Travel can be pretty chaotic and if you’re not fully prepared it’s even worse. If you’re planning to get away this year, the last thing you want is to find out at the last minute that your passport is invalid, that you’ve lost it, that it’s damaged or … the list goes on. Here are 12 passport tips that can help you avoid big headaches.

1. Check Your Passport’s Validity

If you’re planning to travel out of the country, find your passport and make sure it’s valid. Remember: Many countries require that your passport be valid for at least six months after your arrival date before they’ll grant entry to their country. It doesn’t matter if you’re only going for a day; if you don’t have at least six months validity, you could, and probably will, be denied entry. Before you have to pay to expedite the process, renew or apply for a passport now. Here’s how.

RELATED: Protect Your Valuables When You Travel With a Money Belt

2. Renew Early

If you’re applying or renewing your passport don’t wait until the last minute. Apply at least 4-6 months before planned travel. According to the U.S. State Department in a press release last week: “Passport processing times have returned to our pre-pandemic norm. As of December 18, 2023, passport applications will be processed within 6-8 weeks for routine service and 2-3 weeks for expedited service, which costs an additional $60.”

3. Find Out If You Need a Visa

I’ve had countless friends show up to the airport only to be turned away from their flight because they forgot or didn’t know they needed a visa. For Americans, the best place to find out if you need a visa is to log on to the State Department’s website, where they provide country specific information for every country of the world. Here, you will find out whether you need a visa or not and other important information like the location of the US embassy and any consular offices.

4. Save Your Blank Passport Pages

Immigration procedures vary by country—and so do the sizes of the visas or stamps that are added to your passport. If you travel a lot, you may have noticed that some immigration agents will stamp your passport’s valuable blank pages even if they don’t need a whole page. If you’re worried about running out of pages, you can cover blank pages with Post-It notes and, more importantly, ask the agents not to stamp on particular pages. Saving pages now could save you having to renew your passport sooner than you’d like.

5. Request Extra Passport Pages When You Renew

When you renew your passport, you can request 52 pages instead of the normal 28 for free, just by checking a box. This can save you time and a whole lot of hassles.

6. Consider Getting A Second Passport

If you travel internationally often and don’t have time or want to risk sending your passport away to get a visa, then consider getting a second passport. This will save you time and money on expedited fees.

7. Don’t Ever Put Your Passport in Your Back Pocket

I still see men carrying their wallets or passports in their back pockets. That is a huge no-no. First of all, it’s easy to get pickpocketed when it’s in your back pocket and secondly (and just as importantly) it’s easier for your things to accidentally fall out this way. Just ask my wife about the time she lost her passport in Estonia. Always carry your money and valuables in your front pocket, where they’ll be much safer. Keep in mind an authentic U.S. passport on the black market is worth roughly $4,000. You wouldn’t put four grand in your back pocket now, would you?

8. Always Look Twice

When you travel, always get in the habit of double-checking the back seat of a taxi, the seatback pocket on the plane and your hotel room for personal items. I can’t emphasize this enough. So many people leave their phones, wallets and passports behind somewhere and it’s a real pain to track them down—if you can at all.

9. Keep It Safe

Considering your passport is worth so much money on the black market, you really want to protect it. There are numerous ways to do this, from using a money belt to having a jacket with multiple pockets like Scottevest (buy on Amazon). A reader just emailed me the other day to say, “We lost our passports on the metro in Paris to pickpockets. Since then, we have followed the advice given by people at the U-S Embassy in Paris. Never carry your passport unless you are crossing a border. Just keep it in a safe place but don’t carry it around. What is a safe place? Depending on where you are, the answer to that question can get interesting.”

10. Add Small Color-Coded Stickers to Passports

This tip comes from reader Karol H., who says: “I am a retired flight attendant. When traveling with my family of five, I am ‘in charge’ of the passports. With multiple stops on international flights, it’s a pain to keep track of whose passport is whose, opening up to get through security and handing out each passport with paperwork, customs forms, etc. So, I put a tiny circle sticker (color-coded and featuring the first initial of each person) and stick it on the back cover of each passport. No more fumbling around, opening up five passports and trying to figure out which passport belongs to which person while rushing through lines. One quick glance and problem solved!”

11. Get Global Entry

If you get my weekly newsletter (sign up here), then you know I’m a huge fan of Global Entry. If you travel internationally at all (and especially if you do it frequently), it really pays to get Global Entry as it gives you expedited processing through CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) at airports and land borders upon arrival in the U.S., as well as TSA PreCheck for only $100. Plus, it’s good for five years. (Tip: If you have the American Express Platinum card, pay with that as they will reimburse you the fee.) The best part is that I never have to wait more than a few minutes to go from the plane to the airport exit, which in the past, could take over an hour. The second-best part is that I never get U.S. stamps clogging my passport pages so I don’t have to renew my passport much earlier since we can no longer add passport pages.

FYI: If you travel to and from Canada often, an even better deal is to get NEXUS. It’s basically the same thing as Global Entry except for Canada, and it also includes Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. The cost: $50 for five years. The downside is that you need to have your face-to-face appointment in Canada or one of their enrolment centers near the Canadian border, like Seattle or Niagara Falls. Here’s what my experience was like at the latter.

12. Use an Expediter

If you need your passport right away and don’t want to deal with waiting in lines and you can afford it, then use an expediter. There are plenty of companies to choose from and I’ve used several over the years.

So there you have my 12 passport tips will save you time, money and headaches. Let me know if you agree, disagree or if you would add anything else.

How Many Americans Have a Passport?

The number Americans who now have passports have risen dramatically. According to the State Department in 1990, “only five percent of Americans had a passport. Today, that number is 48%.” 48 percent is huge! Well done, Americans!




28 Comments On "12 Passport Tips For 2024 That Will Save You Time, Money and Headaches"
  1. Monica Fuchs|

    Loved your passport tips but I didn’t see 1 of the most important ones… Make color copies of your main passport info page. Leave one at home with someone you trust and leave one in hotel/friends house when oversees. Can be a tremendous help if you lose your passport oversees.

    It’s also a good idea to make sure your passport is signed where indicated. US passports aren’t technically valid unless signed and in that case TSA often wants further acceptable ID that you may not be carrying with you. Potentially saves some hassle.

  2. John Conroy|

    Scan a copy of your passport and print it out or even to your phone. Keep a copy at home or with a friend in case you loose your passport overseas. I also keep a printed copy in my checked suitcaes just in case.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good one! Can’t believe I forgot to include it

      1. Bob Yunk|

        With today’s “access anywhere” email systems (like Gmail or Hotmail, scan your passport and mail the scan to yourself. Save it in a folder that you never delete items from. Even if you loose everything, including luggage or wherever you might keep a printed copy, all you need is an internet terminal to print out a copy

      2. phil klein|

        Hey Johnny, love the tips! I also use Scottevest and ID Sronghold ( I put my credit cards and passport in a dedicated sleeve for each and never have to worry about skimmers stealing the info. from them. Also, they sell dedicated wallets, purses, etc. that block the skimmers. I quit using the sleeve for credit cards and just use their secure wallet and passport sleeve. Phil

    2. Nancy|

      Don’t forget to PENCIL in where you are staying. Even post-its can fall out. Better to pencil it in, and erase as your location changes. My sister left a passport behind. She called the American Embassy and they informed her they did not have it, but the American Express Office did. The American Express Office could have contacted her immediately, if only she had the info in the passport. (It was several days between when she left it, and when she realized it was missing.)

  3. Victoria|

    In addition to scanning a color copy of the passport, I upload it to my Evernote account where it is available to me wherever I go plus it makes it searchable on upload.

  4. Katherine Douglass|

    Put a strip of masking tape on the back of your passport and write your passport number on it. Saves time fumbling through the pages when filling out customs and other forms.

  5. HP|

    My brother recommended I would possibly like this website.
    He was entirely right. This post actually made my day.
    You cann’t consider just how much time I had spent for this info!
    Thank you!

  6. Candy|

    Another passport tip: When arriving another country, be sure the customs agent uses fresh ink when stamping your passport.
    An incident happened to me last year in Frankfurt when I was LEAVING Europe. The agent was verifying my ARRIVAL into Europe and could not find a stamp in my passport. After much “sweating”, the agent came to the conclusion a barely legible stamp in my book must have been my entry into Europe 3 weeks earlier.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good one!

      1. Jeremy Burns|

        How can I forward the passport tips to my daughter? Hear you all the time on Leo Leporte and actually grew up in Manhattan Beach where my daughter lives now.

        Thanks for all the good tips. Just subscribed to your newsletter..


        1. Johnny Jet|
  7. travelingfool|

    I also keep a current photo of my husband inside the back cover of my passport and vice versa. If I can not find him in a crowd or in a place I can not go like the mens restroom, I have a photo to show another person.

  8. Regis Dudley|

    Super tips! I didn’t know about the extra pages option. Sign me up!

    One additional tip I’d add: consider investing in a scarf with a hidden zip-up pocket (or sew your own). You can hide your passport in there (along with cash and important cards). If you ever end up getting robbed, it would be unlikely that the robber would ask for your scarf.

    1. Marilyn Long|

      I read something recently that they were going to stop the service of adding extra pages. It used to be that extra pages were added for free but then they started charging. I was able to beat the deadline on that and then requested the large size passport the next time I renewed. However, what I read recently (wish I remembered the source) said that they were going to stop that option, too, so that as you run out of passport pages, you will just have to get a new passport even if it has not expired yet. I hope I am wrong about this or that the source I read was wrong.

      1. Johnny Jet|

        You’re not wrong. They stopped adding them

        1. Kristin Zern|

          It’s true that the US Passport Office stopped adding extra pages to existing and valid passports AS OF JAN 1,2016 for security reasons. Now the only options are to GO for the larger passport at 52 pages when one renews. Remember the US passport is valid for 10 years so if you are a frequent international traveler opt for the 52 page passport!

  9. mrs phill|

    hi Boss. please my love i prefer the window seat in front. first seat best.. the last time i was coming back, i sat on 2nd seat by window & the lady in front kept reclining her seat into my space to my discomfort. i told her but she refused to comply. later the attendants noticed & cautioned her but that still didn’t make much difference. but when going i sat on the type of seat i am requesting for now and i enjoyed my journey…lol (1st seat in front by the window). i also experienced seating at the back–extreme rear and in the middle parts in between the aisles–that was actually the worst for me. i was uncomfortable as my feet & carry-on bag seemed to be disturbing other passengers just as much as they were disturbing me too! lol…

  10. mrs phill|

    i wasn’t even the one that called the flight attendant’s notice .. she (attendant) noticed that the lady’s seat was far pushed back/reclined into my space and i was not comfortable..

  11. mrs phill|

    Boss, please i am eagerly waiting & looking forward! You would have noticed that i enjoy looking up stories that have to do with planes, traveling/ flying..that’s true –because it gives me hope and makes my mind believe that i will be meeting you very soon, this makes me really elated! i decided to refrain from communicating with u through mom’s telephone because i believe it has been hacked by enemies”” who can’t face their own lives but want to know what’s up with our plans.. i will tell u why i have this belief /proofs when we see. i think they have not been able to hack my email it’s more private to chat with u via this channel. the only problem is now how private the cafe i’m using people around/in the cafe get also nosy and try to look up your monitor a lot in order to see what’s up. i can’t wait for all these obstacles to become a thing of the past! i pray very very very very soon as prophecies show….in JESUS NAME I PRAY, AMEN!!! I LOVE YOU MORE THAN EVER…. and you are always in my thoughts…..

  12. Robin|

    These tips are very useful. Yes these are quite helpful when you are going to somewhere and follow steps and tips mention in this post at the time of travel, purchasing these great ideas will help you to save your time and money.

    Thanks for sharing this information.

  13. Benjamin Andrews|

    I like that you suggest finding out if you need a new passport before planning any trips for the year. My wife and I are planning a Europe tour for the summer, so I have been looking into what we need to get ready. I will keep this in mind and make sure we have US passports on hand for the trip.

  14. Alan Pritzker|

    I’ve put a sticker on the back of our passports with our email addresses and mobile phone numbers. That way if we lose our passports in the most likely place – the airport – someone finding it can reach out to us.

  15. Bonnie|

    Always look twice when departing a seat! I developed this habit and do it at movie theaters, doctor’s office, at church, etc. It is a good routine that prevents leaving something of value behind – especially while traveling.

    Before checking out of a hotel room, I throw back the sheets to check the foot of the bed, then remake the bed (sort of) to make sure nothing gets left behind. Once, it saved me from leaving my phone on the bed and under a sheet of an unmade bed.

  16. Randy Lorance|

    Some countries issue a six month visitor’s visa. They will not issue the visa if the passport expires during that six month period.

  17. Rusty|

    As a passport agent, I can tell you that there are only certain circumstances when you can have more than one valid passport, one being a pilot or flight attendant.

  18. Catherine|

    Good info, thank you. Questions.
    1. How may I obtain a 2nd passport?
    2. How do I find/learn about an “Expeditor”?
    3. I am currently living out of the US, in Mexico. Is there a method I can renew my passport when I am out of the country?
    Thank you kindly,

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