The clock is ticking on your dream vacation. Without a passport, you’ll be stuck at home, staring at the cracks on your walls. You know the process usually takes weeks or even months. How can you get a passport quickly enough?

Don’t worry, here’s how to cut through the passport application process like butter:

Gather Your Documents

First, get your paperwork together. The documents you’ll need depends on the application form you’ll be using.

Form DS-11: Applying for a New Passport or Replacing a Lost or Stolen Passport

Form DS-11 is for first time applicants; applicants whose most recent passport was lost, stolen or damaged; applicants whose passport was issued more than 15 years ago or applicants whose passport was issued before they turned 16.

You must submit Form DS-11 in person at a passport office. For a complete list of the required documents, see How to Apply for a New Passport. Also, there are special requirements in place for kids under 16. See How to Get a Child Passport for details.

Form DS-82: Passport Renewals

Use form DS-82 if you’re applying for a passport renewal. You can use this form as long as your current passport meets the following qualifications:

  • Is in your possession and undamaged.
  • Was issued less than 15 years ago and after you turned 16.
  • Is in your current legal name, or you can submit a marriage certificate or court order to support your name change request.
  • To get your passport within the next two weeks, you’ll also need a copy of your itinerary.

See How to Apply for a Passport Renewal for a checklist of the documents you’ll need to renew.

Choose Your Approach

Next, decide how you’re going to expedite your passport application. You have three options to get your passport quickly:

First, you can use the State Department’s expediting process. For an additional $60 plus the cost of overnight delivery, they’ll get your passport back to you in about three weeks. It’s a good idea to allow even more time than that in case something goes wrong.

Three weeks isn’t really “quick,” though, so let’s look at our other two options:

  • Make an appointment at one of the State Department’s 24 regional passport agencies. Since there are only 24 of them in the entire country, there may be some travel involved in getting there. Also, you will probably have to take time off work, as these offices are only open on weekdays. Even then, their hours of operation are limited.
  • Use a private passport expediting company. With an expediter, you get the same lightning-fast service that you’d get from a passport agency, but you don’t have to travel any further afield than your local post office. There’s no need to make an appointment or wait in line at an agency- you pay the expediting company to take care of all of those hassles for you. A good company will also go over your paperwork with you to make sure nothing gets overlooked. When you consider the costs of taking time off work and traveling to an agency office, using an expediter may come out cheaper and it’s certainly more convenient.

Submit Your Application

The Department of State website has a list of all 24 regional passport agencies and their operating hours. There’s also a search form that will help you pull up the nearest passport acceptance location.

If you’re applying via an expediting company and you’re using form DS-11, you must go to a passport acceptance location (usually a nearby post office or library) to have your documents “sealed.” The clerk at the post office will seal your application package in an envelope and give it back to you. Follow the expediting company’s instructions to get the package to them, and they will carry it to the Department of State for priority processing, often within one business day.

Then, your passport will be shipped back to you, using an overnight delivery service if necessary. Without a doubt, this is the easiest way to get a passport quickly!

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