The passport application process can be a daunting process. Detailed paperwork to consider, photos to take, and costs to incur  — all can be overwhelming. But obtaining a passport is not as difficult as it seems. Serendity TravelingMom’s family completed their passport application process just last year. Here are a few things they learned that can make the passport application process easier and stress-free.

Knowing a few handy tips can make passport application more of a breeze!

Passport application can be intimidating, but a passport can open up the world for the avid traveler! Photo credit: Denedriane Dean/Serendipity TravelingMom

Ready to Travel: Passport Application Process

A wonderful opportunity to travel to Salamanca, Spain was the reason that my family and I began thinking about applying for a passport. Up until that point, all our travels were within the lower 48 United States. Our first trip abroad needed a little more than driver’s licenses and IDs!

Incidentally, while we knew that getting passports for all FIVE of us was not optional (you are not getting into another country without one), I took a deep breath at the thought of paying for them. The cost: $700 + for my entire family, all in one lump sum! Talk about adding to the travel expenses!

Passport Primer

Basically, there are two types of passports for United States citizens traveling overseas: 2) the regular passport and 2) passport card. The regular passport is the most recognizable. This passport allows you to travel to most countries in the world, also sometimes referred to as a tourist passport.

The regular passport is the most recognizable. This passport allows you to travel to most countries in the world, also sometimes referred to as a tourist passport.

The passport card is the other most popular passport type. According to the U.S. passport Service Guide site,  this type of passport “is limited to land and sea travel to Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean region, and Mexico.” With either

Both passport types require an application process. My experience with passports was nil, having never obtained one before. So, I was a little intimidated by the thought of the whole thing. Nevertheless, I wanted to got to Spain! The tips that I discovered below helped me and my family get through the process and on that plane to Europe.

Time-Consuming But Worth It!

Getting a passport is not difficult, but it is time-consuming. Budget enough time to gather your vital personal information, fill out the application form (or renewal form), and set up an appointment with your local post office or courthouse.

Timing is everything, as well as location. If you are in a more densely populated city, and it is six months before spring break travel or summertime travel, just know that other folks are trying to do the same thing you are. Even in a small town like where we live, the options for places to apply for passports is limited. We had the choice of the courthouse or one of only two post offices in our city. Bottom line: the earlier you start the process, the better (and less stressful) things are.

Get that Birth Certificate!

With regards to your vital information, if you need to obtain your birth certificate, the interwebs make it fairly easy. Request a birth certification from your birth state ONLINE versus a request via U.S. Postal Service (regular and SLOW snail mail).  The cost for either method is between $50 and $70. Birth certificates are automatically expedited, thus the higher cost.

TravelingMom Tip: Just in case you think a photocopy is sufficient, think again. My husband had a copy of his, and we took it to the post office before our appointment to inquire if this would work. I am so grateful we did. The requirement is an “official” birth certificate with an embossed seal, so make sure you have an original copy.

Applying to for passport soon? Use time on your side, and a few other helpful tips to take out the intimidation factor.

There are a few simple things that you can do to make applying for a passport intimidation-free! Photo credit: Denedriane Dean/Serendipity Travelingmom

Complete Forms at Home

Go ahead and visit travel.state.gov to print off your passport application form. This saved me much time, and it decreased the likelihood of mistakes. Why? Because I completed the forms in the comfort of my own home. Be sure to use black ink…and take your time. Try to fill out the forms in a quiet place and free of distraction. Things get repetitive when filling out the same form multiple times (as I had to do for my family).

Also, it is helpful to have one parent sign for any child that is under 18. We were told we didn’t have to sign for our eldest daughter who was 17 at the time and that her signature was enough. Well, when our passports arrived in our mailbox, hers was the one missing, yikes! It got held up until we sent a consent note via overnight mail.

TravelingMom Tip: Be sure to add your signature for all your kids!

Specific Size Required: Passport Photo

Passport-sized photos are required to submit with your application. The post office charges $15 PER photo, so for a family of 5, that is already $75 just in pictures. We found a much better deal at Costco – $5 per person. That price included 4 copies each of our photos to take with us. Win! This was quite a savings for the travel budget.

P.S. Oh yes, you cannot smile in your picture, so practice your best non-smiling look in the mirror before you get there!

Traveling out of the country is a special experience. Applying for a passport is a vital part of having that  experience for yourself and/or with your family. Once my family and I got the details done for this step, the excitement of our trip to Spain became unbridled. Don’t allow the details to intimidate  and stop you from seeing the world!

Where would you like to have a passport to travel to next?