5 Things you need to know about passports

When the travel dates are getting close for my clients, I like to send them travel tips and important details so they are well prepared.  As a travel advisor, I've been asked lots of questions about passports. I'd like to answer some of the most frequently asked questions in this issue for everyone to benefit.   

5 Things you need to know about passports 

1. What is a passport? How does it differ from a passport card?

The U.S. Passport Book is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies your identity and your citizenship. Only the US Department of State and US Embassies and Consulates have the authority to issue or verify US passports. Most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave.  The U.S. Passport Card can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry and is more convenient and less expensive than a passport book.  The passport card, however, cannot be used for international travel by air.

2. Do I need a passport to take a cruise? 

When you depart and return to the same port, originating in the US, you must have proof of citizenship, a passport or your original birth certificate, a government-issued ID (driver's license), plus a copy of your marriage license for women whose last name has changed since birth. A passport book is always a good idea.  If an issue should arise while you are abroad, and you do not have a passport book, you will not be able to fly back into the U.S.  

3. Do my children need to have passports?

Every person, even an infant, must have his/her own passport to fly to a foreign destination. Be sure to check the expiration date on your children’s passports. They will expire in five years if the child was 15 or under when his passport was issued. Some countries have instituted requirements to help prevent child abductions, and may require travelers to present proof of relationship to the children and evidence of consent from any non-accompanying parent(s). Your travel advisor should be able to help you if this applies to your chosen destination.

4. What name do I use on my Honeymoon trip? Can I use my new last name?

Although it is certainly more romantic to use your new last name on your honeymoon, you must travel under the name on your passport.  In most cases, this is your maiden name, so you must also use it for your airline ticket. Your name on your airline ticket must match the name on your passport exactly. Once you arrive at your honeymoon destination, people will be happy to address you both as Mr. and Mrs. When you return home, apply to have your name changed on your passport. 

5. What do I do if my passport is stolen?

You should always take precautions to prevent this from happening. First, lock your passport in a safe place if you are not carrying it on you. If you are on cruise excursion, for example, take a copy of the passport with you, and leave the original in the safe onboard your ship. If you chose to carry it, place it in an interior, secured pocket. If it is stolen, it will need to be replaced before you can travel back to the U.S. You would need to contact the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. Let them know when you are scheduled to travel home, and they will do their best to help you. They can direct you to a nearby location where you can get your passport photo taken prior to your arrival at their office. No need to panic, but you do need to take positive and immediate action.