passport2It is noon, the day before my family leaves for vacation to Mexico. I am just typing my out-of-office email when my husband calls. Yep, you guessed it, he has just realized that his passport has expired. He will not be able to fly. The room is spinning as he begs for forgiveness—doesn’t Murphy’s law understand how badly I need a week on the beach?He tells me he has searched the Internet for expedited passports but it doesn’t look good. There is a lot of conflicting information out there—one site said you can get it renewed in 24 hours, another 72 and one said you must have a plausible reason for why you were dim-witted enough to let your passport expire.

I cry, “get to the passport office now!” If you are a family (we are two working parents) you know how difficult it is to plan and actually go on a family vacation. All the planets have to line up: work schedules, school holidays, dog sitter. In our case, our dog Karma gets sick (generally diarrhea) as soon as she catches wind that we are going away. She even hides in our suitcases.  This has caused much last minute chaos during pre-trip preparations as you may imagine. Now, we don’t take out our suitcases until the night before, after we have dropped her off at the sitters. Needless to say, it makes vacation all the more sweeter when we actually pull it off.

Karma in suitcase 400x300So, I am on my way to the passport agency and I get a call from my husband who says tentatively, “you don’t have to come, there is a long wait.” Oh, I am coming I tell him, and I plan on being tetchy for the entire wait. When I get there 71 people are ahead of us! It is one o’clock. I am in tears. The security guard gives my husband a pitying look as I angrily repeat, “how could you do this?” To give him credit, he had all his paperwork for a renewal passport in order.

What you need:

• 2 photos
• Expired passport
• Completed DS-11 form
• The $170 filing fee ($60 for expedited plus $110 regular fee)

We sit down to wait. The number moves down but 71 people? This is government, we are never getting seen today. One hour passes, then two. Our number is called! We nervously approach the counter and explain our situation. The agent, Maria, interrupts our pleas and tells us she must look at the documents before she can give us an answer. Is there hope? We brace ourselves. She enters information into the computer and then tells us to come back at 4 p.m. to pick up his passport. WHAT? We are stunned. We jump for joy! We can’t believe it. Less than four hours is so efficient. You really should be able to send flowers to passport employees!

Requirements for an extra expedited passport:

• If you have more than 18 hours (but less than two weeks) before your flight, try to make an appointment U.S. Passport Office
• IF YOU CAN’T GET ONE IN TIME GET DOWN TO THE PASSPORT AGENCY ASAP (and tell them you have an appointment).
• Must provide proof of travel within 14 days except in Colorado, Minneapolis or Vermont.
• Not all cities have such offices, check here: List of Agencies
• Caveat: If it is a first time passport or say you’ve undergone a gender transition (there is a link for that), it may take longer than to renew a standard expired passport.