As a family, we love to travel. We imagine places to go, things to see when we get there, and what the culture is really like. It’s even more intriguing when the place we’d like to visit is outside of the country. There are a vast number of cultural differences and things to try. All these things are in our imagination, a book to read, website to visit, or video to watch. But there’s nothing like visiting in person. Pictures, books and videos do not fully capture as well as your five senses – the smell of the ocean (or fish market), Mt Fuji in the spring, or the quiet of an old medieval Spanish fort along with the sight of expansive views of the town below. Ah, the experiences they bring – just do it all now!
Pump the brakes! During COVID-19, and likely afterwards, many things are impacting travel, especially internationally. Each country has placed restrictions on travel for citizens and visitors. In the US, we are currently under a Global Level 4 Health Advisory – Do Not Travel. We also suggest limiting travel and interaction with larger groups locally. So for the foreseeable future, we’re travelling within the US and thinking about all the places we’ll go!
We’ll eventually get back to seeing the rest of the world, and it takes a bit of planning, so get started early and take it one step at a time. One of the first steps though, is getting a passport. A passport enables you to get outside and see what exists beyond the walls of your country. Here in the US, passports are relatively straightforward to get.
First stop for a passport in the US, visit the State Department. The US state department issues passports, and gives all the directions needed to get the passport. Remember that a passport is just a Federal ID, that provides proof of who you are with relation to the country of the US. Very similar to your drivers license being proof of who you are with relation to the state you live in.
- Get a headshot photo (directions on the application).
- Fill out the form.
- Go to a federal site with proof of citizenship, payment to complete the application, and submit the application. Click here for sites near you.
Finding a site near you is easy, since libraries, clerks of court, US Citizenship and Immigration Services offices, and many post offices are places where you can submit your application. We like Post Offices, because you can walk in without an appointment at some locations. Once you submit the application, you can expect to receive your passport in a few weeks after following the standard process. The process is the same for minors, but with a twist – parental consent. You’ll need to prove that you have guardianship of the child (birth certificate, adoption papers, etc.) and it’s easiest if the guardian(s) go to the federal site with the minor. Once you receive your passport, sign it. You’re all ready to go.
As seasoned travellers, we have some tricks that can help make travelling out of the country a bit easier. If you’re thinking of travelling a bit more, say out of the country a few times within the next few years, then you may also want to explore the Global Entry Program. With Global Entry, you have expedited entry into the US, speeding up your time back into the US after a long flight back home. Along with Global Entry, TSA Pre-Check is thrown in ($85 by itself), which allows for an expedited pass through security at most US airports. This has saved me so many times. As a frequent traveller, especially for work, we don’t leave the office or client site, until the very last minute. If I were in the regular line, I probably wouldn’t have made the flight. But because of TSA PreCheck, I’m able to make it with time to spare (or at least make the end of the boarding line).
With these documents, which gives you one more federal ID, you’ll be free to be a citizen of the world. Armed with a passport, Global Entry, and TSA Precheck, travel to countries like Aruba, Japan, Spain, or Canada will be a breeze. Imagine eating sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan after watching the auction in the early morning hours, roaming the beaches of Aruba, or munching on tapas in Barcelona after taking a dip in the Mediterranean. These options start to open up once you become a citizen of the world.
Have fun, and enjoy the new sights, sounds and cultures.