Passport Changes; Facts You Need to Know - Part 2

I hope you appreciated the urgency to not let your passport lapse or let it's renewal run to the last minute.  But if you did...

Expediting a Passport

OK, you procrastinated and now you must expedite your application. Expediting your passport application takes about 2 to 3 weeks via the State Department and will cost an extra $60 plus $12.85 for overnight delivery. That’s in addition to the standard processing fees. (Processing times can vary, so check here for the most up-to-date estimate.) 

Too long to wait? If you need a passport within 2 weeks, schedule an appointment to show up in person, with proof of travel, at a regional passport agency. 

Desperate? Then you need to pay for passport expediting services, which sometimes charge hundreds of dollars to secure passports in as little as 24 hours. 

Lesson, don’t procrastinate, check your passport so you can renew or apply through the standard process. You’ll save yourself a lot of money and stress.

Getting Your First Passport

Congratulations, you are making the decision to travel internationally. For your first passport, you have to apply in person. Make an appointment at an acceptance facility or passport agency; check here for the one closest to you. Here’s a You Tube video of what to expect. 

Arrive at your passport agency with: You filled in DS-11 form - The form has a list of all the acceptable documents for the requirements below.

  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship.
  • Valid identification.
  • A photocopy of the front and back of your identification; on clean, white 8½" x 11" paper.
  • For a first-time adult passport, the total fee is $135.
  • Passport photos. You can read more about the specifications for passport photos on the application form. Most major chain drug stores, offer appropriately sized passport photos that comply with government standards. Personally, I like to go to an agency that specializes in passport photos.  After all you have to look at that picture for 10 years.  Do you want to look at the mug shot from the drug store every time you travel?

Passports For Kids

Double-check your child's passport. Child passports are only valid for five years, and are subject to more paperwork, i.e.  parental consent forms, proof of a parent-child relationship. For children ages 15 and younger, the fees and requirements for getting a passport are a little different than those for adults. Essentially, parents need to provide identification in addition to proof that they are legal guardians for child applicants. Guardians in two-parent households must appear together with the child or provide a notarized statement of consent from the absentee adult. Single parents must appear in person as well. And all parents must show proof of legal guardianship; this would include a birth certificate or a court order.

A passport for a minor cost $105. And the usual—Form DS-11, a standard passport photo, and the appropriate identification for parent(s) and child—must be brought to your local passport office. Read more about getting a passport for a child here.  

Lost or Stolen Passports Abroad

Always travel with a photocopy of your passport; this will make your situation much easier if your passport vanishes. I always put my passport in the hotel safe and keep a photocopy with me.  I even have a second photocopy in the safe. The State Department advises that American travelers contact the closest U.S. embassy or consulate if you lose their passport while abroad. You'll have to go in person to get a new passport to return home.

Adding Pages to a Passport

As of January 1, 2016, you can no longer add pages to your passport.  When you renew your passport, you can opt for 28 or 52 pages.  If you travel a lot, go for the 52.  If you are down to your last 4 pages, time to renew.

Changing Your Name on Your Passport

Good news: There's no fee for changing the name on your passport if your passport was issued less than a year ago. If not, then you must pay the renewal fee.

To change your name, fill out the appropriate form (use Form DS-5504 if your current passport is less than a year old and Form DS-82 if your passport is more than a year old) and mail it with your current passport, original proof of name change, a passport photo, and renewal fees, if necessary. Details about name changes

Honeymooners - If you are changing your name when you get married, book your honeymoon in the name you had before the ceremony and use that passport for your flights, visa etc. You can apply for a new passport in your new name, when you return.

Passport fees calculator – This will give you the current cost for any of the above applications, including renewals. 

Now that you have had a crash course on US Passports, where are you going to go to use this wonderful pass to explore the world?

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Passport Changes; Facts You Need to Know About the Real ID Act

If you are one of the 49 million Americans whose passports will expire in the next few years, heads up. Here’s what you need to know about expected passport application delays and passport changes coming in the years ahead. These changes, according to The State Department, will create a massive processing backlog.

Renew Your Passport Now

In 2007, the law changed and required passports for all travel to and from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, resulting in millions of more travelers acquiring 10 year passports, now about to expire. Those travelers will need to renew, causing applications to jump significantly. Currently, passport renewal takes about six weeks. Many countries require foreign passports to be valid for 6 months after your return. Allow for some glitch in the process and you might not have as much time to renew as you thought.

REAL ID Changes Aren’t Helping

A newer federal law, the REAL ID Act, will soon enforce updates to all state-level identification (read driver's license) in the form of security features like machine-readable data. Now people in some states, that are lagging behind in the technology, are realizing that their licenses might soon be invalid for air travel—even on domestic flights. That will mean a rise in passport applications as well. Starting in 2018, travelers using IDs issued by certain states, could be denied airport check in if their state doesn't comply to the new standard. Some states are under review and have been given a deadline extension, but all licenses must comply with the standards by 2020. Travelers concerned that their state won't comply in time, will renew or acquire a passport, adding to the backlog. Click here to see if your state has complied or been given an extension.  

Expect New Security Features

Like state IDs, passports will now include added technology to ensure security and decrease fraud. Catching up with many other countries, U.S. passports changes mean that new passports will include a data chip that can provide all your personal info upon scanning it into a computer. You can also expect your new passport to be lighter—rather than the 52-page passports of the past, only 28 pages unless you opt for more.

Double Check Children’s Passports

If you've lost track of when your own passport needs renewing and you travel with children, double-check your child's passport as well. Child passports are only valid for five years, and they're subject to more paperwork, like parental consent forms and proof of a parent-child relationship. I had clients lose 3 days of their cruise and a huge expense to catch up with the ship, because their kids’ passports expired a few days short of the 6 months rule.

How to Renew Your Passport

You can apply for or renew a passport online through the State Department, or in person at an eligible local agency like the post office. Make sure you follow instructions carefully and meet all the requirements, like the new rule against wearing glasses in your passport photo. Doing so could further delay the process. Click here for forms and details. You don't have to wait for your passport to expire to renew.  Don't push it to the limit.  You don't want to miss that plane to your fabulous destination!!

Stay Tuned - Next newsletter will deal with more passport specifics; how to apply first time, name change, children's passports, expediting and lost or stolen passports. 

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May I have the envelope please?

Which Oscar nominated movie is the winner for your next travel destination? 

Los Angeles: It's hip, it's ethnic, it's Hollywood, it's Disneyland. From the Santa Monica Pier to the movie studios, LA is a happening place. 

Outer Space: If you can't afford the $250,000 ticket aboard Virgin Galactic, you can still  have an out of this world, night sky, experience viewing the Northern Lights from December to March. 

India: Fascinating, magical, old world, high tech, lavish architecture, beautiful people; that's Incredible India. It's a place once you experience, you will never forget and always want to return. 

Florida: Where it's always summer and you can have an international experience without leaving the States! The sounds and tastes of Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico fill the air. Do you like tennis, golf, diving, water sports? From busy South Florida; to polo ponies in Palm Beach; Orlando in the middle; to the gorgeous beaches on the west coast; Florida has something for everyone, every age.

New England: If you have never spent the fall in New England, you have never seen Mother Nature at her most beautiful. The dazzling fall colors, against the quaint New England towns, are a picture only nature can paint. 

CALL ME, LET'S TALK! 415 931-1945. 

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Why Travel?

Last week I attended and spoke at the Book More Travel Workshop in Charlotte, NC. The purpose is to educate travel entrepreneurs on best practices to move your business forward. I always come away inspired and ready to take action. This time I realized that this past week was really a microcosm for all the benefits travel offers you, whether you travel for business or pleasure.

Travel Unites – I spent 3 days with colleagues from all over the US and Canada and a few who came from Israel, Norway and Japan. We shared common experience just like when you travel and meet other travelers along your way.

Travel Reconnects – I got to be with members of my mentoring group and we could share and laugh about past good times together. I stayed with my cousins (yes, it seems like I have cousins everywhere). You reconnect with loved ones, on a very different and deep level, when you travel together.

Joy – There was so much joy in all that we did together.  I felt so uplifted. You feel joyful when you see a 7th wonder of the world or experience a bucket list item you have dreamed about your whole life. Pinching yourself to be sure you are really there.

Education/Learning – Obvious for a workshop. And when you travel, you learn so much about the world: culture, history, nature, language, art, food, religions, the list goes on.

New Friendships – I made new friends with colleagues and suppliers. Traveling creates the space for new friendships with fellow travelers or people who live in other places.

Challenges – Travel always includes challenges, on all levels.  It is a way for you to rise to any occasion and often have great stories to tell when you arrive home.

Sharing – Sharing a travel experience creates bonds that last a life time. You create memories to be shared in the future, that bring the past to life again, for you to savor and enjoy.

Travel is truly a life enhancing experience on so any levels. 

Share the love; travel more.

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Kiss Your Bag Goodbye

You are off on a trip.  Maybe it’s solo and you kissed your Sweetheart and the kids goodbye. You arrive at the airport to hand your bag off to the airline personal.  What happens now? Is this goodbye, never to be seen again? Or will it show up worse for the wear and/or damaged? Does this bring to mind the old American Tourister commercial with the gorilla baggage handler? Here’s what happens and what you can do to make sure your reunion at the other end will be a happy one.

Stacking thousands of bags of different sizes, shapes, and destinations is all in a day's work for an airline baggage handler. Here are some simple insider tips to keep your bag from being destroyed.

Have a bottom handle - The number one thing a bag can have to help is a handle on the bottom, between the wheels. Grabbing the bottom and top handles allows the baggage handler to easily place the bag on the bag loader or in the hold. It's not just nicer for your bag; it’s easier on their backs.

Pack it full and keep it contained - Baggage holds are not luxurious. Luggage is squashed and stacked. Bags packed full survive this better. Check that zippers are zipped. Open pockets dump everything out when picked up. When liquids are packed in the outside pockets around the luggage; if they don't fall out, they're crushed during luggage stacking and leak out everywhere.

Choose structured luggage - It Luggage brand advertises as the "world's lightest luggage". It's super lightweight because it's like a tent. There's no structure, and anything in it is more likely to be crushed or damaged. Duffels suffer from the same lack of structure. Your bag should either be cheap and you’re willing to frequently replace it, or very well-built and meant to last.

Four-wheels are it - Four-wheel luggage is easy because a handler put it down and push it off to a coworker or the baggage cart and it just glides there. Two-wheel luggage might be thrown or dragged to where it needs to be if they're rushing to get a plane out.

Downsize your luggage tags - Luggage and zippers are all potential FOD (foreign object debris), that need to be cleaned up all the time. Huge, hard plastic tags are the worst. They're easily destroyed and hard to clean up. Business card-style clear sleeves attached to bags are best.

Wrap strollers and car seats in plastic or bags - Straps on car seats get stuck on everything. Some car seats and strollers are pretty gross and baggage handlers don’t want to touch them either. If it's bagged, with straps inside, it's more likely to be handled nicely. Non-bagged items come off the plane last, allowing the loader to be shut off if it jams. That means you’ll have to wait the longest for that un-bagged car seat or stroller.

Don't worry about dirt - Having an expensive bag doesn't mean it’s going to be treated any better. No use complaining if your bag gets dirty. As far as handlers are concerned, a bag is designed to protect the contents, not itself.

Now you know what to pack your things in. If you need a great packing list, email me and I'll send you mine, as your Valentine's gift.

Call me, let's talk! 415-931-1945. 
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Airlines' Eleven - A Movie Sequel??

No, not a sequel to the 2001 remake of the Ocean’s Eleven movie starring the ensemble cast of  George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy García, and Julia Roberts. But it is a sequel to my last newsletter. Last issue, I re-posted about TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. I am very proud of the many of you, who have gotten the message and signed up for Global Entry.  Kudos to you, savvy travelers!

However, there is one piece of information that has not been understood by many. TSA is our US based security. It does not automatically apply to foreign carriers. I have had clients complain about an airline because they didn’t get TSA PreCheck on an international flight. That is because an international carrier would have to go through all the TSA security requirements, which, as you can imagine, is not an easy process. So most of them have not done that.

Good News: In September Lufthansa, became the first European airline to offer PreCheck. Since that success, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is adding more foreign carriers to the list to offer the service. Members fly (pun intended) through security at more than 180 U.S. airports. No need to remove shoes, belts, light jackets, toiletries or laptops.

Just recently, 11 more airlines, including international carriers Emirates, Avianca, and Virgin Atlantic (the first U.K. carrier to join TSA PreCheck) along with Spirit and two smaller carriers serving Florida and the Caribbean, Aruba Airlines and Miami Air International. The others are Boutique Airlines, a small, San Francisco-based regional line; Southern Airways Express, which operates a fleet of commuter planes in the South and Mid-Atlantic states; Sunwing, a low-cost Canadian carrier; Key Lime Air, a Colorado charter company that flies to Wyoming under the name Denver Air Connection, and Xtra Airways, a Florida based charter company. Xtra flew many of the charter flights to Cuba before commercial flights were granted permission in late 2016.

Until recently, Etihad Airways had been the only foreign airline to offer this perk to passengers (All of us, on the October India trip, were very happy to have. In addition, we  cleared US Customs, using our Global Entry, in Abu Dhabi. How cool is that!).

Other large international airlines are interested in joining the PreCheck club, but, the process is complicated: airlines must meet all TSA security requirements and upgrade their reservations systems to sync with the U.S. government’s Secure Flight prescreening system. It remains to be seen whether other heavyweights like British Airways and Japan Airlines will join in. Fortunately, most airlines in North America are compliant. Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska, Allegiant, American, Cape Air, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, OneJet, Seaborne, Southwest, Sun Country, United, Virgin America, and WestJet are among the 30 airlines offering TSA PreCheck.

TSA PreCheck does take some of the hassle out of airport check in. Now that there are more airlines that will offer it, where are you going to travel? 

Call me, let's talk! 415 931-1945. 
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