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The key to traveling the world is having a passport. But, the process of getting (or renewing) your family’s passports can be frustrating and time-consuming. To make this process easier for you, here are some simple passport tips that will save you time and headaches!
- Tip #1: Give yourself plenty of time.
- Tip #2: Do your research.
- Tip #3: Gather all of your documents in advance.
- Tip #4: Read the small print.
- Tip #5: Fill out the forms completely.
- Tip #6: Be on time for your appointment.
- Tip #7: Renew by mail if possible.
- Tip #8: Pay to have your photos taken correctly.
- Tip #9: Know your expiration dates!
- Tip #10: Sign your passport.
Tip #1: Give yourself plenty of time.
The most important tip on my list of passport tips is to give yourself plenty of time to get your passport back before your trip. Remember that it can take up to 10 weeks to get your passport once you apply for it. So, don’t wait until a month before your international vacation to start the process!
I recommend getting your family’s passports at least 4 months before your trip outside of the country. This will give you plenty of time to get them back before you leave.
If you can’t wait 12 weeks to get your passport, then choose to expediate the process when you apply. This will cost you an additional $60 per passport, but it will shorten your wait time to 4-8 weeks.
Tip #2: Do your research.
Applying for your passport is a tedious process because there are so many technical details that you must pay attention to. And if you miss something, it can cause you lots of headaches and delay the entire process.
So, to make sure you get everything right (and save yourself a ton of time), do your research before you begin. Start by going to the U.S. State Department’s website.
Read about how to apply for your passport. Find out exactly what the fees are. Print off the application form. See what documents you will need to submit with your application.
Additionally, if you are getting a passport for your child, be sure to look into the requirements for children’s passports. While some of the requirements are similar to those for adults, some are different.
For instance, you can’t renew a passport for children under 16 the same way you can for adults. You must go through the process of getting a new passport each time for kids.
The more you know about the process before you get started, the less likely it will be that you make a mistake that may make things more difficult for you.
Tip #3: Gather all of your documents in advance.
The next tip on my list of passport tips is to gather all of the documents you will need in advance. You are going to need to submit several documents along with your application. And these need to be original or certified copies.
So, take some time to gather these important documents at the beginning of the process. This will ultimately save you time once you get started with your application.
Tip #4: Read the small print.
There are lots of details that you need to pay attention to when applying for your passport. Missing one of them can lead to delays in getting your passport back and create lots of headaches for you.
So, before you begin filling out your passport application, read all of the instructions. This includes reading the small print, both on the website and that comes with the application.
For instance, you must either type your application or use black ink to fill it out. If you use any other color, your application will be rejected. This means you will have to start all over. So pay close attention!
Tip #5: Fill out the forms completely.
In order to save yourself some time and avoid delays, fill out your passport application completely. Do not skip any questions, unless the form instructs you to do so. If a particular question does not apply to you, put N/A or none in the answer space.
If you are unsure about an answer to a particular question, go to the US Department of State’s website to get clarification.
Tip #6: Be on time for your appointment.
Next on my list of passport tips is to be on time for your appointment at the post office or passport processing office.
At most of these offices, there are limited spots to get your passport applications processed and sent off. Don’t risk missing your appointment by being late. This could cause you to have to reschedule, which would waste your time.
Tip #7: Renew by mail if possible.
If you are renewing your passport (as opposed to getting one for the first time), check the State Department’s website to see if you can renew it by mail.
This is not available to everyone. But, it makes the whole process easier if you can. So, definitely check out this possibility!
My husband and I recently renewed our passports by mail. And it was so much easier!
Tip #8: Pay to have your photos taken correctly.
One area where the State Department is super picky when it comes to passport applications is the photo. Not only does the photo itself have to be a particular size, but there are rules about the color of the background, the distance from the top of your head to the bottom of the photo, and more.
So, one of the biggest passport tips I can give you is to pay someone who knows what they are doing to take your passport photos correctly. It will save you a ton of time!
You can pay the post office an extra fee to take your photos. Another option is to go to Walgreen’s, CVS, the UPS Store, or another business that takes passport photos and get yours taken there.
If you decide to take the photo yourself, pay close attention to all of the requirements for them to make sure you get it right. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending more time to redo them later.
Tip #9: Know your expiration dates!
If your family already has their passports, look at the expiration dates and keep them in mind.
Many people forget to look at the expiration dates on their passports, especially if they are different for different family members. Then, they panic when they realize that they expire before their next international trip.
So, definitely pay attention to these dates. Be sure you renew your passports with plenty of time to get them back before your next trip. And remember that many countries require you to have a passport that is valid for at least six months from the end of your trip.
Tip #10: Sign your passport.
The last of the passport tips is to sign your passport. Now, this tip won’t save you time during the application process, but it will save you time when traveling. If your passport isn’t signed, you could get delayed at customs or the security line at the airport.
The passport application process can be frustrating, but the above passport tips will save you time and make the whole process easier and less stressful for you and your family. Good luck!
For more tips to improve your family travels, see how to save time on road trips, how to improve your vacations, how to make airport security easier, how to plan an epic family vacation, how to take amazing trips on any budget, and my ultimate guide for traveling with kids.
Also check out my creative ideas for long layovers.
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