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There are plenty of truths to travel, but today I’ll focus on just two. First, traveling to a warm, sand-fringed island can help a bad day, week, month, or even year seem inconsequential. Second, traveling anywhere that requires a passport undoubtedly causes headaches – just how big the headache varies widely on your destination. The good news for U.S. citizens, however, is that there are plenty of islands within reach that boast an international vibe, yet don’t require a passport. Below, I’ll share a few of my favorites for those itching to burn a few vacation days without dealing with immigration lines. Read more
If you want to apply for a passport card for cruising and trips across the border, the process just got much easier – if you already have a valid 10-year passport book, anyway. Rather than mailing in your passport and DS-82 form, you can now apply online (via an encrypted and secure application) and keep your passport safe at home. Note: The online option is only available as a pilot program which will last until April 22 or 20,000 applications, whichever comes first.
A passport card (also called a PASS Card) is not a replacement for your passport, as it can only be used for land and sea travel between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda – it cannot be used for air travel. It is, however, ideal for frequent border-crossing commuters and cruisers. The card is wallet-sized and contains an RFID chip to speed up the customs process, and is only $30 if you already have a passport. An added bonus: Having a passport card makes it easier to replace a stolen or lost passport – although we hope you never need it for that, of course.
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This is the only day of the year that the government lets customers line up and apply for a passport both on a Saturday and without an appointment. Just show up at a regional passport office, bring all the necessary documents and a checkbook, and send off your paperwork for processing.
Exhausted but excited, I headed to the airport to meet my friends and catch a super-early (6.07am) flight to Panama. The last thing anyone expected to hear when I handed my passport to the ticket clerk was an emotionless, expressionless “hmm . . . your passport expires in 2.5 months and you need 3 valid months to enter Panama. You can’t fly today.” Say what! Needless to say, sheer panic set in and the next few hours were sprinkled with sporadic anxiety attacks, over a dozen phone calls to the New York Passport Agency (an automated appointment system makes you want to hit something – it also makes it impossible to get an appointment the day you call, never mind sometime that week), and angry thoughts directed at myself for the colossal oversight. (Nice going, travel expert!) Read more
Planning to re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean after your big summer escape? The new enhanced driver’s license (EDL), which is being offered in four states (New York, Vermont, Washington and Michigan), promises to make the process easier (and hopefully faster!) with its Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip, which contains biographic and biometric data that proves both identity and U.S. citizenship. As of June 1, 2009, U.S. citizens are required to show a passport, passport card, or the newly implemented EDL when crossing the border by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean. Read more
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