can travel to the US on Friday.
That was a major PHEW!! I can tell you. And I learned my lesson – never assume that things are the same as last year. Whenever travelling to a country – check the bloody rules for entering that country.
And just so you don’t have to go through the same stress:
If you are travelling to the US and your country participates in the Visa Waiver program you need to apply online for Travel Authorization.
It is free and the only website to do that is the official ESTA website. Fill in the form, and wait for approval. Apparantly it can take up anything from 10 seconds to 72 hours to be approved. Be aware that there are website do the application for you for money, don’t go there, the only official website is the one mentioned above.
My heart beat is slowly getting back to normal. I think I am going to spoil myself with a KitKat and a tea now.