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Travelling to America - get an ESTA well before you go

Updated on June 21, 2012

ESTA website

About the ESTA

For any Brits out there who are looking to fly to the US of A for a well earned few days break, one of the many, many, things you'll need to organise for each person who is going is an ESTA.

What is an ESTA

An ESTA, or a "Electronic System for Travel Authorization" to give it the full name, is what the Americans insist on for you to enter their country for durations upto 90 days. Anything over a 90 day duration and you'll need to apply for a full visa.

Anyway, for most holidays the 90 day duration won't be reached, so an ESTA it is.

How do I get an ESTA

There is, unsurprisingly, a website for you to fill out your details: passport number, what flight you're arriving on, where you're staying, shoe size, that type of thing. I may have made that last one up; you don't need to give your shoe size...

Just enter all your details, and you get an ESTA authorisation which allows you to press-on with your holiday. Is there a cost I hear you cry... And, what a shocker, there is another charge for this. At $14 per person, it shouldn't break the bank - its just another cost you'll have to factor into your holiday plans.

When should I apply for an ESTA

As the whole thing is done online, and the authorisation is instant, I guess there isn't any urgency for you to get your ESTA; but why delay, we got ours as soon as the flights and hotel were booked. You never know what might go wrong, you may not be authorised - and then you'll be in trouble. Or you might forget, and again, then you'll be in trouble!

The official site to get your ESTA is: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/. So bookmark this page, and pop back when you've sorted out your flights and accommodation.

Oh, and above all, enjoy your trip to the US. We had a great time when we went, even our Virgin Atlantic flight was a fantastic experience.

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