Image it's the night before your family's long anticipated vacation to some exotic, foreign destination. Everyone has been counting the days until vacation and you cannot wait. Everyone is SO excited. Your putting the finishing touches on packing some last minute items. You go to the lock box where you keep all of your important papers to grab your passports. As you flip the pages in anticipation of some new passport stamps, you suddenly realize some of your family's passports have EXPIRED! After a quick panic attack, that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach and a very long string of explatives that we cannot print here... you reach for the phone to call your travel agent.
Belive it or not, this same scene happened not once, but TWICE with two different vacationkids families this week. Despite our reminders, folks procrastinated or simply forgot to double check their passport information. The good news is that we were able to help and both of these situations resulted in happy endings...it just created a whole lot of last minute hassle and angst that could have been easiely avoided.
To keep this from happening to your family, let's go over some important basic passport rules and preventative measures....
1. Know Passport Rules - It is the responsiblity of all travelers to have valid passports in order to fly to any foreign destination. Most airlines will not allow you to board your airplane if this requirement is not met. If you are "denied" boarding you will forfeit the entire cost of your trip. This is why it is important for you to know the rules and ask us ahead of time if you are not sure.
If you were over age 16 when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for 10 years. If you were age 15 or younger when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for 5 years. The Issue Date of your passport can be found on the data page of your Passport Book. If possible, you should renew your passport approximately nine (9) months before it expires.
2. Check your passport expiration dates when you make your reservations - If your family already has passports, pull them out and DOUBLE CHECK names and expiration dates before you confirm your reservations. Remember, the TSA requires that first, middle and last names on airline tickets must match your passport EXACTLY in order to avoid change fees and penalties. By checking passport expirations dates when you make your reservations, chances are you will have enough time to renew them prior to your departure if they are due to expire. Be sure to inspect the condition of your passports too. Many countries have strict rules and will not accept damaged or torn passports.
3. Understand the specific rules of your vacation destination - Some countries have specific rules regarding passport expiration dates. Many foreign countries have a six month validity rule. This means all travelers will need to complete their travels 6 months prior to their passport expiration date.
4. What happens if you need an emergency passport renewal - You will need to apply in person at your nearest passport office. You will also need to make an appointment and pay a $60 expedite fee. You will also need proof that you have confirmed, immediate reservations so be sure to PRINT your etickets and bring them with you along with required forms and identification. To make an emergency passport appointment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 877-487-2778. You will need to also check the specific rules of your passport agency. Bear in mind that passport offices are closed for most public holidays.
5. Buy Travel Insurance - "Cancel for any reason" travel insurance will help to cover you if you discover at the very last minute that your passports are expired or even lost. This type of travel insurance would allow you to cancel at the very last minute protecting your vacation investment.