Passports and Visas

Passports are your portal to traveling obviously…..and they are a chore. May our experiences with passport expedition make travel easier for you! We certainly have had our share of challenges with them.photo

In 2004, we had an impulse to go to Costa Rica. We planned this out quickly and were going to bite the bullet. Since our youngest was three years old and didn’t have a passport, we were not updated on this. We attempted to expedite the passports immediately and went to the courthouse to do this. Some other circumstances came up and we decided not to go. The expedition costs are very expensive, too, so be prepared.

However, we did have the passports done in time and did domestic travel or to Mexico until 2007 when we took the boys to Greece for their first time. All was good with the passports then. We were careful to make sure our drivers’ licenses were also updated and valid because that can interfere with your travel if those are expired. You can get rejected from getting on a plane if your drivers license is expired even if your passport is updated. (We’ve seen this happen to someone traveling in our group. She lost a day or two out of the trip taking care of this.)

In 2009, we had our passports still all within the expiration dates, etc. but we heard of a new glitch where you can be detained if your departure back to the states is within a few months of your expiration. ??? We didn’t want to take a chance where our sons would be detained in London, for example, so we called the passport agency and inquired about this. A helpful clerk spoke to me in length about all of this. I took down his name so that I could reference that I had spoken to a human about all this if I was disputed by anyone at the Houston passport agency. (Houston was the city where we would need to expedite our passports).

Our trip was two weeks away and they required that BOTH parents were in attendance with all of the children needing updated passports. So, we took two days off work and school and drove to Houston to do this. It was suggested that we be the first people at the window when it opened at 8:00 am. We were assured that we’d receive the passports that same day.

When we arrived at 8:00 am., we encountered a very negative and discouraging tone from the clerk. I spoke to the supervisor and told her how the clerk on the phone had assured me that we’d receive our passports without complications. She tried to tell me we wouldn’t receive them until the next week. I said, “we will wait here all day for them. We have already taken 2 days off school and work and  we live out of state and traveled far to get here.” She said, “is this a matter of life or death?” and she said something rude, too. It was very frustrating.

We were able to get our passports after a lot of assertiveness.  Crisis averted—and we didn’t even have expired passports anyway!–it was just because of a strange new rule about being within the limits of it expiring soon. Just wanted to be on the safe side.

There were no problems with us for the remainder of our trips. We continue to update them all the time.

In 2010, I went on a trip with a friend. It’s important that the name on your license match the name on your passport….and ticket. I was concerned because my tickets were made with my nickname and my other documents have my legal, birth certificate name. I couldn’t get it changed, either. I was prepared to have to explain it at customs in Mexico but it didn’t come up. Luckily, my given name is also a name in Spanish so I said it in Spanish and with a smile…..hoping that might help! 🙂 Now, all of my flight tickets are made with my given, legal name.

In 2013, my relatives were going to go on a trip and realized they didn’t have updated passports, so they went to Puerto Rico which doesn’t require passports.

In 2014, my friends were going with us on a couples trip to Mexico. A few days before departure, my friend pulled out her passports and saw that her passport was expired. I told her to look again, ….maybe she had the date wrong, etc. She had traveled already that year needing passports–so how could this be?  She looked again and discovered the confusion! She had pulled out some old passports from a drawer instead of her current ones. Everything was fine after all and we went on our couples’ trip.

In 2015, our trip to India required Indian visas. This was a process. You can attempt to complete them on your own or get a visa on arrival. I decided to use the travel agency to do this process for me and my son. It was worth the cost. I still had to complete several pages of steps on these visas even though a travel agent was submitting them, proofing them, etc… A courier came to the house to pick them up and drop them off which was helpful. The visa gets stapled into your passport book. This process came at the worst possible time for me as I was inundated with gazillions of deadlines and projects going on. I learned a lot about Indian visas, though!

Global entry pass was an option but I decided against it for this trip. That might have to be a whole other post!

My husband likes to carry our passports in a pouch worn around his neck and tucked into his shirt. My sons did the same when they traveled alone. I carry them in my purse and keep them locked in hotel room safes usually. I leave myself notes in several places of the hotel to remind me to get them back out of the safe when I depart the hotel. These are the stressful details of trips but you get in a good routine with it and enjoy your adventures anyway!

….afterall, you can’t leave home without it!

 

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