Monday, March 17, 2014

The Great Escape: Phase One - Passports

I think the State Department has employed underhanded techniques in order to reduce the number of idiots from traveling internationally.  Idiots and large families that is.  Getting the passports is the first gauntlet to pass and we almost didn’t pass the idiot test.  

I had two options in posting about this experience.  The first is to vent about how much of a hassle it was – but really that is no fun to read about.  Certainly if your plan for summer vacation is setting up the tent in the back yard or booking a room at a local hotel you don’t want to hear me whine about the ‘hassle’ of trying to get a passport.

I can just imagine how irritating it would be to read about someone’s frustrations as she is planning a fabulous trip and I am just trying to figure out how to keep my kids from killing each other over the break.   

So the other option I had was to just walk you through the steps - should you ever find yourself needing a passport for the kids.  I find it very hard to read directions especially when I have little voices talking at me so hopefully this well help.  Just file the information away for later and you will feel like a pro when it comes time to apply.  

Timing:  It normally takes 4-6 weeks to get it once you apply.  It took me a week to get everything together because I just am not efficient so add in a week if you are like me.

Paperwork:  All the paperwork is available online for you to print out.  You can print it and fill it out or fill it out and them print it BUT not all the places will accept the second way so I just filled it out by hand.  Print out the parental consent form too (unless you are both going to apply in person).   

This set us back days because I had to return and repurchase a printer.  Lovely. 

You need their height for the forms so grab that before you sit down to do this.

It must be done in Black ink.  I did all four forms in Blue ink. Pays to read the directions.

They are going to ask you where you plan to go and the dates.  You don’t have to answer this.  Did I mention we don’t even know yet where we are going of IF we are going anywhere.  If ticket prices don’t come down we may just be in a tent in the backyard. 

You need a birth certificate also or some way to show that your kid is a citizen and that he is “your” kid.  Not a photocopy of the certificate but the actual one.  They mail that into the State Department and will return it with the passport. 

Money:  It is super expensive. It was $420 to get the four passports.  Ouch.  That didn’t include any expedited fees.  And each passport needs its own personal check (or cashiers check/money order maybe but who uses those?).  And you pay the processing office too.  So I needed 5 personal checks.   

Photos: Some offices will take your photos. Costco does this too - 4.99 for 4 photos.  Of course I only needed 2 but oh well.  You aren’t supposed to smile. Try getting a kid to keep a straight face after you have told him NOT to smile. 

This is the photo you get.

Sometime it is nice having more stoic children. 

Actually applying:   Kids and both parents have to be present when you apply in person in the office (during banking hours usually).   If both parents are not able to be there you can get an additional form and have it notarized by the other parent – you also need a copy of their ID front and back– same form of ID used with the notary though – and make sure the numbers are all legible.

Yes, you have to pull all of your kids out of school or be lucky enough to go on spring break.  Drag them to the office and have them sit around while you go over all the applications. I highly recommend going to the library first.  Then they have new Garfield (or whatever) books to look at!   I guess they figure if you like your kids enough to travel with them then they should be able to sit in a room for 15 minutes while you apply for their passports.  Actually I think I has more to do with child trafficking but that just makes me sick to think about.  Moving on...

It took about 15 minutes for us do go over 4 passport applications and I had everything complete and ready to turn in. 

I have to say the office staff was really great.    They were efficient and had reserved parking in front of the building.  Call your office first though. Some of them require an appointment and they may have limited hours.  

Here is your checklist:
  •  Application completed in black ink
  •  Both parents OR consent form and a copy (front and back) of the ID used on the consent for
  •  Your drivers license
  • Kid’s birth certificate
  • 2 Passport photos
  • Check for each application plus one for processing office
  • Kids
  • Something to occupy kids while you go over forms

And if this just seems overwhelming it is nothing compared to what the trip will be like so just book that neighborhood hotel for a weekend and do a stay-cation instead.  For the cost of the passports you could have a nice weekend and give your local economy a little boost! 
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