Demand for future travel is increasing and will likely outpace supply, even as more options reopen. Travel advisors know that one of the most important preparations for future travel is ensuring you have the appropriate travel ID. No one wants to arrive at the airport for their long-awaited vacation, only to be denied boarding because of an identification issue!
Now is the time to make sure your identification documents are ready. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing delays in passport processing. Standard processing for new and renewal applications is currently reported to be 10-12 weeks, or 4-6 weeks if paying an additional $60 expedite fee.* Even travelers flying to U.S. destinations need to be ready for the new REAL ID requirements going into effect on October 1, 2021.
What should travelers know about getting their IDs ready to travel? I’ve highlighted a few key points.
Physical Inspection – Look carefully at your passport, plus the passports of everyone in your household. Is it free of water damage, significant tears, missing pages, or other deterioration? Any of these issues can make a passport invalid for travel.
Expiration Date – It’s surprising how quickly this can sneak up on you, especially for minors who receive only five years of passport validity. Some countries require a passport to have at least 3-6 months of remaining validity when travelers arrive, even if they only plan to stay for a short vacation. Therefore, it’s recommended to start the renewal process 9 months before a passport’s expiration date.
Accurate Information – Is the personal data on the passport accurate? Travel reservations need to match each person’s name exactly as it appears on the passport. If a correction or name change is needed, follow the directions on the US State Department website.
Blank Pages – Count how many blank visa pages remain in the passport booklet (Note: The last two endorsement pages don’t count). Immigration officials use these blank pages to add entry stamps or visas. Some countries require two to four blank pages available upon entry. If you’re almost out of space, it’s time to renew. Frequent travelers may want to request a larger, 52-page passport book.
DRIVER’S LICENSE/STATE ID
Expiration Date – Once again, physically pull out your current license or ID card and verify the expiration date. If you’re close to the renewal date, check with your state’s motor vehicle bureau to see what the current procedures and processing times are.
REAL ID – Beginning October 1, domestic air passengers will be required to present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or state ID card. Adult travelers (ages 18+) will not be allowed through the security checkpoint or onto an aircraft if they fail to do so. REAL ID-compliant cards are marked with a star at the top. For details on how to obtain this type of ID, contact your state driver’s license agency.
Alternative ID Options – Travelers without a REAL ID may be able to use another acceptable document, including a valid passport or passport card, for domestic air travel. See the TSA website for a complete list. Remember that the name on each passenger’s airline reservation needs to match the identification document they will be presenting.
Don’t get left behind! Take a few minutes to check your travel ID. You’ll be ready for wherever your next adventure takes you.
*Information was accurate at the time of publishing. For current estimates, as well as detailed passport information and instructions, see the US State Department’s website: travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html
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