Planning: Passport First


If you have a valid passport, nod your head, pump your arm, and let out a quiet but forceful “Yessssss!” You can pack up and head around the world with but a moment’s notice. The rest of you don’t have that option, don’t feel bad. 64% of Americans don’t have a passport and if I had to take a guess, it’s a big part of what holds them back from planning a dream trip. A lot of people never get a passport because they don’t have any immediate plans to leave the country. But when the idea of an amazing international trip pops up in their head and gives their heart a flutter, they immediately write it off because they don’t have a passport. It’s a vicious cycle that is holding you back!

It means no spontaneous romantic weekends in Paris, no weeks long getaway to Tahiti or Fiji, no trek through the Himalayas or Andes. Whether you're planning a trip tonight or hoping to plan one in the coming years, right now is when you need to get your passport. So before you start dropping hints at the dinner table that you’ve always wanted to spend a night in the Ice Hotel in Sweden, let’s get your papers straight.

Below is a list of things you need to get your U.S. Passport. Go to the U.S. Department of State’s website for full instructions and answers to specific questions like, “What if I don’t have my birth certificate?” and “How can I get my child a passport.” The answers are out there.


  • Completed form DS-11 (for new) or DS-82 (for renewal)

  • Supporting Documents

    • Proof of Citizenship (usually a birth certificate)

    • Identification (usually a driver’s license)

  • Photos

    • A 2x2 photo that meets the specific requirements of the Department of State. Instead of trying to figure it out on your own, just go to a Walgreens or CVS and have them take it for you

  • A Check or Money Order

    • A new passport is $110 if you choose normal processing time. The acceptance facility you take it to will charge you a separate $35. The second fee can usually be paid with a debit or credit card

  • Submission

    • A new passport application needs to be taken, along with all the other items, to an acceptance facility. These are often found at Post Offices, Court Houses, Libraries, Municipal Buildings, etc. Go online to find the nearest one

According to the Department of State, the normal processing time for a passport is four to six weeks. You can pay for expedited service at the time of application, in which case, you’re looking at about two to three weeks. Think about that, in three weeks you could be on a plane!

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Tips, PlanningStephen Reed