Traveling to new and beautiful destinations tops the wish list for many Black Texans, but the majority aren’t ready for traveling abroad because of one major factor: they don’t have a passport.
While there are some gorgeous destinations that don’t require a passport — the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are top spots — there’s nothing better than having an all-access pass to see the world, and this summer is the perfect time to explore. With airfare on a slight decline, Europe is becoming particularly popular thanks to increased flight options and nifty hotel deals. But before planning your journey here are some simple tips to help get your passport in order.
Know the application process and review the requirements early. In addition to the actual application, you’ll need proof of citizenship, valid identification and a 2-by-2-inch color photo prior to applying. You can find all of the details on the requirements at the US Department of State’s official website. They offer a wealth of knowledge for international travelers of all ages and experience levels.
Know the timeline
The standard application process takes about seven weeks and waiting until the last minute can result in some unwanted extra fees, so do yourself a major favor by planning to knock out this step of your vacation early. Think of this as the first step to really committing to a new adventure.
Know the photo requirement
Remember that picture from the first tip? Well there’s more to it. A lot of people don’t know that there are specifics about how you look in the photo. Most would assume the standard rules — no hats or sunglasses, etc. But as it turns out, you can’t wear any glasses — prescription or otherwise — in your passport photo and you also need to have a neutral facial expression. For most people, these may mean looking like an annoyed zombie, rather than excited for new adventures. These may seem like minor details, but not following the guidelines can delay your application process.
Choose a card or book
Depending on where you’re planning to explore, you may save yourself some time and money by getting a passport card instead of the more common passport book. While the card costs less than half the price of the book, it is also much more limited in use. Whereas a passport book can be used for international travel by land, sea or air, the passport card is only valid for land and sea ports between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean and can’t be used for air travel. So know what you need for where you’re going.
Find passport discounts
The average price of a passport book is $135 for adults, and for a lot of people, one of the biggest roadblocks of getting your passport is the cost. What a lot of people don’t know is that there are resources available to reduce the cost. Depending on your line of work, you may be eligible for a free passport, or a tax deduction if you travel for business. If you’re a savvy shopper, keep an eye on travel websites like hotels.com. Some sites offer seasonal discounts on passports.
Take these tips and start planning your next adventure and you’ll be prepared to discover some of the most amazing destinations on the planet — passport in hand.
Nick Bailey is a forward thinking journalist with a well-rounded skill set including writing, design, and photography. Nick now resides in Austin, TX after earning a degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis on journalism from Texas A&M University—Commerce.