You’ve decided to take your family to a new country on vacation—what’s the first thing you have to do? Get passports! If you have a mountain of paperwork for little ones and yourself to worry about, it can feel overwhelming. But take the process step by step and you will have the tools to jet-set for years to come.
Roughly one-third of U.S. citizens own passports. Percentages are even lower in other countries, showing that international travel is not nearly as common as some think. But just like any other aspect of traveling, it will take saving some pennies and taking the time to obtain documentation for the family.
Prepare for family travel
Passports allow you to cross international borders. Only a few years ago just a license was required to go from the U.S. to Canada, but even this now requires a passport. Not only can they be used for travel, but they are important in case of an emergency for identification or even if you want to consider adopting internationally. Passports are ideal to have on hand not just for getaways, but for weddings abroad, quick weekends to Mexico or Canada and anything else you can imagine.
Get those documents
- Make sure all your ducks are in a row first. Either visit a nearby post office (the most common place) or go online to get the application forms. You can fill these out in advance.
- Everyone in the family, big and small, will need their own. And, when turning in the applications, everyone under 16 years of age MUST be present. Children have to get new passports more often because their features are always changing. Keep this in mind, especially for teens reaching adulthood soon.
- Along with the application, you will need proof of citizenship. Usually a notarized birth certificate will suffice. If you are just updating your old one, you can bring your expired passport and that counts as proof.
- Then comes passport photos. If you’re digitally savvy and have a good printer, you can take these at home. But be careful, because they have to be very specific and show the face up close and clearly. It might be better, especially with the kids, to get them done easily at a photo studio, big chain store or even the post office itself. They usually are pretty cheap. Get some extra copies printed too—they come in handy during emergencies abroad, if documents are lost or you need to show someone a photo of your kid quick.
- Passports do cost a fee, which depends on several variables. This is where planning in advance can save money—expedited applications can get pricey. As soon as you think you might travel internationally, put aside funds for passports and have them ready.
Some families may opt to have a third party help, especially if you also need visas or anything special. This is up to your discretion, but the fees associated with these companies can add up. Does your family have passports? Have you thought about getting them? What’s holding you back?