I've been asked lots of questions about passports. Personally, I think that every US Citizen should be required to have one. I've seen too many people miss out on amazing last-minute travel opportunities because they weren't prepared. If you are over 16, your passport is good for 10 years. That is certainly a great value! Here are some of the most common questions I receive:
What is a passport?
A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies your identity and your citizenship. Only the US Department of State and US Embassies and Consulates have the authority to issue or verify US passports. Most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave. All US citizens traveling internationally by air must present a valid passport to reenter the US. To cross by land only into Canada or Mexico, you may use a less- expensive passport card, but in my opinion, if you are going to go to the trouble to get a passport card, why not go ahead and get the real thing?
Do I need a passport if I’m taking a Caribbean cruise from a US port?
Having a passport is strongly recommended, but is not a requirement in most situations. When you depart and return to the same US port you must have proof of citizenship, (a passport or your official birth certificate), government-issued ID (driver’s license), plus a copy of your marriage license for women whose last name has changed since birth. However, if an issue should arise while you are abroad without a passport and you need to fly home, you’re in trouble! Also, if you become injured or ill and need to fly home, having a passport will greatly minimize the hassle.
Do my children need passports?
Yes, every person, even an infant, must have his/her own passport to fly to a foreign destination. Make sure you check the expiration date on your children’s passports because they expire in five years if the child was 15 or under when his passport was issued.
This trip is our honeymoon. Can we travel as Mr. and Mrs.? I understand how romantic it sounds to use your brand new last name on your honeymoon. However, your experience at airport check-in will definitely not be romantic. You must travel under the name on your passport. Usually that is your maiden name, so use that for your airline ticket. Your name on your airline ticket must match the name on your passport exactly. Once you arrive at your honeymoon destination, people will be happy to address you both as Mr. and Mrs. When you return and have the time, you can apply to have your name changed on your passport.
What can I do if my passport is stolen?
Although this rarely occurs, it can happen. Make three copies of your passport before leaving home. Give one to a friend or relative to keep handy, send one to your travel professional to keep in your file, and carry the other copy with you, stored separately from the original. This makes it much easier to have a replacement issued, if necessary. If your passport is stolen, contact the local US Embassy or Consulate for assistance. Let them know when you are scheduled to travel home, and they will do their best to help you. It is also a good idea to take an extra set of passport photos with you to simplify the transaction. Keep your original passport in a safe place (like a room safe) when possible, to minimize the risk of theft. You don’t need to carry it around with you at all times while overseas.
Having a passport is worth the time, energy, and financial investment. If you need any assistance with the application process, or have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Happy Travels!
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Ann Jones, CTC, MCC