My Life as a Traveler

Do You Need a Passport? Yes!!

 

My (renewed) passport and Morgan's older one

 

If you are a US citizen, you should be in possession of a valid passport.

What’s a passport for? A passport is a document issued by the government of a country to a citizen that certifies that citizen’s identity and gives them permission to travel to other countries. Most foreign countries require a passport for entry, even Canada, but more importantly, if you leave the country your passport is the one thing that will get you back in.

Here are the benefits of having a valid passport:

  • It’s the ultimate ID, better than your driver’s license and easier to transport than your birth certificate.
  • If you have the opportunity to travel to another country, you will not have to wait the sometimes 4-6 weeks it takes to get a passport. You can get it sooner, but the fees to expedite the process are huge.
  • Once you apply for and receive your passport, it’s a cinch to get it renewed.
  • It makes for a good back-up ID in case you need it for countries that might not require a passport, like those in the Caribbean.

Here’s a story I heard this week. A family of four planned a cruise to celebrate the two sons’ graduation from college. The cruise was on one of the most modern and newest ships, sailing from Fort Lauderdale to several Caribbean islands that did not require passports for entry. Once you show your ID to the cruise line, they will issue you a card which will serve as your “passport” that allows you to disembark and then re-board the ship. Since no passport was required, and no one in this family had one, they just planned to use their driver’s licenses as identification.

Well, they flew down to Florida the day before and the young men decided to go out clubbing the night before the cruise. Unfortunately, during the evening festivities, one of them was pickpocketed and lost his wallet with money, credit cards, and most importantly, his driver’s license, the driver’s license that he needed to get on the ship with his family the next day.

Despite every effort that family employed to get the cruise line to let him on, they were unsuccessful. There was no way that young man could join his family on that cruise and he watched them sail away. The family had to scramble to find a place to stay for the young man and provide him with enough funds for his stay in Fort Lauderdale while the rest of the family sailed off – the cruise was non refundable at that point. I’m not even sure how they got him back on the plane home.

Now, if he had a passport as well as his driver’s license, he would have had no problem. He would have left his passport with his family, gone out, and even if he lost his credit cards, money, and even his driver’s license, he still would have been able to get on that ship.

What happens if you get your passport stolen in a foreign country? Well, you need to go to a US Embassy in that country and have them issue you a temporary travel passport. This may take a while as they verify who you are, but can be extremely expedited if you have a copy of said passport to present to them.

So, the bottom line is: get a passport! Keep it up to date and make a copy of it to take with you (kept in your main luggage, away from the bag/wallet that holds your passport).

You’ll be ready to travel internationally at a moment’s notice and have a rock solid proof of identity in case you need it. Go online at http://travel.state.gov/passport/ and they’ll walk you through the process. Your passport will give you more freedom and flexibility.

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