Congratulations! You have been invited to the adventure of the year but wait, are you ready to jet-set?
Note: If you want to know more Do’s & Don’ts for guests traveling to a destination wedding check out our recent guide.
Travel rules are always changing but one constant is you must have a passport! A Passport basically tells everyone you are who you say you are. Gone are the days of an ID and/or simple handshake. A passport is your proof of citizenship.
While a passport seems like a pain to get, using our tips, you’ll be off in no time! So, let’s get to the steps.
First things first.
Check out the US State Department for lots of information. There are several rules and restrictions for special cases, and if you think you might not be allowed to leave the country for some reason, it’s best to start here. Like, did you know if you are behind on child support, you won’t get too far?
If you’re clear to go, you can apply for your passport directly online or download the form and mail it to them. If you are old school, I suggest heading to your local post office where they can hold your hand through the process.
And in terms of which passport you’re getting (the book vs. the card), I always go for the book, don’t waste time with the card. You want to the real deal.
Here are the things you will need to apply.
What about this photo?
This is where people get into trouble. Remember, this isn’t a club photo or a selfie. You have to pick one photo to attach with your application and there are certain photo requirements.
You have to face the camera directly with full face in view. You have to have a natural smile (no cheezing at the camera). Eyes need to be open (so make sure you are fully awake and ready to go). The background must be white/off-white, so no filters…. don’t worry, this won’t be used for the gram. Make sure the pic is 2X2 inches.
Tip: To play it safe, go to CVS and Walgreens and they will do it for you for a nominal fee. Note: All eyeglass wearers will have to take off their glasses, also no hats or head coverings.
For those of you who do have a passport, double check the expiration date as many locales make you update your passport if the expiration date is within 6 months of travel—so even if it’s not expired today, make sure you have at least a good year left leading up to your trip.
And in terms of whether or not you’ll receive your old passport back, there is always some confusion. Some people turn in their passport and don’t get their old ones back and some do.
Passport Books (renewals too) cost $110 with a service fee of $25.
For children under 16, $80 with a service fee of $25.
For more fee information contact the National Passport Information Center.
Now You’re Ready to Book, Right?
Make sure whenever you are booking travel to use the legal names shown on the passport. Not your bae’s pet name or what your friends and family call you, but your government name. So, if people call you Bill but your legal name is William, that’s what you need to go with.
Remember, brides and honeymoon couples, depending on if you have already changed your name this is also something you need to make sure you are aware of. (Check out the DS 5504 form for name changes.)
Make copies. Take a picture. You never know what could happen. Give a photocopy to someone you trust! For some of you a parent, neighbor or best friend will work.
Remember your passport is as valuable as your social security card so protect it. Make sure when you get your destination, you lock it up in your room’s safe. That’s what they are there for!
Last But Not Least
Make sure you do not wait until the last minute. Passport turnaround is anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks. If it is your first one, your passport will be delivered using Priority Mail with a delivery confirmation. I will say the passport agency has gotten faster over the years, but why risk it? Give yourself time and work with your travel agent—they can help.
Make sure to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This is a free service that can help you in the event you have an emergency abroad, but it’s also good because they keep you current with all travel warning and alerts. I have also said, and will keep saying it: Global Entry is a must. Read more about Global Entry here.
Now that you have the basics covered, you are ready to pack! For packing tips, check out my packing guide and my travel essentials! Make sure to check out the travel.state.gov site, that can provide you with destination specific information, safety concerns, health precautions and money matters.