MARCH 6 - While enroute to Hawaii one of our readers, Corinne, emailed me to say that family passport day has been cancelled. This statement was posted on the State Dept. Website:
Due to the budget sequestration, Department of State Passport Agencies will not be participating and will be CLOSED on Saturday, March 9.*
Many Non-Department of State Passport Acceptance Facilities, such as post offices, clerks of court, and libraries will still participate.
The State department's Bureau of Consular Affairs has declared Saturday, March 9th, 2013 National Passport Day. This year the bureau is focusing on family vacations. It declared national passport day on a Saturday to make it more convenient for working parents to get passports for children.
So what's the big deal?... What's National passport day all about anyway?
It means on Saturday, March 9th families can apply for a new passport, a passport card or renew their current passports simply by showing up at any of the 25 passport centers located across the country. In addition, families can also go to any participating passport acceptance facility.
First time passport applicants and children under the age of 16 applying for a passport MUST appear in person at a passport acceptance facility, U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Normally a clerk reviews their ID's, forms, collects their passport photo and fees in order to ship all this information to the closest passport center. By heading directly to a pasport center on March 9th, Families will save some of the time and shipping costs involved in obtaining their passports. In addition, it's a great experience to help involve kids, tweens and teens in the travel planning process while learning a bit about how our government works.
March 9th is a special day because normally, travelers are only allowed to access these passport offices by making advanced appointments, under strict rules and paying extra fees. Appointments at these passport centers are usually reserved for emergency travel situations only. On National Passport Day, parents are encouraged to bring their children to a passport agency or participating acceptance facility where there will be special family friendly activities for the kids.
Parents will still need to collect and bring all the necessary forms, photos identification documents for themselves and their children. Passports cost $110 dollars for adults and $95 for children along with a $25 processing fee. Passports are good for 10 years if you are age 16 or older. For children under the age of 16, passport are good for only 5 years at a time.
Vacationkids HIGHLY recommends all families obtain passports. If you travel with a valid passport, there is never any question about identification. Many parents will read online that they can take a cruise without having to invest in passports. This is true in some cases but if you arrive at embarkation for your cruise and there is any question about the identification you present, you could be denied on board your ship. This situation is not covered by travel insurance and you woulf forfeit the entire cost of your cruise. Should any unforseen problems happen during your cruise, it is extremely difficult and a huge hassle to try to fly back to the U.S. without having a passport.
Yes, obtaining passports for everyone in your family is an investment but in the long run, it can save you money. Often resort vacations in the Caribbean and Mexico are considerable less expensive than comparable family vacations within the U.S. The reasons for this have to do with currency and the cost of doing business outside of the U.S. To take advantage of some of these fun and affordable family vacation options year after year, at some point, your family will need to invest in passports.
If your family is planning a 2013 summer vacation overseas, take advantage of National Passport Day. Right now the average wait time to have your passport application processed and your new passport sent to you is 4-6 weeks. You can expedite the turn around time but this costs $60 PER PASSPORT and at this morning takes about 3 weeks time. Why pay extra and stress yourself out at the last minute.
If you are thinking about taking your family on a vacation overseas this summer...what are you wating for? You can go ahead, make your travel plans and even confirm your reservations even if your family does not yet have passports. The only caveat to remember is that passenger names on your airline tickets MUST match your passport names EXACTLY otherwise you may be facing penalties and fees. So make us your mind ahead of time if you'll be using your middle names or maiden names on your passports BEFORE booking your airline tickets and you'll be good to go. If you have any questions before heading off to celebrate National Passport Day with your family, give one of our travel agents a shout out and they will be happy to help out.