Navigating Passports: Essential Tips for First-Time Travelers

Planning your first family vacation or booking that dream bucket list trip is always rewarding! However, passports can often be a source of confusion, especially for those new to international travel. Here are some essential tips to help you keep informed about passports before embarking on your journey abroad.

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1. Where Can You Apply for a Passport?

For those applying for their passports for the first time, the application must be submitted in person. Passport acceptance facilities include local post offices, government offices, and some libraries. You can even use this passport facility locator tool to find a convenient location.

2. How Long Does It Take to Get a Passport?

Generally, it takes between 10-13 weeks to receive a passport after applying. For an additional fee, expedited processing can shorten this to seven to nine weeks. While documents may arrive sooner, this is not guaranteed.

Be sure to check your passport expiration date several months before travel to ensure you have ample time to renew if necessary. Passports issued to travelers 16 and older are valid for ten years, while those for travelers under 16 are valid for five years.

3. What’s the Difference Between a Passport Book and a Passport Card?

A passport book is required for all international air travel and is necessary for trips to Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, South America, and Antarctica. A passport card, on the other hand, is a wallet-sized document suitable for re-entering the United States by land across a land border. It cannot be used for air travel.

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While a passport card is less expensive, it may not meet all travel requirements. For cruisers – in emergencies, you will not be able to fly without a passport book. The processing time for both documents is the same.

4. Do Children Need a Passport to Travel?

Yes, all individuals traveling internationally need a passport, regardless of age. Minors under 16 require parental or legal guardian consent to apply. You must also apply for them in person both for first passports as well as for renewals.

5. How Can You Keep Your Passport Safe While Traveling?

I would advise you to carry your passports only when necessary, keeping them locked away at other times. When carrying a passport, use a cover, preferably with RFID shielding to prevent scanning. Store it in an internal zipped pocket, a money belt, or deep inside a travel bag, and never leave it in luggage or easily accessible bags.

6. What to Do If Your Passport Is Lost or Stolen?

If you lose your passport or suspect it was stolen, you should report it immediately following the instructions on Once reported, the passport becomes invalid and the holder must apply for a new one in person.

If a passport is lost or stolen while traveling internationally, specific steps must be followed as outlined on the website.

7. Where Can I Find Out More About Passports?

For more detailed information on forms, fees, and wait times, visit The site also offers answers to frequently asked questions and the most up-to-date passport information.

By providing these insights, the goal is to ensure you are well-prepared for your international travels, making your dream vacations a reality.

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