Some Things You Should Know About Passports, Well Before You Travel

Sep 1, 2016

Our travel expert, Matthew Brumley, received a note from a listener named Jeremy with an unfortunate tale. Jeremy and family planned to travel to Europe. The flight was booked and there were still 86 days left on their passports -- far, far longer than the trip would take.

But when they arrived at SeaTac Airport, Jeremy says they were told they could not fly to France, because their passports were set to expire too soon. He writes:

This cost us over $5,000 in airfare rebooking and took three days off our travels while we sat in the Seattle passport office. After all, who would have thought 86 days on a passport was "nearly expired?"

Actually, it's a pretty common problem, Brumley says. Many countries require at least six months left on your passport for entry -- and some airlines will not let you board with anything less.

So before you even book your flight, look for your passport, open it up, and check out the expiration date. Make sure you'll have at least six months left on your passport by the end of your trip.

If it's too late, there are ways to expedite the processing of a new passport.

Once You're There

Congratulations! You did it all correctly, and you've made it to your destination. 

DO use your hotel safe to store your passport, if a safe is available.

DO make photocopies (or store an image on your smart phone) of your passport, in case you lose the hard copy.

DO NOT do as Brumley once did, and store the passport beneath your mattress when there's no safe. The only person he actually hid it from was himself, forgetting it when he left Canada. (This is where the photocopies came in handy.)

DO report any problems -- theft, loss, etc. -- immediately.

Maybe a lot of this seems like common sense, but the particulars of how you should handle your passport are easy to forget or ignore in the excitement for planning a trip. All kinds of travel guidance, especially when it comes to official documentation, is available through the State Department website.

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"Going Places" is a weekly exploration of travel on the new KNKX. Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small-group travel to clients including KNKX.