While far from glamorous, it is one’s passport that is undoubtedly the most important piece of any international trip. You can have the most well-designed itinerary, with every logistic mapped out perfectly. You can secure the best guides and arrange for the most interesting activities. And yet, without a current passport, none of it is possible. It is therefore of the utmost importance that travelers know when and how to get them renewed.
When to Renew
There are a few instances when an individual will need to apply for a new passport. They aren’t immediately obvious, so we advise everyone to check both scenarios when deciding if their passport is good to go:
- Expiration Date: If your passport expires within 6 months of your trip’s end date, it must be renewed prior to departure. For example, you have booked an African safari from June 10-June 28, 2023. If your passport expiration date is anytime before December 28, 2023, it requires renewal, as that is within 6 months of your scheduled return to the US.
- Number of Visa Pages: In years past, travelers could request to have additional visa pages added to their passport in order to avoid renewing prior to its expiration date (a service used by frequent fliers who accrued stamps quickly). This offering has been discontinued, however, making it important to monitor the number of pages available and compare that with the number that Travel Beyond recommends for your trip. If you do not have sufficient blank visa pages, you will need to apply for a new passport, even if the expiration date is far off. Please note that the final three pages of every passport are labeled “Endorsements,” and cannot be used for visa stamps.
How to Renew
How you choose to renew your passport depends on how much you’re willing to spend and also on how much time you have before the start of your trip. Generally speaking, the farther in advance you plan, the easier, and less expensive the process.
As of October 2021, passport applications take approximately three months and cost $110. The standard procedure requires that you fill out an application form (which includes a photo) and then either mail it in, along with the passport itself, or go to an embassy to apply in person. Individuals younger than 16, whose first passport was issued when under the age of 16, who are applying for their first passport, or whose passport has been lost, stolen, or damaged must apply in person and provide additional documentation, including evidence of US citizenship (visit the US Department of State website for full instructions).
Should you need your passport sooner, there are expediting services available. Through the US Department of State, you can pay an additional $60 to receive your passport within 7-10 weeks. Even speedier options exist (see full list here), but conditions apply, and they require in-person appointments at your local passport agency. Private companies like CIBT visas provide a few more alternatives and also claim a faster turnaround time. For a couple of hundred dollars, you can get your renewed passport within days!
The importance of valid documents cannot be overstated. We therefore encourage you to stay alert to your passport details, especially as you consider new international travel plans. Travel Beyond asks clients to submit passport copies early in the trip planning process to ensure these details remain top of mind.