Know Before You Go

my passport picIt is the hottest night of the summer, on record, my air conditioning is not cooling as it should and the telephone on my night table is buzzing like crazy. I glance at the time, it is 5:20 AM. At first I thought is was just a bad dream but when my client shouted for the third time, “my passport is expired, what the hell do I do”, I was awake and sweating profusely.

This esteemed client, who had insisted for months that his passport was valid, was trying to board a flight, with his family of six (6), from Wisconsin to JFK and their connection to Venice, Italy, to start a long planned 12-night Mediterranean cruise. I wanted to shout back, “what do you want me to do about that” but of course I didn’t; I advised him to use his driver’s license and board his flight to NY. Once in NY he could get to the passport office on Hudson Street, in Lower Manhattan and hope that they would renew his passport in a few hours.

To make a long story short, he was able to get a passport by the end of the business day and fly out the next evening to Venice. His family went ahead without him but luckily they had three (3) days in Venice before the cruise departed. He did lose his seat in business class and had to travel economy, seat 46D, you know, the one near the lavatory but it all ended well, his vacation was saved and they all had a fabulous time.

So you plan on traveling internationally in 2018 and for the foreseeable future. Here are ten (10) things you need to know and do now.

  1. If you don’t have a passport, apply for one now. It is worth the cost.
  2. The State Department is operating under a hiring freeze (as of the writing of this blog) although they really try their best to accommodate emergencies. Best time to apply is August through December, worse time is March and April. If you have a passport, look at it now before you even decide where you want to go.
  3. When will it expire – you need at least six (6) months validity from the date of your return. If your return date is December 31 your passport should be valid through June 30. Each country has its requirements but most will fall within this rule.
  4. You may apply for a passport card with your passport book but it cannot be used for international air travel. It is great for domestic air travel and cruising in the Caribbean or crossing into Canada and Mexico by land. Clients who don’t have driver’s licenses use their passport cards.
  5. Response time for passport issuance has greatly improved but don’t wait for it to expire before renewing. Using an expediting service will cost you hundreds of dollars. Just not worth it.
  6. You can no longer wear glasses for your passport pictures.
  7. Even if you can, do NOT travel with a birth certificate, it is beloved by identify thieves – that’s a story for another blog.
  8. If you are traveling with minors their passports expire after five (5) years; adult passports expire in ten (10). Yes, clients have arrived at the airport and the minor child’s passport had expired.
  9. Bookmark this website https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html; travel suppliers especially travel insurance companies make decisions based on information issued by the US State Department.
  10. If you book your travel with us, take a picture of the information page with your smartphone and send it to us. We keep it safely on file and available to you if your passport is ever lost or stolen and we will also notify you when it is about to expire.

Watch this space for more essential travel tips. Please share this blog with family and friends. Happy travels for 2018 and beyond!

Moral of the story, you really need a passport!

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