There’s no doubt that 2020 has been bone-crushingly bad for travelers and those in the tourism/entertainment industry. But with the vaccines being rolled out, it looks like 2021 could be the start of the Roaring 20s (see, history really does repeat itself). I think most Americans will stay domestic for most of the year to see family until the majority have been vaccinated. Also, how many people even have enough money to go on a long, expensive getaway right now?
However, come the late spring and summer I think there will be a huge demand for international travel, especially to Europe, Canada, Mexico and other countries that have widely distributed the vaccine. So one of my travel tips for today is to drop everything, go find your passport and look at the expiration date. Make sure it’s valid! Mine expires in August, which is getting awfully close to the cut-off for a lot of countries.
RELATED: Why You Need to Keep Your Passport in Good Condition
Remember that many countries require that your passport be valid for at least six months after your arrival date before they’ll grant entry into their country. It doesn’t matter if you’re only visiting for a day; if you don’t have at least six months validity, you could, and probably will, be denied entry. Here’s how to renew via the US State Department. According to their website, processing times are as follows:
Routine: 10-12 weeks
Expedited: 4-6 weeks
Agency or Center: To go in person because of COVID-19 you must have international travel in the next 72 hours (3 business days).
I asked friends on Facebook who have renewed their passports recently and almost all of them, including a representative from the ItsEasy app, said that regular passport renewals are taking about 12 weeks to the day.
The passport renewal fee is $110. If you want to expedite it, it’s another $60 and it should cut the processing time by half.
Another tip is to download the ItsEasy app (iOS and Android). I wrote about it in 2016 but it’s even more valuable today because of the pandemic because it’s not ideal to have to go and do everything in person. This app allows you to avoid running to Costco or Walgreens to get a passport photo taken. For $34.95, you can take the photos from their app (they will check them over to make sure they’re good enough for the government before submitting them) and have your documents hand-delivered to a passport agency – all without leaving your home.. ItsEasy is a government registered and approved agent.
FYI: Now through January 15, 2021, the owner of ItsEasy is gifting the Passport Protection Program (normally $14) as a free gift for renewing your passport through the app. “Should your valid passport be lost or stolen anywhere in the world, we will assist you anytime 24/7/365 to secure a replacement.”
I filled out and downloaded forms from the Department of State for passports but it doesn’t say anything about whether it’s OK to send more than one in an envelope and combine payment on one check or not. The USPS site says you have to mail in an envelope big enough not to fold but the State Department doesn’t say anything about not folding. What do you think?