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The first step in travel planning should be having up-to-date travel documents.
Wait times drop during winter, according to the U.S. State Department. So, if you’re planning to travel abroad this year (or domestically and don’t have a Real ID) and your passport is no longer valid, jump at this chance.
January is the month when everyone plots out the travel adventures that give them something to look forward to throughout the year. If those exploits include possible trips abroad, and if your passport is no longer valid or expiring soon, you should go ahead and start the passport renewal process during the slower winter months.
According to a recent Tweet by the U.S. State Department, demand for passports drops in the winter, which means faster processing times.
“If you’re a frequent flier who doesn’t like waiting for your new passport, consider applying this winter to minimize downtime,” the Tweet stated.
If you’re a frequent flier who doesn’t like waiting for your new passport, consider applying this winter to minimize downtime. Lower demand = faster processing times. https://t.co/62fSeDziBZ #BeginYourJourney pic.twitter.com/93beIWPINB— Travel - State Dept (@TravelGov) January 13, 2020
The routine processing time for passports is from six to eight weeks, expedited processing is two to three weeks, and if you go to a passport agency, you can get a new passport in eight days or less. While the State Department didn’t say exactly how much faster passports are churned out during the slower winter months, we’re all for getting ahead of things. A potential panic situation that will only be more stressful (and more expensive if you’re suddenly in a real rush) when wait times are longer.
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The standard passport renewal fee is $110, but it can set you back upwards of $300 to $400 if you end up needing an expedited passport and decide to go through a costly service.
There’s another reason to take advantage of the faster processing times. By this October, if you don’t have a Real ID or a valid passport, you won't be able to fly domestically, either.
Starting October 1, 2020, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will require all U.S. travelers 18 and older to present a Real ID–compliant driver’s license when passing through airport security. (Kids traveling domestically with an adult don’t need to provide identification.)
If you don’t have a compliant ID by that date, you can provide another acceptable form of identification to fly within the United States, including a valid passport, a permanent resident card, or a Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler Program card, such as Global Entry or Nexus.
So if you’re a frequent international traveler, it makes sense to simply rely on your (valid) passport until your driver’s license is up for renewal, and then you’ll get a Real ID–compliant driver’s license as part of the regular driver’s license renewal process, rather than making an extra effort (and trip to the DMV) to get a new license in the coming months. There will likely be a rush of people who don’t have a passport and do travel domestically, who will have no choice other than to obtain a Real ID. Why not avoid those long DMV lines if you can?
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OK, fellow travelers--you know what to do now, right? Go check that passport expiration date to see if that all-important travel document is recently expired or expires sometime this year. (Remember that many international destinations require that your passport is valid for a full six months beyond your travel dates.) If so, go ahead and kick-start the renewal process now. You can thank us later.
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