This could also be titled, The Disorganized Mom's Guide to Getting Passports for Four Kids... or the Busy Mom's Guide... either way, getting passports for our kids was a learning experience this week.
I love traveling, but we haven't traveled outside of the United States with our kids yet. We have an upcoming trip out of the country, so we finally got organized enough to get them passports this week.
We did several things incorrectly and could've used some more guidance (or done some more research), but as mentioned above, I am a busy mom and sometimes I learn best by doing things the wrong way!
Hopefully some of things that we learned can help you so that you can have a quick and easy (and painless) experience getting US passports for your kids!
(Since we've never gotten passports in any other country, I am unfortunately not the right person to ask about how to do this for anywhere but the US... and even then ;))
8 Tips for Getting Passports for Kids!
1. Get passport photos ahead of time somewhere local that isn't too expensive. Search Google or check Costco, Walmart, and Walgreens.
Passport photos can also be taken at some passport offices (like the post office ones), but the post office often has cameras that are terrible or not working and they are unable to take them... so don't rely on that.
Some tips from TA readers include:
Costco costs $5 for passport photos and you get two photos (some people said $12)... but that is better than the $15 we paid per kid at the post office. They recommend if you have an infant to bring a white sheet and bring your baby in their carseat. Call ahead to make sure yours takes photos.
AAA will take them for free if you are a member.
You can also take the photos for yourself. You just need to make sure to follow the specifications!
2. Bring your child's birth certificate and a photocopy of each birth certificate.
Make sure you are smart (unlike me) and get your child's birth certificate closer to when they are born... and don't wait until a day or two before you need passports. It will save you some time, stress, and possibly a long drive (or expensive fees for mailing).
3. Fill out the Passport paperwork on the website and print it off before you go.
It is super easy to fill out the passport paperwork online and then print it out. You will need your child's social security number for the form. Don't fill in any of the information that says to wait until you are at the passport office.
4. Bring your ID (drivers license or passport) AND a copy of your ID. Make sure your spouse/partner has his too!
You will need to have a copy for EACH passport that you are purchasing. So, for example, with four kids, we needed 4 copies of our IDs. We didn't realize this ahead of time... so we had to make more copies at the post office. This cost us $1 per copy which was super annoying. Be smarter than us!
5. Bring your checkbook and one check per passport you are filing.
If you have four kids like I do and need four passports, you need four checks.
6. Bring snacks, water bottles, and activities.
You might be waiting awhile depending on the line and how fast the passport service worker operates. Ours was very detail oriented, so he was very slow. Each passport took about 20 minutes to process. In the meantime we had hungry, grumpy, thirsty kids. I was very happy that I had packed some snacks in my bag. We played some simple waiting games and enjoyed chatting together and it wasn't all bad.
7. Make sure all kids and both parents are present (or you have a very well done notarized document for the non-present parent).
You need permission from both parents to get passports for kids. Make sure the notarized document is done well or they might make you redo it!
8. Think of this entire experience as a great opportunity to practice patience.
Sometimes people are slow. Sometimes other people are rude. Situations like these allow you to practice being kind and patient and not getting grumpy or rude.
9. Get your passport several months BEFORE your trip!
It saves you a ton of money if you don't have to expedite your passports like we did!
10. If you already have passports for your kids, check when they expire and renew them.
Make sure to check the rules on passports for the countries you are visiting. Some require the passport to not expire within 3 to 6 months of your trip. If it expires too close to your travel time, you won't be able to go.
11. Research the fastest best place to get your passport and go there.
Save yourself some time and do some research ahead of time. We are busy and distracted, so we didn't do tons of research, but there were also no passport appointments available near us, so we had to go somewhere that took walk-ins.
If you can get an appointment, most likely the whole process will be more smooth for you! Places that sometimes do passports are post offices, courthouses, civic buildings, etc. Ask around for the best place that fits where you live and what you need.
When you decide where to go, make sure you confirm their hours and lunch breaks and try and arrive early before the doors open. This may help you get finished sooner!
Did I miss anything? Do you have any other helpful tips for getting passports for your kids that could help other people save time or have a better experience? Please share!
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