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Posts Tagged ‘preventing travel disasters’

You May Need a Passport Renewal Sooner Than You Think…

A friendly reminder, folks – just because your passport hasn’t expired yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can use it for travel.

That sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true: just ask the Patton family of Ottawa, Canada. Although all four family members had valid passports (in the sense that they had not expired yet), Costa Rica refused to admit them when they arrived in the airport. Instead, they put them right back on the plane and sent them home. The reason? Costa Rica requires all visitors to have at least three months left on their passports, and three of the four family members had passports that expired before then.

The mishap was frustrating, emotionally grueling and expensive, costing them about $6,000. Unless the spotlight of publicity causes the airline and/or the travel agency that the family used to book the tickets to relent, they aren’t getting any of that money back, either. Both United Airlines and travel agency Travel by Jen are pointing the finger at each other as well as the family for not catching the mistake in time. (more…)

Lost Passports and Disasters: What to Do

Last week’s 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, devastated the city. Buildings are in ruins and at least 148 people are confirmed dead. Christchurch is a popular town for tourists, many of whom struggled to get out of the city after the quake.

At a time like this, your first priority is obviously going to be getting out of the situation in one piece, not keeping track of your passport. Often, natural disasters leave victims stranded in the chaos without this all-important piece of identification. So, what would you do if you were in a similar situation? Although New Zealand temporarily waived passport requirements for evacuation flights according to the LA Times, tourists will still need to get them replaced prior to continuing their journey home. There are some steps you can take while planning your trip that will speed the process of getting a lost passport replaced after a disaster.

First, make a copy of your passport’s information page. Making a copy and keeping it separate from your passport itself is a well-known best practice for international travelers. However, you should also leave a copy with friends and relatives who can fax it to you if necessary. Alternately, scan a copy into your computer and then upload it to a secure, password-protected online storage system like SpiderOak or SwissDisk. That way, the information on your passport is accessible to you as long as you have an Internet connection.

After you get to safety and to the nearest US Embassy, having a copy of the information page from your lost passport accessible will make it much easier to get it replaced.

Before you travel, make sure you know where the nearest US Embassy is in case something does happen. It’s also a good idea to register with them.

While nobody likes to think of their carefully planned trip in ending in disaster, and odds are it won’t happen to you, it does pay to remember the Boy Scout motto and be prepared!

How Do You Know When It’s Time To Renew Your Passport?

How do you know when it’s time to renew your passport? This may sound like a trick question. After all, isn’t the expiration date written right there next to your picture? Not so fast…just because your passport hasn’t expired yet,  that doesn’t mean that you can actually use it to travel. Many countries require that your passport be valid for a certain amount of time after you enter the country-usually 3 or 6 months. If you try to leave for your trip with a passport that’s valid now but doesn’t have enough time left before the expiration date, you won’t be allowed to leave the country until you renew your passport.

How do you know how much time you need to have left on your passport? The US Department of State maintains a website of country-specific information. Visit the site, look up the country you are visiting, and find that country’s entry and exit requirements. This will tell you what travel documents are required and how long your passport needs to be valid after the date of your departure.

If you need to renew your passport, you have two options: going directly through the US government, or using a private passport expediting company like If you need your new passport quickly, a private expediting company can provide a high level of personalized customer service to make sure your plane doesn’t leave without you! For more information on the passport renewal process, check out our step-by-step guide to passport renewal.