Passports are the ultimate form of identification when traveling - many people don't realize how meaningless a driver's license is once you are outside of our borders.
If you're planning a vacation outside of the United States and its territories (such as Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands) you must have a valid passport.
Here is what you need to know:
- Passports are valid for ten years, so it is a good investment!
- It generally takes about five weeks to have your passport processed. During busier times, it can take about eight weeks, so plan accordingly.
- You can download passport forms right from your computer (see link at the end of this post) or pick them up at post offices, county clerk offices, or passport agencies.
- Many local drug stores will help you with the required 2x2 passport photos. Fees vary depending on location.
- Your passport must not expire within six months of your return date or you might not be permitted to board your aircraft and fly home.
- Yes, you need passports for the Caribbean, Canada, and Mexico.
- While you are not required to have a passport for a cruise itinerary departing and returning to a U.S. port, we strongly encourage our clients to have them anyway. It takes a great deal of stress away from travelers when they have this ultimate form of identification on hand, otherwise, several very specific documents are needed to board the ship. If you make a mistake with even one of them, your cruise vacation ends before it even begins - you will not be permitted to sail. (Avid cruisers can tell you tales of the many potential travelers hanging out around the cruise terminals not able to board the ship.) Further, in the event of an emergency and a need to return home sooner, a passport would be needed to depart any other countries for the United States. (Yes, the Bahamas are another country!)
Your airline tickets, travel reservations, etc. must all match the name on the passport, so book your travel and obtain your passport in your maiden name. When you return from your honeymoon and have your marriage certificate, you can have your passport changed to reflect your new last name. If it is within twelve months of original issue there are no fees for this. If the original passport was issued more than twelve months prior, you will pay a fee with your application.
For more information on passports, please visit the U.S. Department of State.