We could argue the point, but I’m sure that the biggest pre-travel fear is to lose your passport within the days before a trip.
If you’re a maniac, like moi, you’ll check for your passport five times between leaving the house and showing it at check-in. It’s your travel permission slip and the LAST thing you’d want to forget.
My rule of thumb is to check for my passport every time I book an international flight.
Airlines ask for passport information during or shortly after booking, so it’s a good time to check your passport’s location and to check the expiration date. When Sis and I booked our flights to India, I went through this process and assumed that she’d done the same. Negative.
In fact, she didn’t even know where her passport was. But she assured me she would find it before take-off. And I believed her. How many places could a passport hide in a 1300 sq ft apartment? The answer is endless places.
She searched. Then searched again with help. Then I came to town the week of our trip confident I would sleuth out the elusive book. It was nowhere to be found. And so, with five days before wheels up, we were forced to get a new passport.
Here’s the right and wrong way to get a passport quickly.
The Wrong Way To Get Your Passport In One Day
A few years ago, I planned a fabulous 30th birthday trip to Kenya and Tanzania.
My boyfriend was passport-less, and I was excited to victoriously claim his travel virginity. We booked tickets in August for a March trip, and he promised to get his passport ASAP. Summer turned to fall, fall to winter, and by the one-month countdown, he still hadn’t applied.
Now, I’m usually laid back and chill. But crazy Michaela started appearing regularly, especially when he casually mentioned backing out. If he wanted to make it to his next birthday, he’d better get his passport, I’d threatened.
And a week before my birthday trip, he did. He used one of those last-minute passport agencies whose ads pop up when you search for “get your passport in a day.” They charged him over $500 for the passport and convenience.
In my annoyance, I didn’t help him figure out how to get the passport so this company robbed him, legally.
Companies that trick you
Rush passport companies are charging around $400 dollars per passport to stand in line and sit in a waiting area.
If you live in the middle of nowhere and can’t get to a legitimate passport agency, these services might be your best option. But for the majority, you can get your passport in one day with no headache. This is how my sister and I did it.
The Right Way To Get Your Passport In One Day
Passport offices across the United States offer emergency services such as getting a last-minute passport.
Luckily for Sis, we were only four hours from the Washington, DC passport office. We pulled ourselves out of bed at six am, grabbed a bag of veggie stix and eased into the work traffic on Interstate 95. When we arrived at the passport office, the sun was shining brightly and I was optimistic about how the day would turn out.
In another failed mission, we searched the car for her passport photos before heading to find a nearby Walgreens to take more.
As we approached the corner, we were pleasantly surprised to find a store taking passport photos. The photographer greeted us with a smile and told my sister to step into the booth. As she cheesed into the camera, giddy with fortune, I asked her if she even knew how much the photos cost?
With the convenience fee, she paid triple what she would have at the drugstore a few blocks down. But we finally had the forms, the pictures, and an excuse to get a rushed passport.
A Passport Emergency is Required
While the passport office takes all passport applications, to get rush service, you must have a trip within two weeks.
If you have a month before your trip, schedule an appointment. Those with appointments enter the passport office through a special line and get priority treatment. The line for walk-ins is longer and goes much slower because appointment holders can skip to the front.
It took an hour to get through that line, followed by security screening and then entry into a DMV-style waiting area. We stood in another line for a ticket and waited thirty minutes before being called to the window.
I hadn’t imagined that it could be so easy.
The Rep reviewed Sis’s docs, asked a few questions, then reviewed the pictures. She said we could get a rush passport, for no added fee, and that they would overnight it.
Sis explained that we had to apply for an Indian visa – which had a two-day turnaround – and that we needed the passport to apply that night. The lady checked with her manager, then told us to return in four hours.
We lucked out with India‘s fast visa process. Start your visa early so that if there’s an issue with your passport, you’ll find out sooner rather than later.
To pass time, we went to Heart & Soul to enjoy a grilled cheese lunch and revel in our victory. We then lollygagged around DC until we’d satisfied our wait, and I waited in the car while Sis retrieved her passport. We sighed in relief to see it in real life, in her hands, and ready for its first stamp.
I’m still in awe at the efficiency of the entire process. They run circles around any government office that I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to work with.
A Final Consideration
Trip insurance comes in handy for lots of reasons. If you can’t find your passport, you can cancel the trip and recoup your costs.
In the past, I NEVER got trip insurance thinking it was a waste of money. But when members of my travel group were in an international accident, I realized that trip insurance wasn’t so much for you as your loved ones.
While you could deal with any consequences due to not having insurance, it’s not fair to put your family in a bind. Travel insurance is an act of love. Cover yourself for your loved ones at least.
Now that you know how easy it is to get your passport at the last minute, you can avoid overpriced passport services and plan your trip to the local passport agency. Good luck! BTW, I can send more travel goodies right to your inbox. Sign up for free!