When you have to update something once every decade, you can often overlook putting it on your to-do list. One item that shouldn’t be overlooked: your passport.
All too often, our travel agents hear about clients trying to travel abroad with an expired passport, only to lose precious time and money that could have been better spent on vacation. So we asked one of our agents, Jacky B., about the importance of passports in hopes that you remember to keep yours up-to-date.
Time and Money out the Window
Take this scenario: You are flying to Europe with your family and, unbeknownst to you, your passport has been expired for a year. Without proper identification, you can’t board the plane so your family goes on without you.
In most cases, you’re probably out of luck. But if you’re fortunate enough to be in one of the few cities with a passport agency, you can pay to have your passport expedited. This usually lets you get a new passport in a day or two, but you’ll have to pay a few hundred dollars extra. Sometimes it’s not worth the hassle.
“So you’re out that money, you’ve lost a day or two of vacation and you have to pay for your new airline ticket,” Jacky says. “That’s around a thousand dollars you didn’t need to spend.”
If you need a passport in a hurry, visit the US State Department’s website for details. Keep in mind that the normal expedited process takes about two to three weeks from the time they receive the application.
Six Months Validity
The expiration date isn’t the only number to monitor: Many destinations now expect your passport to be valid for six months from when you travel. This is to ensure your passport won’t expire within six months of being overseas and you can still leave the country if you need to stay longer than intended.
So, for example, if you’re going to the Bahamas in January 2017 and your passport expires in April 2017, you need to update before you can travel. This is not noted on your passport, but it does mention the six-month rule on the bottom of our travel agency invoices.
Passport Reminders, or Lack Thereof
The most common passport issue is the fact that people simply forget to renew. Considering you’ll be setting a 10-year timer, a passport reminder is an imperfect process.
For those who travel internationally often, they might not think to check their passport. But for those who travel abroad infrequently, they are more inclined to look at the expiration date if they haven’t used it in a while.
“For my regular clients, I just keep a copy of their passport on file, just in case,” Jacky says. “They usually aren’t aware when they expire, so I also tell them to check every time they book a vacation.”
And that’s really the best advice. You don’t get any notices in the mail and you can’t trust that you’ll have the same calendar for 10 years. So it all comes down to the traveler, which is why revisiting your passport’s expiration date is best done whenever you know you’re going to need it. The alternative is not very fun.