DeWitt: Passports essential for travel


By Marci DeWitt - Contributing Columnist



Passports are essential for travelers who want to visit far-off lands as well as our neighbors to the north and south. You currently can travel on a cruise ship with your license and birth certificate from ports that leave from and return to the United States.

I still recommend passports. If you were hurt and required medical attention when in one of the port cities, you would have trouble getting back into the United States without a passport. It would no doubt entail working with a foreign consulate and being very costly. I can think of better ways to spending your vacation dollars.

A passport makes it so much easier to take advantage of those last-minute deals on all-inclusive Jamaican resorts or unbelievable pricing on a flight to London or Paris. Consider the cost of the passport the price you pay for adventures that await you.

The U.S. Department of State is expecting an increase in passport applications through 2018. This comes as a result of the 2007 Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) that mandated the U.S. citizens entering the United States by air or land from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico must have a valid passport to gain entry. Because of the timing of the WHTI, those new passports issued in 2007 (over 18 million) are expiring, causing an influx in renewal applications and slowdown in processing.

Passport applications can be found online at the Department of State website, the U.S. post office, or at the county courthouse. You will need to make sure that the application is correct and complete. Next, the dreaded photo must be attached. According to the State Department, bad photos are the No. 1 reason the application is delayed. A photo that is not the correct size, too dark, too light, etc., is unacceptable. Glasses are not allowed. Do yourself a favor and go to CVS or Walgreens and have it taken.

Another common mistake in applying for a passport is improper proof of citizenship. Original documents must be presented/sent which will be mailed back to you. No photocopies are accepted. The application will note what documentation is necessary.

If you are getting a passport for a minor, both parents need to be present when applying. The child’s birth certificate as well as their social security card will be necessary. Children’s passports expire at least by the time they become 18 years old.

I only know this too well. My husband, son and I were heading to Greece when we discovered at the Air Canada counter in Toronto that we had grabbed my son’s expired minor passport. The new one was overlooked and left behind when grabbing the documentation for our European vacation.

We learned a costly mistake but I now caution people to get rid of the old passports. We went on to have a trip of the lifetime and the passport mix-up became a great cocktail story.

If you already have a passport, be sure to check the expiration date before you head to the airport. Many countries require travelers to have at least six months remaining from your return dates in order to enter their country. Passport renewals can be done by mail or in person. Appointments are recommended for the post office and the court house. If your passport is misplaced or expired and you travel date is soon, you can pay for an expedited passport process and for an additional fee get it through the process quickly.

Although passports aren’t the essential to all of the great things you will see in your life, it’s a good start. It’s little like getting a permission slip signed by an adult when you were small — you weren’t sure what wonderful adventure lies ahead but were prepared to start your journey.

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By Marci DeWitt

Contributing Columnist

Marci DeWitt owns a local travel agency, Anchor and Away Travel, a Dream Vacations franchise. She can be reached by email at mdewitt@DreamVacations.com.

Marci DeWitt owns a local travel agency, Anchor and Away Travel, a Dream Vacations franchise. She can be reached by email at mdewitt@DreamVacations.com.