I’m a firm believer in always having a passport at the ready. As a travel writer, it just makes sense. As a leisure traveler, you might not think about it until you need one and then it might be too late.
The Olden Golden Days of Easy Passport Use
Years ago, we only really needed our passport to travel from one country to the next and if you were traveling from the United States, you didn’t even need it then! We actually used to make the three hour drive from Cleveland, where I was going to college, to visit Niagara Falls on a regular basis.
We could have just stayed on the American side but then we wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the lower drinking age and higher alcohol content beer in Canada! We really went just as tourists and stocked up on beer to bring back to our dorms.
Ah, college life.
But back in those days, all you needed to cross the border was a driver’s license and the ability to answer a few sternly worded questions.
Even when I made my first real international trip to Germany, things were different. I definitely needed my passport to get in and out of the Germany but as my brother and I tooled around in a little Volkswagen Golf, we actually stopped at various border crossings and got out looking for someone – anyone – to check my passport. (Back in those days it was all about getting that coveted passport stamp!).
Newer, Stricter Passport Requirements
There are a few places that don’t require a passport when traveling from the United States, including the following U.S. territories:
- Puerto Rico
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- American Samoa
- Swains Island
- Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)
but you still need a driver’s license and birth certificate. Frankly, I think a passport is easier to travel with than a birth certificate.
Everywhere else in the world, literally, will require proof of citizenship in the form of a passport. (Visas are a another story but one we’ll save for a later date).
But it’s not enough to just have a valid passport.
Did you know that some countries won’t allow you entry unless your passport expiration date is more than 6 months away from your travel date?
In countries where the social systems are especially good, they don’t want to take any chances that you’ll get stuck there and become a burden on their systems or government. So making sure your passport is valid isn’t enough. You have to make sure it’s valid for quite a while.
For the most detailed information about your destination, be sure to visit the U.S. State Department’s website to learn about country-specific entry requirements.
What happens if you need your passport in a hurry?
There are a couple of scenarios that will require you to go through the arduous passport process.
- First time passport application (and yes, babies need passports too!)
- Passport renewal
- Lost or stolen passport
If you’re a prepared and seasoned traveler, you keep tabs on your passport so you’re ready to go at any time. Buuuuut…. if you’re not and that special someone in your life wants to whisk you off to a romantic weekend in Paris, you better be ready.
If you need expedited services, you have a few options.
The normal passport application process, with an application fee of $110, takes approximately 6 weeks from submission until you receive your passport. If you’re willing to pay the extra fee to have it expedited ($60), you can have it within 2-3 weeks.
Need it faster? Paris is waiting, after all. You can use a service like RushMyPassport.com, which has helped thousands of Americans get their passports on time by processing them in as little as 24 hours.
The service specializes in things like new passports, passport renewal, name change on your passport, and lost, stolen, or damaged passports. Basically, all your basic passport emergency situations. In addition to the regular Application Fees, you’d have to pay a premium to RushMyPassport.com based on the following schedule (fees subject to change).
- 24 Hour Service: 1 Business Day $449.00
- Next Day Service: 2 Business Days $379.00
- Priority Service: 3 – 5 Business Days $239.00
- Rush Service: 6 – 9 Business Days $159.00
- Standard Service: 10 – 12 Business Days $109.00
Um, yeah. It’s not cheap. This is why I’m advising you to keep a valid passport stashed away just in case. But it’s nice to know you have options if you’re just not as together as you’d like to be.
This post contains an affiliate link for RushMyPassport.com, which has been partnered with licensed couriers of the US Department of State with over 20 years of experience in expediting travel documents.