Close to 60% of Americans don’t have a passport.  To be honest, that number surprised (shocked!) me. Getting your passport isn’t complicated or overly time-consuming. If you’re over 16 it’s good for ten years, and after the first initial interview (at your local post office), renewals are by mail.  Easy-peasy.

The moral of the story, you never know when a fantastic opportunity to travel will appear. Don’t miss out; get your passport.  Below you’ll find tips to help with the process and other helpful passport information. 

How do I apply for a passport? 

  1. Visit the State Department’s webpage.
  2. Print out the application.
  3. Gather supporting documents. (Don’t forget a check or credit card.)
  4. Run to CVS for a passport picture.
  5. Head to the post office for a quick interview.  Check the USPS website for passport processing hours, and how to make an appointment if necessary.
  6. Patiently wait at the mailbox for your passport to arrive.

Simple!

Here a few more passport tips for your reading pleasure:

How does a passport differ from a passport card?

A passport is a recognized travel document that verifies your identity and your citizenship. Only the US Department of State and US Embassies and Consulates have the authority to issue or verify US passports. Most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave.

All US citizens traveling internationally by air must present a valid passport to reenter the US.  A passport card is accepted at land crossing into Canada or Mexico. But honestly, if you’re going to go to the trouble to get a passport card, why not go ahead and get a passport?

Do I need a passport if I’m taking a Caribbean or Canadian cruise from a US port?

Having a passport while traveling is always a good idea, but not required if your cruise departs and returns to the same U.S port. Instead, proof of citizenship will suffice, for example, a birth certificate or drivers license  

It might be tempting to cruise without a passport, but don’t do it. Remember, without a passport; you can’t disembark in a foreign country (no Atlantis for you) or fly home if there’s an emergency.

Do my children need passports?

Yes! Every person (even infants) must have his/her own passport to fly to a foreign destination. Make sure you check the expiration date on your children’s passports because they expire in five years.

Side Note: Some countries have instituted requirements to help prevent child abductions and may require travelers to present proof of relationship to the children and evidence of consent from any non-accompanying parent(s). See child abduction country information pages for information about your destination.

This trip is our honeymoon. Can we travel as Mr. and Mrs. “Newlywed”?

The name on your airline ticket must match the name on your passport exactly. Period. If you don’t have time to change your passport, book your ticket under your maiden name. Otherwise, you’ll spend a fortune to reissue the ticket, or worse, be denied a seat on the plane.

Side note: This happened to a couple recently and then ended up all over social media. The couple was unhappy the airline charged them an exorbitant fee to change the ticket. I’m no fan of the airlines, but that time the couple was at fault.

Help! My passport was stolen, lost, left on the train…

Make three photocopies of your passport before leaving home. Give one to a friend or relative, give one to your trusted travel professional for your file, and carry the other copy with you, stored separately from the original. Should you need a new passport, having a copy makes the process much easier. It doesn’t hurt to take a picture of your passport too.

If your passport is stolen or lost, contact the local US Embassy or Consulate for assistance. My passport was stolen in Amsterdam and replacing it was a pain (with a lot of sitting around at the U.S. Consulate). But, by the end of the day, I had a new passport –  and a train ticket out of there.

It is also a good idea to take an extra set of passport photos with you to simplify the transaction. Keep your original passport in a safe place (like the safe in your room), to minimize the risk of theft. Remember, you don’t need to carry it around with you when you travel.

I hope you’re convinced –  go get your passport. You never know when a travel opportunity will appear (or you need a romantic getaway). Life’s too short, don’t miss out on a fabulous adventure because you’re not prepared.  Happy Travels!