Security concerns require travelers to obtain, carry, and show documents to cross international borders. Which documents you need depends on your place of origin, destination, and mode of travel.
Since many of our Bible Land Explorers are citizens of the United States who travel by air to Israel/Palestine, the following comments are tailored for that journey. Non US-citizens and US-citizens who are headed to other destinations are encouraged to read on, but to consult governmental websites (such as those listed in this post) for the most up-to-date information.
Consider three kinds of documents here: the passport book, the visa, and the airline ticket.
1. The passport book.
All US-citizens traveling internationally must carry a valid passport book.
If you do not have a passport book or are in need of renewal, go to the website linked here to start the process. Getting a passport book is not difficult, but it does cost money (up to $150) and it can take time (routine service requires 4 to 6 weeks to complete).
If your travel dates are less than three weeks away, you must expedite the process. This will grey your hair, cost even more money, and may require a personal visit to a passport agency or center. Bottom line: avoid the panic; work on this now. You can’t start this process too early.
Two other notes of interest.
First: If you have a passport book, check the expiration date on the picture page. Airline and customs officials will check this date against the date of your planned return to the US. If the date of your planned return is less than six months from the expiration date of your passport book, you will not be allowed to leave the US. Passport books for grownups are supposed to be good for 10 years, but in truth, it is only nine and a half. My guess is they don’t want folks to get stuck in a terminal somewhere and have their passports expire. If you have flown Allegiant or Frontier Airlines you know that a six-month delay is not an impossible scenario.
Second: While traveling, take care of your passport! Your US-passport is a valuable item. If it is lost or stolen, you will suffer some hardship and cost. While in Israel-Palestine, I encourage travelers to put their passport in the hotel safe provided in their room. It is more secure in the safe than it is in your pocket.