How to Get Passports for Kids
Here's how to round up those passports so you can go on that dream family vacation!
Are you in need of passports for kids and wondering how to negotiate that process? Traveling internationally with children can be a great way for you to bond as a family. "I've traveled all over the world by myself and then with my husband, but there's something very special and fabulous about travel with a child," says Lillie Marshall, the creator of travel blog Around the World "L", speaking from her experience as a world traveler and mom. "It connects you to people you might never have talked to before." To help you get closer to that dream family vacation abroad.
Here are some tips to help streamline the process of getting passports for kids:
When Do You Need Passports?
If you are traveling anywhere outside of the United States, everyone in your family -- including your children -- will need a passport. There are two options available: a passport book will cover all international travel, but a passport card will allow you to travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda by car, train or boat. A passport card is not valid for air travel.
What's the Cost?
The passport book and card for a child under age 16 costs $95, plus a $25 processing fee. The passport book by itself costs $80, plus the $25 processing fee. You can find additional information on fees on the United States Department of State website, as well as acceptable forms of payment, which differ depending on where or how you apply.
How Long Does It Take?
It routinely takes four to six weeks to receive your child's passport. If you pay to have it expedited, it should take about three weeks. If you have it expedited at an agency, it takes eight business days, but that is based on need and certain restrictions apply.
Tips For Success
- Get Your Child's Passport Early
"You never know when you'll have a great opportunity come your way, and you don't want to have to rush," Marshall explains. Leave as much time as possible, preferably six months, so you can avoid paying extra to have the passports expedited.
- Take Photos of Your Baby at Home
Trying to get the required passport photo for a young baby can prove challenging. There can be no other person in the photo, not even someone's hand. Sally Grimes-Chesak, the director of marketing and family programs at Journeys International, recommends doing it at home. Lay your baby down on a white sheet or piece of white poster board and snap as many photos as your baby will allow.
- Go to Less Popular Passport Offices at Off-Peak Hours
Call the passport office ahead of time to ask when it is the least busy and go then so that you can avoid waiting in long lines with your kids, suggests Grimes-Chesak. Her husband Chris Chesak, the director of partnerships at Intrepid Group, adds that by targeting certain branches that may be a little more out-of-the-way but less popular, you can avoid longer wait times.
Of course sometimes hiccups occur. Here are some ways to avoid them:
- Don't go to the Passport Office Too Late
Sometimes there is a discrepancy between passport office hours listed online and their actual hours. Marshall recommends calling the office before to verify so that you don't find yourself arriving just as it is closing.
- Make Sure Photos Meet Requirements
You're constantly reminding your kids to smile in photos, but in this case you want them to look natural. Grimes-Chesak suggests practicing taking non-smiling photos. Additionally, if your child wears glasses he should take them off for the photo and make sure that there is not hair in his face.
- Check When Your Child's Passport Expires
Unlike an adult's passport that is good for 10 years, passports for kids ages younger than 16 are only good for five years. Additionally, many countries require that your passport be valid for at least six months from the time you leave the country. Chesak recommends setting reminders for yourself when it is getting to be close to the time your passport is going to expire.
And before you go, check out these 10 Tips for Traveling With Kids.
Bev Feldman is a Boston-area writer and travel enthusiast with more than 15 years of experience traveling internationally, including with her family when her daughter was just 5 months old. You can connect with her on Twitter.