The Importance of Checking Your Passport Expiration Date.

Passport

The importance of checking your Passport Expiration Date

Check Your Passport’s Expiration Date

A little bit of extra stress and about 12 hours extra travel time: 

A few days before my backpacking trip, I was excited, nervous, and just ready to get on my flight and never look back. But I was in Charlotte, North Carolina, dog sitting until I could leave for my adventure. So I awaited my departure by hanging out with the sweetest dog and planning my cities more. However, one day, I was scrolling through Twitter when I came upon my friend’s tweet. Turns out, they were not allowed on their international flight due to their passport expiration date. I knew they would have checked their passport before getting on this flight, so the only reason they wouldn’t be allowed is if it expired soon. And for myself, I knew my passport expired in September, which was about 3-4 months out. So, knowing someone wasn’t let on their flight due to an expiration date worried me tremendously. I finally decided to look online and there it was: the Schengen Treaty, which was signed by 5 out of the 6 countries I was going to. Turns out, numerous countries signed this treaty, which would not allow you to travel to the country if you did not have at least 6 months beyond your intended return date. Apparently the 6 months comes from 3 months of travel + 3 months of expiration, just in case anything goes wrong in the country or you get stuck there for a longer time. You can call the embassy in each country or search online to see if you are okay or not. I searched online and I learned… I would not be let into these countries! I had NO idea, for I have always had a child’s passport that expires every 5 years and I have never been to Europe. I even put in my passport information for all of my flights, and all of my flights accepted it with no problem. I didn’t learn this till afterwards, but most airlines won’t mention the 6 month rule when you’re booking flights, so watch out.

 The most touristy photo with the most touristy skyline! 

The most touristy photo with the most touristy skyline! 

Searching for the best way to get a passport: 

So here I was, dog sitting in Charlotte, away from any forms that I needed to get a passport, far away from any passport centers, and I wouldn’t be flying back until Thursday night. And, I was leaving early Saturday morning, so that gave me only Friday to get my passport. Not gonna lie, I freaked out in that moment. I looked online to see the fastest way to get a passport, but the majority of the sites said you can get it in 2-3 weeks at the fastest. Along the way, I considered using one of those fast passport sites that promise you a passport in 24 hours or in few days. There are SO many sites that promise to get you your passport in 24 hours but for a hefty cost (which can get up to 800 dollars). Passports cost $205, which includes the expedited $60 fee, so those fast passport fees are extremely high. Because of this crazy price and the fastest that they could get it to me was on Saturday morning, I kept searching. Soon enough, I learned that you can get a same-day passport yourself, depending on how close the day of your trip is. If you’re trip is within 2 weeks, you just have to set up an appointment at this site and choose one of the official Passport Agencies to go to. You are able to set up an appointment on the phone or through their online site. I recommend the site because it’s easier and you get an email confirmation with your meeting number that you have to bring to the agency! So, I do not recommend using those fast passport sites unless you live far away from a passport center that can print it the same day. But if you live close to one, it’s worth the travel time and trouble of waiting in line and waiting for it to get printed. Also this may be worth to mention, but I overheard multiple people trying to get a passport the day I went in because even though they used overnight shipping or expedited shipping, there were weather problems, items getting lost, mail centers holding the mail an extra day, etc. It may just be worth driving and coming into the agency to ensure all your documents are safe and you get your passport on time.

 Pulling an all-nighter and driving to New Orleans in my trusty Prius! No idea why I took this, but look how cute my car is (:

Pulling an all-nighter and driving to New Orleans in my trusty Prius! No idea why I took this, but look how cute my car is (:

Passport Meeting!

So let’s just fast forward past me making my meeting, filling out the DS11 form, flying home Thursday night, collecting all the documents, and then heading out to the nearest agency: New Orleans, which is a 3.5 hour drive from my home. My schedule went like this: Pensacola - 12:00 am Friday morning, collect all my documents, leave for New Orleans at 3:00 am, arrive by 7:00 am, have my appointment at 8:00 am, hopefully pick up my passport that afternoon, drive back home by 7:00 pm, and then wait until 3:00 am the following morning to drive BACK to New the Orleans to be dropped off at the airport. I was able to get to the appointment on time and afterwards, they told me that I would be able to get my passport later that day because I was leaving within 2 days. At these centers, they print your passport based on need, so if you need it within a few days, you most likely can get it if you have all your documents ready. So, I did it, and I got beignets along the way, BUT it was a nerve-wracking experience that could’ve ended in me paying over $1000 in flight rescheduling fees.

 Hanging out in New Orleans before my meeting!  

Hanging out in New Orleans before my meeting!  

Pro-Tip

If you’re a first-time backpacker like me, check your passports and get them renewed at LEAST 6 months before the expiration date. It’s better to be safe and prepared rather than waiting till the last minute. Plus if you have been planning a trip for months and then realize a few days prior that you may not be able to go, it’s a bit stressful. But because I was able to get a new passport and board my flight in time, I am now currently gazing at the New York skyline, with my backpack and new passport beside me, and it still hasn’t hit me that I leave tonight! I’m having an extremely surrealistic time right now haha! And the only person I can thank for this is my friend who just so happened to tweet about it, and then for me to be on Twitter at the same time to see it. I owe them my life and have told them so as well. Has anyone had a similar experience with their passports?

Passport Pinterest

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 Author of this post is Alexis Craft, a photographer in Tuscaloosa, AL and Pensacola, FL and an intersectional feminist who is about to set off on her first big solo trip across Europe! Follow her journey on her  Instagram !

Author of this post is Alexis Craft, a photographer in Tuscaloosa, AL and Pensacola, FL and an intersectional feminist who is about to set off on her first big solo trip across Europe! Follow her journey on her Instagram!

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