Your holiday plans are ready, but is your passport? If you're looking to renew it soon or need to apply for one, now is the time to do it, officials say.
"We usually tend to experience a spike of last-minute customers applying for their passports right before Thanksgiving [and] right before Christmas," Howard Josephs, customer service manager of the Los Angeles Passport Agency, told KPCC. Right now "it's our slow season when not very many people are applying for passports."
Josephs suggests holiday travelers handle their passport issues this month or next. For those looking to travel next year, things get busier in January, he said. It gets even worse in the spring and summer. "That's when everyone applies for their passport," he said. If you get one now, it would take about 4-6 weeks to receive a passport in the mail — during busier times it can take up to 10 weeks.
To make sure you are set to travel, the passport office is specially opening its doors on a weekend rather than its standard Monday through Friday hours — Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. — to take applications. It's at the West L.A. Federal Building.
Avoid common pitfalls
Not sure you should get one now? Josephs said that many times people think they don't need a renewal or are not aware of the passport guidelines in other countries.
"We're trying to raise awareness about the best times of the year to apply for your passport," Josephs said. "And also to help the traveling public to avoid some unnecessary expense by waiting until the last minute and then having to expedite their passport."
He explained some of the other "common pitfalls" many people face last-minute:
- Not checking passport expiration date: People don't realize their passport has expired and get turned away at the airport
- Parents' passports are good, but their kids' are not: Often families think everyone is set to go since they applied for passports at the same time, but in reality the parents' passports are still good because they are valid for 10 years, but their kids' passports are not because they expire in 5 years
- Not knowing passport requirements for other countries: Entry requirements differ depending on each country. For some countries, passports must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the time of the traveler's trip. "In other words, that passport that you have that has five months left on it may not be valid for entering the particular country that you want to travel to," Josephs said
What you need to bring
When you go to get a passport or to renew your passport, remember to bring the following:
- Your kids: If applying for a child's passport, children need to be present when applying
- Application: You can find an application online or at the office itself
- Bring evidence of U.S Citizenship like a birth certificate, a naturalization certificate or a previous U.S. passport, as well as current ID and a passport photo. The office also has a photo booth you can use
- Money for passport fees
Applying earlier is smart
"It's always smart to apply for your passport early,"Josephs said, because you avoid unnecessary fees and avoid lines. "Get it done, get it out of the way."