Passports: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


This May, I and twenty-something other Transy students will be travelling to London, England for twelve days! Along with two professors and the head of our Study Abroad office, we will be learning everything we need to know for our “Intro to Fine Arts” (filling a GE requirement) from attending plays, concerts and going to museums. Much more interesting than reading about that stuff in a textbook. And it’s in LONDON!

Needless to say, I am so excited about this May term trip. So, over winter break, I tried to get all the necessary stuff done in plenty of time. Because I’m studying abroad through a Transy class, the specifics like booking flights and room reservations are taken care of by the professors teaching the class. They make the whole going-to-another-country thing much less intimidating.

But I had to get my passport renewed on my own. Which was more complicated than I thought it would be. So, in an effort to save future pioneers from suffering through the same complicated process I did today, here’s what you do:

  1. Find the nearest Passport Office. Often, they will be in places like post offices or city buildings. A quick Google search should do it. Or just ask your parents.
  2. Go ahead and call your chosen office to find out if you need to make an appointment or if they accept walk-ins. (It only takes 10 minutes, but some places, like my post office, require appointments. So save yourself a disappointing/embarrassing trip and call beforehand.) Then ask what they require so that you are fully prepared when you do go.
  3. Most of this information can be found on the State Department’s travel webpage. But some offices require different forms of ID, so check with wherever you plan to go, so you don’t get there only to find that they require something you didn’t bring and have to turn around and drive all the way back home…. (Can you tell I had a rough time of all this today?)
  4. You will need to get an “official” passport picture taken. Again, there are plenty of places to do it. I went to a AAA office. The grumpy worker who took my picture informed me that they don’t want you to smile in a passport picture. (Seriously, how weird is that?!) Needless to say, I was less than thrilled with my picture. But just as I opened my mouth to ask if we could do a quick retake, the worker said, “Honey, nobody likes their passport picture. It’s just like with a driver’s license. You’ll be fine.” I happen to like my driver’s license picture. Passport photo? Not at all.
  5. There will be a form to fill out. You can do it online, print it from home, or some offices have copies for you. Nothing too difficult, just a lot of specific questions.
  6. Be sure to bring forms of ID. You’ll definitely need your driver’s license. And an older passport if you’re renewing an expired one. The place that finally helped me required a birth certificate.
  7. And money. Unfortunately, none of this stuff is free. You’ll need to pay to have your picture taken. And then pay an application fee to the State Department. And an execution fee to whatever office. Many require payment by check.

I don’t mean to freak everyone out with all the stuff you have to do, it’s just good to be prepared. And doing so will save you time and trips. It will take about 4-6 weeks to get your passport, so don’t wait! And if you have one already, double-check that it won’t expire by the time you plan on leaving.

But now that all that paperwork stuff is taken care of, I can go back to being super excited for this trip!!

And don’t worry, more study abroad updates as well as live-from-London posts are still to come 🙂