Since 9/11, international travel has changed a bit. Passports are required for trips to Canada and Mexico from the USA. We travelled to Montreal on 2010 when Luke was going on 9. We all got new passports and applied with plenty of time for a summer trip during the months of March and April. We made an appointment at our local US Post Office, filled out the paperwork. Had all the appropriate documents: birth certificates, Driver's Licenses for ID and Luke's adoption papers as well. They took our photos at the PO and we were good to go. Within a month's time, we had our NEW passports ready for our Canadian adventure. What a blast! Kim was the incoming President of our local Rotary group was invited to the Rotary International event. We continued our trip with a visit to Quebec and then down to Boston and back home in 10 days.
Fast forward to 2014. We bid and win a trip to Mexico, were we will be visiting over our Spring Break in April 2015! Air travel, booked. Housing, booked (part of the tremendous package we scored on!). Rental car, booked. Passports.....oops! Kim and I are good, ours don't expire until 2020 (the year Luke graduates from High School - sounds like a great time for another grand trip, don't you think?). Luke's passport expires the day before we are scheduled to leave for Mexico! Bummer, we have to renew his. Child's passports are good for only 5 years. Here is a link to info about US passports.
Time is ticking, can we get a passport in 5 weeks or less? Not sure. I called all the Post Offices in Marin County and they are all booked with appointments until the end of April. Perfect if you are traveling this coming summer, but no good for Spring Break. I go online to one of the many fast passport sites and get some information. Both parents have to appear in person with paperwork completed, along with the child (under 16). The main San Rafael Post Office is the only one with a walk-in option. You show up at 9am, take a number and wait. Kim showed up at 8:30am and was 20th in line yesterday. Forget it. She went back to work and came a bit later, 11am and took a number. She waited and waited.
The one and only person working the passport area then took lunch at 12:00-12:50pm. I took Luke out of school and drove to San Rafael to wait as well. The numbers in front of us were slow going, about 2 per 30 minute stretches. It didn't look good. Oh, did I mention the office is only open until 2pm?
More people showed up and got into line, but they didn't have a number, so the man came out to explain that he wasn't able to stay past 2pm and that they should return Monday morning 9am and get a number then. It turns out that most folks get into line around 7:30am to make sure the get in. And most folks are with children, so they were present and probably missing school too!
For those without children a passport can be renewed by mail. There are also expedited services available by mail.
My best advice, if you need a passport, do it early. Don't get caught having to wait for hours in line in person if you don't have to! Better yet, go to a post office and make an appointment and you will be set. Just do it months in advance of your trip you it may cost you! Bon Voyage!