You’ve read about the backlogs, the restrictions and the costs - but you really want to visit an international destination. Getting your first passport is a big step - a daring act of independence and the promise of chartering unknown territory.
The rules for getting a passport are strict and the process somewhat detailed, but it’s nothing you can’t handle - and totally worth it.
Don't let the horror stories keep you from exploring the world. Follow these simple passport tips and make international traveling easier.
The idea of having a passport tucked away in your purse is enough to send thrills up your spine; nothing could stop you from hopping aboard the next flight to Paris, Tokyo or Fiji (your boss, kids and significant others would learn to live without you for a few days). This scenario may be a tad dramatic, but regardless of whether you ever need to whip it out at the last minute, it’s definitely a good idea to have a current passport. You never know when those last-minute international jaunts around the world may come up.
For that upcoming girl getaway, family trip or – yes, you can do it if you want to – solo transcontinental adventure, then it’s important to get your affairs in order well in advance. Those horror stories about backlogged applications don’t have to apply to you, so learn the rules, beat the system, and soon enough that slim, blue ticket to freedom will be in your possession, ready to take you wherever it is you want to go. So, don’t procrastinate – there’s no reason to put it off. The sooner you get the ball rolling, the sooner you’ll have a shiny new passport in your hot little hands.
Show ‘em what you’ve got – you’ll need a few basic documents to secure your passport, including proof of US citizenship, two guideline-meeting photos, the application form (filled out beforehand but signed in the presence of the passport acceptance officer) and the application fee.
Careful, if your name has changed since birth you’ll need to show the marriage certificate or court order that made it so. Also, all documents must be originals – no photocopies – and hospital-issued birth certificates won’t cut it; be sure your birth certificate has been issued from the state, county or city where you were born. If you’re a true globe trotter – show off! Request extra pages in your book at no extra charge to avoid having to renew it before it expires.
Play it Safe
Now that you’ve received your passport you’re ready to hit the road. It goes without saying that you should take good care of this essential travel companion, but here are a few specific ideas. Always keep it in the same place. A trustworthy drawer or file cabinet at home (or better yet, a bank safe) and a designated pocket or case while on the road. Nothing is more stressful than tearing apart your house the night before a trip, so be sure that there’s only one safe place for it to be.
Keep a photocopy with you while traveling, give one to a friend, and to really cover all your bases, scan and upload a copy onto your computer. If you should happen to lose your passport, report the loss right away to the police and, if you’re abroad, to the U.S. Embassy. This is where having extra copies come in handy, as they make it easier to be issued a temporary document that will get you home safe and sound.
It is recommended that you begin the renewal process up to 11 months prior to your passport’s expiration. It might sound overly cautious but it’s better than ending up in a bind. Maximize it. Jot down emergency contacts, medical issues and current prescriptions in the pages of your passport. It’s always smart to operate with a “better safe than sorry” mindset.