…begins with a single step.
Do you have a valid passport? I got my first passport about 25 years ago. In those days, I was single, working two jobs and dreaming of visiting exotic, faraway destinations. Maybe international travel is just a dream for you as well but you can be one step closer to reality by applying for your passport.
New restrictions make a passport necessary for any international flight and even for vehicular crossings into Canada or Mexico. The less expensive “Passport Card” option is available if you plan to drive to our neighbors to the north or south. It also works for those on cruises sailing into the Bermuda or Caribbean.
Getting a US Passport is expensive – more than double what it cost me 25 years ago! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! Even if you can’t afford an international vacation right now, taking the steps now will make it easier to take advantage of last minute deals which are prevalent.
First step, you need pictures taken. No, you can’t use those great glamour shots you had taken a few years ago. These are official photos and you can have them taken any number of places where you see the “Passport Photos Here” signage. I usually go to a FedEx/Kinko’s location when it’s time to renew mine or one of the family but Walgreen’s and a host of other places do them as well. You can find a location offering this service from their websites using the links provided. Cost: about $10 for the 2 pictures required.
Even if you only do this first step, it’s a start and an inexpensive one at that. Then this weekend when friends ask what you are doing, you can say you are working on getting your US Passport!
To get the forms and see the documentation required for a passport, visit the State Department website. All the information is there. You will need to get a certified copy of your birth certificate if you don’t already have one. I had to have my mom go to the courthouse in my hometown to get a copy for me way back when but you can write to the State where you were born for a copy. The link provided will take you to the website with the contact information by State. Usually there is a small fee associated with getting a certified copy of your birth certificate so be prepared to pay between $9-$30 for most States.
The passport will set you back $135 plus the price of the photos and birth certificate. By starting now, you both avoid rate increases and have time to budget for the expense.
First time applicants must apply in person. There is no wiggle room on this one. Since you are starting NOW and aren’t in a rush, you can avoid expedited handling fees and use a local passport application office. Find one near you searching by zip code using this link. Find out their times of operation and even give them a call to ask when they are least busy. Then you can plan your visit accordingly!
There are services you can hire such as TravelVisaPro.com to assist with the process but it’s really not that hard, especially if you aren’t trying to do it last minute. The services can be helpful for Visas however, but you won’t know if you need one of those until you have selected a location and are closer to your date of travel.
I’ve now been on each of the 7 continents at least once. Same is true for my husband and 2 of my stepsons. My first international trip was about 18 months AFTER I got my first passport.
If you would like to travel outside the US, start by getting your passport. You may be surprised how you feel when you first hold it in your hand and even more surprised how soon after you put it to use!