How to apply for a US passport?

How to apply for a US passport?

Traveling expands your life more than anything else, whether domestically or internally.  The US is a beautiful country, and there is plenty to see and do, but if you want to travel internationally, you must have a US passport.  If you already have a US passport, take a minute to check its expiration date.  You must have at least six months of validity on your passport to travel.  If you don’t already have a US passport, here are the steps to making sure you have one.

The first step.

If this is your first time applying for a passport, you must apply in person.  You can find an application on the US Department of State website that can be downloaded in a PDF or filled out and downloaded online.  In addition to the application, you will need proof of citizenship, an original ID and a copy, a recent photo, and payment.  If you renew your passport, you can complete the process online unless you are under 16, you got your passport when you were under 16, your passport was lost, stolen, or damaged, or if your passport was issued more than 15 years ago.

Be informed.

The first step in getting information for your passport is looking up the US Department of State, travel.state.gov.  Here you will find all the information on what to expect if you are applying for your first passport, renewing your passport, or need to get an appointment at a passport agency.  Many services will charge you a fee to process the passport application, but the application is simple and requires the same information you would provide to a service.

Processing times.

Due to Covid, the timing to receive your passport varies.  The Department of State website currently estimates 8 to 11 weeks for a routine application.  You can have an expedited service; the timing is at 5 to 7 weeks.  To get a passport within three days for a life-or-death emergency, you must have an international travel itinerary within three days, and you must complete the application at an agency by appointment only.

Passport fees.

Passport fees for an applicant over 16 are currently $130 for a passport book and $30 for a passport card.  If the applicant is under 16, the price for the passport book is $100, and the passport card is $15.  To get your passport faster, you can pay $60 for an expedited fee.  There is also an option for quick delivery by first-class mail for $18.32 to have your passport delivered in 1 to 2 days after the passport has is ready for delivery.  Payments can be by c personal, certified, cashiers, or travelers check.  You can use credit and debit cards except for expedited services.  Always check with the agency to confirm payment options.

Whether you plan to travel or not, I highly suggest getting your passport.  It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.  In addition, consider a passport card.  It’s better to walk around with your passport card than your actual passport.  I hope this information helps and encourages you to either get your passport or make sure it’s valid or renewed.  Please let me know if you find this information helpful.

Covid Restrictions and Holiday Travel

Covid Restrictions and Holiday Travel

Recently a friend traveled from Washington DC to Egypt. She discussed with me the harrowing experience of trying to get a required Covid test for travel. With recent federal guidelines, the need for Covid testing has increased, and availability has decreased. As the holidays are a busy travel season, it stands to reason travelers needing testing during the holidays will also surge.  Here are a few things to think about regarding Covid testing and the holidays.

A surge in Covid testing

Many of the issues involved with the current availability of Covid testing affect the recent executive order requiring Covid vaccination for federal employees. Companies with over 100 employees will be required to comply with the order or face significant fines. As expected, there are many questions regarding the order and implementation that need an answer.  However, the demand for Covid testing has risen, and so travelers need to prepare.

Thanksgiving travel

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it’s usually one of the busiest times for people to travel.  In 2020, many suggested curtailing travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, and many ignored that suggestion.  In preparation for the upcoming busy Thanksgiving travel season, the U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act may require all passengers on domestic airlines to either be fully vaccinated, tested negative, or fully recovered from Covid.

The World and Covid

Preparing for holiday travel

In essence, travelers should be aware of travel restrictions and Covid guidelines. They should know where their Covid testing sites are. Find out if they need to have Covid symptoms or can test as a precaution. Research the timing of their test before seeing friends and family as exposure varies. It’s also good to know the different Covid test options, PCR or antigen.

As with any travel experience, preparation is critical.  Stay safe this holiday season and if you choose to travel, do it safely.

Fall travel

Fall travel

Fall is a great time to travel. Leaves are changing colors, and it can be an excellent time for a road trip.  However, the weather can be a bit unpredictable, and temperatures can drop unexpectedly. Here are a few ideas to consider as we head into the fall if travel is in your future.

Packing light.

Packing for a fall trip can be a bit tricky.  Sweaters, hoodies, and jackets can be bulky to pack.  One way to pack light is to think of dressing in layers. Layering long sleeves, vests, button-down shirts, and jackets make it easier to take on or off and adjust to weather changes.  In addition, varying different items can refresh outfit choices leading to packing less.

Be prepared for weather changes.

Fall weather can be unpredictable so prepare for rain or sunshine. An umbrella or poncho will often come in handy.  However, sunscreen and sunglasses might also be necessary.  Mornings are usually cool and crisp while the afternoon warms up.  In addition, rain is often in the forecast.

Off-peak deals.

Fall travel is much less hectic than summer travel as many destinations are much less crowded.  In addition, fall can be one of the cheapest times to travel, and prices on airfare, hotels, and activities tend to be lower. Food also tends to be more affordable as fall festivals and seasonal changes in food make fall dining an incredible experience.

More hotel perks.

The hotel industry tends to slow down in the fall season.  There are far fewer crowds, so hotels and other places offer more perks to attract business.  It is easier to receive hotel upgrades, and hotel points go further than in peak season.  Hotel staff is usually more attentive as they have fewer guests to serve, so the service tends to be better.

Fall sickness.

Temperature drops, more rain, and humidity tend to increase people’s risk of getting sick. Due to the change in weather, fall is often a time many people experience colds and cases of flu.  This trend, along with the realities of Covid, means fall travelers should be more careful of fall sickness and try to stay as healthy as possible. Getting more exercise and sleep is a great way to enjoy a fall vacation while maintaining your health.

Do you have any plans for fall travel?  I’d like to know.

Traveling with the USD

Traveling with the USD

As a frequent traveler, I am aware of the value of the US dollar. It is the most recognized currency in many foreign destinations. The US dollar is also the closest thing to an international currency because it is so widely accepted. However, please know that individual international businesses can decide whether to take the money. Here are a few tips on traveling with the US dollar.

In many countries, the value of the US dollar is high. Many local vendors prefer payment in USD rather than the local currency. However, when using larger bills, you are often given back change from your purchase in the local currency. If you don’t plan a lengthy stay, the money is usually not worth it back at home. It can also be difficult to get a decent exchange rate.

It is good to note that some foreign countries will not accept currency older than a specific date. On my recent travel to Tanzania, a particular vendor would not take US currency older than 2009. I learned that there are no restrictions on banks to accept or reject the USD with further research. In some cases, if older notes are accepted, you may be given a lower exchange rate.

Similarly, many may not take torn or mutilated currency at some foreign locations. There was much concern while shopping in the local Maasai village because a bill had a small corner ripped. While this is a common occurrence in the US, note that foreigners are suspicious of the currency’s being valid when presented for payment elsewhere or at their banks.

Try to travel with currency in small denominations. Small notes are great for tipping, so before you travel, try getting your small bills from the bank as they are less likely to give out damaged or dated currency. With currency from the bank, you are more likely to have your USD accepted wherever you travel.

Has your US currency ever been denied when traveling abroad? Were you even aware of the possibility of your USD not being accepted when traveling? I’d like to know.

Know before you go-Covid testing.

Know before you go-Covid testing.

The travel industry has bounced back significantly despite the realities of Covid. One of the many reasons travelers chose to be vaccinated was so that they could travel. However, with all the developments around COVID-19, many destinations now require COVID testing before departure. While checking in for an international flight recently, I witnessed a passenger being denied travel for not having the correct testing documentation for travel. Here are a few ideas on Covid testing you should know before you go.

Covid testing.

There are two types of COVID testing available, diagnostic and antibody tests. Each traveler should do their research on travel testing requirements. In general, there are three types of testing, an antigen or rapid test, a molecular test, also known as an RT-PCR test, and an antibody test. As stated in the name, a rapid test provides results quickly, while a molecular test may take twenty-four to forty-eight hours for results. The antibody test uses blood and can be available the same day or 1-3 days, depending on lab processing. An appointment for testing is often required, along with proof of identity and insurance if applicable.

Travel requirements.

To be sure you meet the travel-specific COVID testing requirements, travelers need to plan accordingly. Each country’s requirement, although similar, may be different. One of the main differences between the antigen/rapid test and the molecular/RT-PCR test is that the antigen/rapid test may not detect early COVID-19 infection. Due to this fact, many countries will not accept the results of an antigen test. In addition, the timing of testing can be a factor. Some destinations require testing at least 72 hours before travel.

Do the research.

Doing your research is essential as the test timing can depend on departure or arrival at the destination. Travelers must present documentation before travel, so please check with the airline or destination to be sure of testing requirements. Many airports do not have testing facilities, and as stated before, a rapid test may not fulfill requirements for proof for travel. Airlines cannot override the specific country testing requirements.

Medical screening.

Additionally, due to COVID, passengers may be subject to medical screening. Some destinations will also require an antigen/rapid test upon arrival at the travelers’ expense. In addition, the USA still requires a negative COVID test before entering the US. There have been reports of travelers having to extend their travels due to a positive COVID test before departure. As always, I advise everyone to wash their hands frequently and wear a mask to protect themselves.

Have you had to be COVID tested for travel? How was it? I’d like to know.

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