With the state of the world today, it’s more important than ever to be fully prepared for your international trip. A passport is one of the most important documents an American can travel with these days. Make sure you know the facts and best practices well before you travel.

Do I Need a Passport?

Whether by air, land or sea, you will need a passport book or passport card if you are traveling outside of the United States. While you can always use a traditional passport (book), sometimes a passport card is enough identification.

Flying internationally? Get a Passport Book.
Driving across the border? Get either a passport book or a passport card.
Cruising in the Caribbean or Bermuda? Get either a passport book or a passport card.

You can travel directly to the following U.S. territories without obtaining a passport: Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

How do I get a Passport?

Typically, the process for renewing or applying for a passport takes 4-6 weeks, so you want to be sure to plan ahead. You can wait until about 2 weeks before, but there is a substantial cost attached to rushing a passport application. You’ll need to put together the following:

Documentation of citizenship
Photo ID
2” x 2” color photo
The proper forms (for whether renewing or applying new)

Depending on whether you are renewing or applying for your first passport, you will need to either mail in your documents or apply in person. You can find all the details for completing applications on the United States Government’s Passport website.

Do I Need to Keep my Passport with Me?

YES! Best practice is: never take your passport off your person. You can keep it in your purse or wallet, but most experienced travelers keep it in a secret pouch wrapped around their torso. This way if you are ever mugged or assaulted while overseas, you still have your most important document to get you home.

We also recommend taking copies of your passport. Put these copies in each one of your bags and leave one at home. With documentation in your luggage, you will have paperwork to take to the consulate if your actual passport is lost or damaged. The copy you leave at home will allow anyone staying behind to email or fax your information to the consulate if needed.

If by chance your passport becomes damaged or stolen, travel insurance could be a big benefit to you. Many providers have concierge services available around the clock to help with these types of concerns. They can connect you to the correct people to ensure you have proper documentation to arrive home safely.

Let's Sum it Up

- Be prepared and apply for your passport with enough time to save stress and money.
- Keep your passport on your person at all times when abroad.
- Make photocopies of your passport and put it in your luggage during travel.
- If your passport becomes lost, stolen or damaged, go immediately to the U.S. embassy.