Tomorrow is Passport Day in the USA

Tomorrow the U.S. Department of State will hold its third annual Passport Day, giving Americans an opportunity to apply for their first passport, or renew their current one. To commemorate the event, all regional passport agencies, along with most application acceptance facilities, including post offices, will be open and no appointments will be necessary.

These agencies are rarely open on a Saturday, which makes this a perfect time to apply for that passport you’ve been meaning to get or renew your old one, particularly if you have an international trip on the horizon. Remember, it takes approximately 4-6 weeks to process a passport application, although for an extra $60 you can expedite the process, getting your documents in about half the time.

If you are planning on participating in Passport Day, you may want to get to your facility early. Due to the fact that many travelers often can’t visit their nearest facility during regular hours, and since no appointment is needed, there is the possibility of long lines. Before you go, you’ll also want to make sure you have all the necessary forms, and a proper photo, with you as well. First time applicants will find everything they need by clicking here and information on renewals can be found here.

The number of Americans who hold a passport has increased steadily over the past few years, but if you still haven’t gotten around to getting yours yet, now is the time. Haven’t you always wanted to visit Paris or Rome or some other wonderful destination? The first step in making that trip a reality is getting your passport.

For more information on Passport Day in the USA and to find the nearest passport agency to you, click here.

Passport Day is coming! Do you have one?

Saturday April 9th is Passport Day. U.S. Passport agencies and participating passport acceptance facilities will be open to serve you. Savvy travelers know a passport is required for entrance in to the United States. No big news there. What some travelers don’t know though is how easy it can be to get a passport and the benefits of having one.

Right now is a great time for to apply for a first-time passport or renewal. The U.S. Department of State estimates processing times of 4 to 6 weeks. I recently had my passport renewed, sending the paperwork off on January 16th and had a new passport in my hand three weeks later. Look for processing times to increase as we get closer to the busy summer travel season.
The cost of your U.S. passport will depend on the type of passport you request and how quickly you need it. Adults will pay $110 for a passport plus a $25 execution fee for first-timers. Renewals pay the $110 passport charge only. The passport people recommend paying an additional fee for overnight delivery which allows tracking of your passport once produced. I did that and the total came to $124.96 for my renewal.

Passport Services recommends that those with family living or traveling abroad, thinking about a vacation abroad, or those with a job that could require international travel maintain valid U.S. passports.

U.S. Citizen cruise travelers sailing on itineraries that begin and end in the United States can get away with not having a passport. This is not always a good idea though and those people could end up kicking themselves for not going ahead and getting a passport.

Yes, you can board the ship, get off at the ports and get off the ship upon return to the United States with an original birth certificate and photo ID. But if you should have to fly back in to the country for some reason, you would be in trouble.

When heavy fog kept ships at sea, unable the dock at the Port of Galveston last month, passengers on the next sailing were mad. While safety-first is an admirable quality the cruise lines all share, it is of little consolation to those (literally) waiting for their ship to come in. In the case of some Carnival Cruise Line passengers, they could have taken advantage of Carnival’s exclusive Vacation Guarantee:

“Simply book your cruise vacation and sail away on a “Fun Ship.” If you are not completely satisfied with your cruise vacation experience, all you need to do is notify us before arrival at the first port of call and you must debark at your ship’s first non-U.S. port of call. Carnival will refund the unused portion of your cruise fare and pay your flight back.

These people, rightfully or not, were very upset but had used birth certificates to board the ship and could not take advantage of the cruise line’s generous offer because without a passport they could not board a plane outside of the United States for their free ride home.

That’s a pretty good benefit of having a passport.

Passport Cards are another matter altogether. They can get you into territories in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which includes Canada, Bermuda, Mexico and the Caribbean, but by land and sea only. Passport Cards cannot be used to gain entry into countries if you’re flying internationally. The lower price ($55 for first-timers, $30 for renewals) is attractive but Passport Cards are not good for much. Bite the bullet and get a book, then you know you are covered for any travel, anytime, anywhere.

Flickr photo by Dyobmit

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U.S. Passport offices open this Saturday

Saturday, March 27, has been deemed “Passport Day in the USA” by the U.S. State Department, and offices around the country will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to accept passport applications without an appointment.

It’s actually the only day of the year that a U.S. Citizen can apply for a routine passport in person at one of the country’s 23 passport agencies. Most days, only expedited passport applications are accepted at these agencies.

About 2,000 additional passport acceptance facilities will also be working this weekend.

The State Department says the point of Passport Day is to help families who will need the documents for their summer travel plans. Last year, the first Passport Day in the USA gathered 57,000 passport applications.

What they aren’t saying is that it’s also a great time to get your U.S. passport before the fees go up. The State Department has proposed raising the total fees for a first-time Passport from $100 to $135 for adults and from $85 to $105 for minors.

The new fees were proposed on Feb. 9 and then went through a 30-day period of public comment. There is no word yet on when the new fees will take effect, but you can count on a costlier passport sometime soon.

You will, of course, need to bring some documents with you to apply for your passport on Passport Day, including a completed passport application and identification such as a birth certificate and driver’s license.

The State Department has set up a database of all the Passport Day locations that will be open Saturday, so that you can find the one nearest you.