By Gail Hutchins
Many of us keep our passports secure in a bank safety deposit box or away in a secure home file cabinet safe until we are ready to leave on a trip. When I start planning a trip, I always ask my clients if they have passports. Then I ask them to please check their passport expiration date. There have been more situations than I’d like to remember where the expiration date on the passport book has expired or does not meet other requirements which jeopardizing the trip.
Passports are good for ten years. In some cases, that ten years went by faster than my clients thought. They thought that they had plenty of time on their passports when it is not the case. A client may feel that their passport expiration date is the only concern. Be aware other concerns also come into play.
Unfortunately, not knowing that many countries require an extended expiration validity of 6-month beyond the expiration date can deter vacation plans. It’s important that in advance of your departure, you look at your passport expiration date, check the country requirements, and review the airline and TSA requirements. (Most airlines and TSA require that your airline ticket is an exact match to the name on your passport. Denied boarding will occur without a ticket-passport name match.)
Depending on what is happening in the world, passports can take different amounts of time to process. If you decide not to expedite your passport application, you cannot change to an expedite request. If the departure date is upon you, always choose to use the expedite mailing option. Be sure you have a tracking number when mailing the passport applications and documents. During Covid, passports were taking at least 12 weeks to process without an expedite request. When you receive your new, blue passport book, don’t forget to sign it. Be sure it is signed with your full name, as it appears on the passport. Passport books are processed to work electronically. Take good care of your passport. Never remove passport pages or write on them. Keep your passport away from damaging situations.
Be sure that the application is complete and filled out precisely without errors. The trip departure date is an important one on the application.
An error can delay your passport. Include all the necessary documents. Completing the passport application with plenty of time avoids possible dilemmas.
If you are a frequent traveler, you may have encountered a situation where your passport pages were full of stamps. Hopefully, you noticed this before you got to the airport. Countries have requirements on how many empty pages you have in your passport. There are specific pages in a U.S. passport that are for Visas. Those pages do not qualify as stamp pages. If your passport book requires extra pages, apply for them through the passport office.
Your passport photo must represent your appearance.
If your appearance has significantly changed from the photo on your passport, you will need to update your passport photo with a passport renewal. If your legal name has changed, you are required to get a new passport.
Keeping your U. S. passport concealed is a no-brainer.
You may consider a money belt worn around your waist or neck under your clothing. Leave a copy of your passport at home and travel with color copies of your passport. Keep the passport copies in a separate place from your passport book. Perhaps keep it in a secure safe in your hotel room or cruise cabin. If your passport is lost or stolen, a copy helps get things going to secure a replacement passport. When a U.S. Citizens’ passport book is lost or stolen abroad, a replacement passport is needed before you can return to the United States. Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. If you have secured travel insurance, the insurance companies are a terrific source for assisting with the passport replacement process and rescheduling return flights, if necessary. They will take care of things while you continue to enjoy your vacation.
Never Pack your Passport in your luggage. Planned carry-on luggage can have a change and be required to go to the baggage compartments. There are times you think you have completed checkpoints and that your luggage might be a good place for your passport. Yes, I have had a situation where a passenger thought he had completed check-in at the cruise port. He put his passport in his luggage and placed the suitcase in the luggage bin set for delivery to the guest’s cabins. He needed his passport to board the ship. He was lucky that the situation got resolved, but you can imagine the stress of not having his passport when he needed it.
Time to check that passport and make sure that you are all set to go travel and explore.
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