Your first international trip! Let’s talk about applying for a US Passport.
The US passport application can be intimidating, but will be so worth it in the end. Think about your current travel plans and possible future plans. Then decide if a passport book and/or card are right for you. That’s right, there’s a difference! This trip may be to Iceland to see the Blue Lagoon, whereas the next one may be to the Dominican Republic. In this day and age the travel possibilities are endless and you only need to complete this process every decade if you are an adult. The Passport card is valid in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda by land or sea, but not air. I live near Canada so my family typically gets both so we can carry the card rather than the passport book.
Step 1 – Get your US passport application forms
First- go to the US Post Office near you and pick up two copies of the US Passport application that you need or print it off of the Department of State website. There are different types of US passport applications: A new passport (DS-11), renewal (DS-82) and a child’s application. You cannot mail a DS-11 form but can for the DS-82.
Review the application completely before you even think about filling it out. Gather the required documents- your birth certificate must be original or have the official stamp or seal, a black and white, one sided copy identifying that you are a US citizen, identification issued by a state or government agency (original and a photocopy for submission). There are some differences for children 16 – 17 years old and 16 and under. Passports for children under 16 are valid for 5 years, whereas 16 years and older are valid for 10 years.
Step 2 – Take your application picture
Get a photo taken (either at the post office or some national chain drug stores also offer this service). There is a fee for this in addition to the cost of the passport. PLEASE don’t skimp here. The picture needs to meet certain requirements to be accepted. You cannot smile and your eyes must be visible, so do your best to not look like a serial killer. I cannot function without glasses but had to remove them for the photo, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Step 3 – Submit your US Passport Application
Not all USPS locations process passports so locate one that does, use the link and filter by “Passport”. You can also make an appointment to process your application which I would recommend if you can only process the application on a weekend. DO NOT sign your application until you are in front of a USPS employee that is processing your application. This is a very serious, precise process and will be treated as such when you get to the post office.
The routine passport processing time is 6-8 weeks. The fee to expedite your passport is $60 and it will arrive in 2-3 weeks. You can expedite the processing of your passport by paying extra fees, but who wants to do that when you can spend it on fun excursions or a nice swimsuit!? You don’t need a passport to book your trip but the sooner you apply, the better. Then all that’s left is to enjoy your luxury all inclusive resort, be it a Punta Cana vacation or a Cancun package.
Step 4 – Use your US Passport
Travel, dine, and vacation to your heart’s content!