Do I Need a Passport for My Trip?
In my 30-plus years as a travel professional, I’ve been asked many questions about passports. The most common question is, “Do I need a passport for my trip?” Personally, I think every US Citizen should have a passport. I have seen too many people miss out on an amazing last-minute travel opportunity because they aren’t prepared. If you are over 16 years old, your passport book is good for 10 years from the time you get it, so the pro-rated cost is only about $15 per year. This is certainly an excellent value considering the authentic adventures that it makes available to you. While it can be somewhat laborious applying for your first passport, you can simply renew by mail every 10 years.
How is a passport different from a passport card, and do I need a passport to travel to Canada or Mexico?
A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies your identity and your citizenship. Only the US Department of State and US Embassies and Consulates have the authority to issue or verify US passports. Most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave their borders. All US citizens traveling internationally by air must present a valid passport to reenter the US. To cross by land only into Canada or Mexico, you may use a less expensive passport card, but if you plan to get a passport card, why not go ahead and get the real thing? For more information on how to apply, read: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/apply.html
Do I need a passport if I’m just taking a Caribbean cruise from a US port?
In my opinion, it is a very wise idea to have a passport for any international travel, although it is not typically a requirement when you’re taking a Caribbean cruise from a port in the States. When you depart and return to the same US port, you must have proof of citizenship (a passport or your official birth certificate), a government-issued ID (such as a driver’s license), and, for women whose last name has changed since birth, a copy of your marriage license. Or, far more simply, you can present your passport.
Further, it is prudent to have a passport, because if an issue should arise while you are abroad and you need to fly home, your options for a quick return to the States will be severely limited without a passport. Remember the Carnival Triumph fiasco in 2013? One of the reasons the ship had to be towed all the way to Mobile, Alabama from its location near the Yucatan Peninsula—extending the misery by an extra day or two—was that the majority of the passengers didn’t have the necessary documentation to be flown home from Mexico. What’s more, if you become injured or ill and need to fly home during a cruise through international waters, having a passport will greatly minimize the hassle…and hassle is the last thing you need when you’re sick or hurt.
Can my husband and I travel as Mr. and Mrs. “Newlywed” during our honeymoon if my passport has not been updated?
I certainly understand the romantic appeal of using your brand-new last name on your honeymoon. However, your experience at airport check-in will not be romantic, I can assure you. You must travel under the name on your passport. Usually that is your maiden name, so use that for your airline ticket. Please remember: Your name on your airline ticket must match the name on your passport exactly. Once you arrive at your honeymoon destination, people will be happy to address you both as Mr. and Mrs. “Newlywed.” When you return and have the time, you can apply to have your name changed on your passport.
Do my young children need passports?
Yes, every person, even infants, must have their own passport to fly to a foreign destination. Make sure you check the expiration date on your children’s passports because they expire in five years if the child was 15 or under when his or her passport was issued.
Some countries have instituted requirements to help prevent child abductions and may require travelers to present proof of relationship to the children, as well as evidence of consent from any non-accompanying parent(s). See child abduction country information pages for information about your destination.
Can you help me? I’m traveling, and my passport was stolen!
This is a call that no travel agent likes to get—ever! However, it does happen, albeit rarely. Make three photocopies of your passport before leaving home. Give one to a friend or relative to keep handy, give one to your trusted travel professional to keep in your file, and carry the other copy with you, stored separately from the original. This makes it much easier to have a replacement issued, if necessary.
So what do you do if your passport gets stolen while you’re abroad? Contact the local US Embassy or Consulate for assistance. Let them know when you are scheduled to travel home, and they will do their best to help you. It is also a good idea to take an extra set of passport photos with you to simplify the transaction. Keep your original passport in a safe place, such as a room safe, when possible, to minimize the risk of theft. You don’t need to carry it around with you at all times while overseas.