(BPT) - Americans are ready to travel this holiday season. Airline bookings are up and a recent survey shows 74% of people plan to fly during the December holidays. Whether you're planning a Caribbean or Mexican getaway for the holidays, or looking forward to a cruise since the ‘no sail’ ban has lifted, you need to check your passport now. To help the wanderers among us, passport and travel expert David Alwadish, founder of The ItsEasy Passport App, shares the seven most common mistakes travelers make when renewing their passports.
Waiting too long to begin the renewal process
The Department of State is still working through a backlog of hundreds of thousands of passports. Beginning the renewal process early will not only give you peace of mind and ensure you have documents in hand, but will also save you the $60 government fee the Department of State charges for expedited services. Alwadish suggests starting the renewal process at least 12 weeks before your scheduled departure date.
A little-known rule, a U.S. passport must be valid for at least six months beyond a traveler's scheduled return date to the United States to be valid for departure. “Travelers are turned away at the airport and left behind because they are still not aware of this strict travel rule,” says David Alwadish. Make it easy on yourself and download the free ItsEasy Passport App to set complementary reminder notifications and keep track of just one passport or the entire family’s.
Paying for poor quality passport photos
Submitting an inferior photo is the number one reason passport applications are rejected. Not all photos are accepted, even if you pay to have them taken at a drugstore or post office. The ItsEasy Passport App allows you to take photos from the safety of your own home, right from your device. Each photo is evaluated by ItsEasy Passport Experts. The app provides tips for taking a good photo at home and photos are complimentary with each renewal order.
Disrespecting the signature
The signature on your passport is critical in nature and should be taken seriously. Passport applications are often rejected for using initials, computer generated signatures or sloppy marks in the signature line. The Department of State prefers to see a full signature of your first and last name. If your signature has changed dramatically over the years or if you are no longer able to sign your name as you once did, Alwadish recommends submitting proof of a similar mark found on another official document and include it with your application along with a signed note of explanation.
Skating on shipping
Do not make the mistake of skimping on shipping when you put passport documents in the mail. Be sure to get a shipping label and receipt that allows you to track the package. This recommendation is even stated directly on the passport application. Using the ItsEasy Passport app to renew your passport includes prepaid trackable shipping labels for sending and receiving.
Not adding the passport card to your renewal application
For a $30 government fee, travelers can add a REAL-ID Passport Card to their application, which can be used in lieu of the traditional passport book when traveling to Mexico and Canada by car, to the Caribbean by boat or a standard driver’s license when traveling domestically. The Passport Card is valid for 10 years, is the size of a standard credit card and it does not display your address, protecting your privacy while traveling. The passport card is also REAL-ID compliant, and all travelers will be required to have a REAL-ID to fly domestically beginning October 2021. “It is the best $30 you will spend,” says Alwadish.
Ignoring the option to upsize
Many travelers do not realize the Department of State offers two passport book options, a book with 28 pages or 52 pages. There is no additional fee to choose the 52-page book. But if Visa Stamps have you running out of pages, you’ll pay a full renewal fee to get a new passport book early. Alwadish encourages power travelers to go ahead and choose the 52-page book to avoid renewing prematurely.
Overpaying for third-party services
This mistake can cost you hundreds of dollars. Many third-party services charge more than $250 in additional fees just to help process a standard passport renewal. If you have a life-and-death emergency or need to renew your passport immediately, those fees soar to $399, none of which include government fees. Some services also include policies that do not allow for cancellation once you realize you're overpaying.
The five star–rated ItsEasy Passport App provides photos, trackable shipping and complementary full review of all documents for just $34.95. The all-inclusive app is the safest, most convenient and most affordable way to renew your passport and prepare for upcoming travel.
“After 40 plus years in this business, I know the Passport & Visa industry inside and out and there is absolutely nothing during this pandemic, except greed, that could justify charging a consumer fee of $271.95 (without photos) for the same service I offer on my COVID-safe, ItsEasy App for just $34.95, which includes photos safely taken at home.”
ItsEasy has been a trusted agent of the US Department of State since 1976, authorized to provide US passport services to the public for a fee. It is the safest and most cost-effective way to renew your passport from home.