Travel & Personal Property Insurance

Travel Insurance

Most standard travel insurance policies sold in the United States provide pre-departure cancellation and trip interruption coverage for unforeseen problems that are specifically named such as illness, death in the family, and missed flights that have a cascading effect on next leg of travel. These policies do not usually cover perils like terrorist attacks or risky adventure sports. Once a threat becomes “foreseen,” for example, a tropical storm becomes a hurricane or a global health threat becomes a pandemic, it becomes uninsurable, unless the policy was purchased before the threat was named. This New York Times article is a good primer on travel insurance. 

Personal Property Insurance

Personal property insurance covers expensive items you may travel with, such as electronics, musical instruments, and jewelry. Follow these steps to determine the best route to coverage.

1. Check your parents’ homeowners policy

Coverage usually extends for laptops, digital cameras and other electronic equipment for the specific perils named in the policy, including theft, fire, electrical surges, and water damage. Harsh use is generally not covered. Remember that deductibles apply so if you have $1,000 deductible and the computer is worth $800 there is no need to file a claim. If the computer is worth more than the deductible it still may not be prudent to file a claim. If replaced, it needs to be of like quality and specification.

2. Add a “rider” to your homeowners policy

A “rider” is an additional set of terms and conditions that “rides on” the basic package offered by the insurance company. A rider can be added to cover specific equipment or valuables.

3. Purchase a separate “personal articles” policy

These policies provide supplemental coverage for possessions of higher monetary value. State Farm Insurance offers a general Personal Articles policy, and College Student Insurance offers a policy specifically designed for college students both at home and while traveling. Deductibles range from $0-$100. In all cases, try to get an official report documenting the loss to substantiate your claim.

Passports, Visas and IDs

Passports

Passports are required for all travel outside of one’s home country and should be valid for 3-6 months beyond your return date, depending on the countries visited. Once your passport arrives, be sure to sign it right away. You should also create a digital file and store it in a secure location and leave a paper copy with a trusted adult in case of emergency. 

Obtaining a Passport–US Citizens

Passport renewal applications can be found online. All required documents, including the expiring/expired passport should be mailed via USPS Express Mail with a tracking number to the appropriate passport processing facility. Note that you must use a BLACK pen to complete the application and you should not submit photos taken at Walgreens or similar as the quality is inconsistent.

New passport applications are accepted at passport acceptance facilities throughout the United States. The Rice County Courthouse at 320 NW 3rd St in Faribault is the closest one to Carleton. They are open from 8-4:30 each weekday, but appointments are required. Call 507-645-9576 to schedule. A new passport application is required if:

  1. you have never had a passport before;
  2. your previous passport was issued when you were under the age of 16;
  3. your previous passport was lost, stolen, or damaged;
  4. your previous passport was issued more than 15 years ago.

New passport applications require two passport photos, a certified copy of your birth certificate, and a valid driver’s license, or comparable proof of citizenship and identity. The cost is $165 (one check for $130 made out to the U.S. Dept of State, and an additional $35, cash or check, to the Rice County Recorder). Photos can be taken on site for an additional $15. You may download the application and fill it out in advance (using BLACK ink), but DO NOT sign the form until in the presence of an official. 

Processing time is usually four to six weeks, but as of October 2021, regular passport service can take 8-11 weeks. Expedited service (for new applications or renewals) costs an additional $60.

Emergency passports are available from the Minneapolis Passport Agency, 212 3rd Ave S Minneapolis, MN 55401. The office is open M-F 8 AM-2:30 PM (it opens @ 9 on Wednesdays). If you are traveling internationally in less than two weeks or need to obtain a foreign visa within four weeks, you are eligible to schedule an appointment at this agency. Will call (pickup) service is offered for life or death emergencies and immediate travel. Call 1-877-487-2778 to schedule an appointment.

Obtaining a Passport–Non-US Citizens

Contact the embassy or consulate of your country of nationality to obtain a new passport or renew your current one.

Visas

Visa requirements vary according to countries visited, length and purpose of stay, and nationality of passport holder. The Embassy or Consulate website of the countries you intend to visit is the best source of information for specific requirements. Schengenvisainfo.com has information on Schengen visas which cover most European countries. A general visa guide is published by GoAbroad.com. Because the application processes vary so widely and can be complicated, starting early and paying attention to all relevant details is crucial to a successful visa application.

Requirements

Visa applications typically require passports, application forms, airline tickets or reservations, proof of financial support, passport-quality photographs, and a cashier’s check or money order for the fee. 

Some countries require medical exams, specific immunizations, fingerprinting, or background checks. Many countries accept applications by mail, but a few require an in-person appearance at the consulate, application processing center, or another facility capable of gathering biometric information.

Countries offer different types of visas. Carleton students usually apply for tourist or visitor visas because our programs are less than 90 days. Sometimes, however, a student visa is required. Read the instructions carefully and consult with OCS staff if in doubt.

Note that fingerprinting is available at the Rice County Sheriff’s Office (118 3rd St NW in Faribault) on Tuesdays from 2-4 and Thursdays from 9-11.

Support

For Carleton-sponsored programs, the OCS office supports students throughout the visa application process by providing detailed application instructions, assisting with group submissions, providing proof of financial support or proof of enrollment letters, and by helping students connect to the resources they will need to submit a complete application. 

For non-Carleton programs, students are primarily supported by the program sponsor, however, the OCS office is available to answer questions, provide supporting documentation or document reviews, and help students follow the given instructions. In some cases, the services of a visa assistance company are very useful. Carleton has used the following companies over the years:

Personal Identification 

In addition to a passport, a secondary form of government-issued identification is recommended for all travelers in the form of a passport card, a driver’s license, a Minnesota State ID, or similar document issued by the home state or country of international students.

Passport Card–US Citizens only

Passport cards can be ordered at the same time as a new passport from the US Department of State. 

Driver’s License/Minnesota State ID–All students

Students who do not have a driver’s license are encouraged to apply for a Minnesota State ID for travel purposes. This applies especially to students who need to travel to a consulate to drop off their passport and need government-issued identification for their return flight. Minnesota State ID applications can be filed from 8-3:30 pm Monday to Friday at the Department of Motor Vehicles office which is located in the Northfield City Hall building, 801 Washington Street (eight blocks from campus). Minnesota State IDs cost $21.50 and can take six to eight weeks to process.

Carleton Student ID–All students

The Carleton student ID is usually recognized abroad, but it is not dated and therefore, not accepted as proof of student status in some cases.

International Student ID–All students

The International Student ID is valid for one year and is universally recognized. It also carries some insurance and discounts for card holders. 

Alternative to Government-Issued ID for Domestic Travel–All students

If you must travel domestically and will not have a government-issued ID in your possession, you may attempt to travel with alternative documentation, including a letter from OCS certifying that you are a student at Carleton College, your I-20 (for international students), your Carleton Student ID, a copy of your passport, and copies of your credit cards. You should arrive at least two hours early for your flight and expect to be pulled aside for a special security check, including questioning, pat down, and screening of the carry-on bag. While there are no guarantees this strategy will work, it has been successfully used by Carleton students in the past.

Airfare

Airfare

When searching for airfare, keep these things in mind:

  • Follow the guidance of your program or faculty director.
  • Search 2-3 sites to get a sense of prices, connections, airlines that service your destination, etc.
  • Don’t immediately go for the cheapest ticket. Before buying, ensure that the company/website you are purchasing from is reputable and provides good customer service.
  • Pay attention to the terms of the ticket. Is it transferable, flexible, or at least partially refundable? It’s fine if it’s not, but know what you are purchasing.
  • Don’t procrastinate. You can sometimes find last-minute deals when traveling for leisure, when you have flexibility with dates and sometimes even the destination, but for an international flight with rigid dates and destination, you will very likely pay if you wait until the last minute.
  • Price, flight schedules, airlines, connection times, frequent flyer miles, and other factors may all affect your final purchasing decision
  • Do not forget to inform your program provider or OCS of your travel plans right away.

Student Universe and Expedia are two reputable travel websites to begin your flight search.

Money

Credit and Debit Cards

A debit card is the easiest way to obtain cash at ATM machines, widely available in most countries. Request a card with an embedded chip and pin system and memorize your four-digit PIN number. Inform yourself of bank fees for cash withdrawals and transactions. Withdrawal fees tend to be less with credit unions, Charles Schwab, and the CapitalOne 360 internet bank.

Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than Discover and American Express. Foreign transaction and foreign usage fees vary widely. Card Hub contains a list of credit cards that do not charge a foreign transaction fee. Be sure to arrange monthly payments at home to avoid finance charges. Some banks require you to inform them of your travel plans to prevent triggering card blocking for fraud protection.

It is recommended that you take at least three credit/debit cards and store them in different areas of your carry-on luggage. Having multiple cards will allow you to access funds in case of theft or card malfunction.

Write down the customer service phone number(s) and your account number(s) in case you need to cancel your card(s) for any reason.

Cash

Carry a modest amount of cash in a major currency with you (US Dollars or Euros) for emergencies. Cash may be exchanged at banks or exchange bureaus, but beware of commission charges.

Money Transfers

Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, Xoom, and TransferWise are all handy app-based platforms used to transfer money between individuals. Western Union offers a worldwide money transfer service without a need to access bank accounts and can be a life-saver in cases of theft or malfunction of credit/debit cards or inability to access one’s bank account.

Technology

Resources for International Calling

Timeanddate.com has a number of resources related to international calling such as country & city codes, international clocks, and date calculators.

You should establish a plan for communicating with your friends and family using one of the many platforms available to you. Internationally, SMS texting and What’s App are very popular, but other platforms work too.

Cellular, Mobile Data, and Wi-Fi

Carleton OCS programs (and most others) REQUIRE students to have a functioning cellular device on them at all times and to be accessible by SMS text or voice call.

International cell and mobile data service can be obtained in many ways, but the most common for Carleton student travelers are to:

  • Add an international plan through your US-based provider
  • Obtain a local number by purchasing a SIM card onsite and either a) switch out your phone’s SIM card and use only the local number during your travels, or b) carry two phones, one with the US number and once with the local number

Be sure to check your US phone’s compatibility with international SIM cards. Some US phones will need to be “unlocked” to accept international SIM cards or may not be able to do so at all. This Los Angeles Times article provides a good overview of options.

WiFi is widely available in most countries, however, bandwidth can vary considerably. You should consult with your program director about the availability of WiFi and not expect the amount, speed, and security they have on campus. You should also inform yourself about any country-wide blockages to certain websites and plan accordingly.

Accessing Carleton Resources from Off-Campus

Carleton’s Information Technology Services (ITS) maintains resource pages for working off-campus and traveling. Be sure to follow all ITS recommendations.

Security

  • Exercise caution when using public Wi-Fi connections and never transmit banking or other sensitive information over a public network.
  • Keep devices near you when traveling or stored in a secure location.
  • Back up your data regularly to a cloud server and/or an external hard drive.
  • Make all devices password-protected.
  • Make sure your insurance covers devices in case of theft or loss.

Plug-ins, Adapters, and Batteries

Make sure that you have appropriate plug-ins/adapters, batteries, connectors, and removable storage for your devices. World-power-plugs.com is a great resource for knowing what adapters you will need.

Packing

Packing

When it comes to packing, less is more. Decide what you want to take, then leave half of it behind. In addition to packing lists provided by your program, consult the following sites:

Absentee Voting

Step 1: Apply for a Ballot

Apply for a ballot any time during the year. Vote from wherever you consider to be your home. You can apply for online voting registration or send a Federal Post Card Application to your local voting office

Different states have different voting rules and deadlines. If you are voting in Minnesota, go to mnvotes.org. If your voting registration is not in Minnesota, go to fvap.gov for voting instructions.

Step 2: Receive and Print Voting Materials

Once your application is approved, you will be emailed your voting materials. 

Step 3: Vote and Complete Forms

Read your ballot instructions carefully! Your ballot will not count if you do not complete and return all forms.

Step 4: Mail Ballot Back by Deadline

Complete your ballot and send it back to your local election official well before your State’s request deadline

Your state may allow you to submit your FPCA via mail, fax, or e-mail. Consult the online Voting Assistance Guide for your state’s current requirements. If you need help completing or submitting the form, contact the voting assistance officer at the closest U.S. embassy or consulate, or check additional resources available on FVAP.gov.

Step 5: Confirm Your Ballot was Received

All absentee ballots that are received on time and had the forms filled out correctly will be counted.

Some states allow you to track your voting ballot. Minnesota voters can use the absentee ballot tracker on mnvotes.org to track and confirm if their ballots are received and counted.

Step 6 (Extra): If Your Ballot Fails to Arrive

Use the emergency Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) to vote.