Inspiration passengers Michael and Lorie F. would like to issue a much-needed reminder to you and travelers everywhere.
The couple, who this year celebrated their forty-first wedding anniversary, had never been on a cruise. Alaska was #1 on Michael’s bucket list, and when he found out that Charles Stanley (his favorite minister) was leading a cruise there, he considered it the opportunity of a lifetime. With less than two weeks to departure, and only a few cabins left, they would need to book quickly. There was only one problem: Michael’s passport had expired.
A Race to Relaxation
Cruise itineraries with foreign ports of call require passengers to have valid passports even if they don’t disembark in another country. (This cruise had a port stop in Victoria, British Columbia.) The minimum amount of time to allow for passport renewal is six weeks. Having only a third of that timeframe, the couple knew their options were limited.
Receiving a passport renewal back via mail in less than two weeks is close to impossible. Online services that claim they’re able to obtain a renewed passport for applicants within ten business days come with an astronomical price tag (and no guarantees). On the advice of Inspiration personnel, the couple pursued the course of action most likely to work.
Late one evening, Michael and Lorie set out on a road trip from their home in central California to the closest passport agency (San Francisco). They spent the night near the city and made a beeline for the passport office first thing in the morning. Thankfully, they received their expedited passports back the same day.
Only then did the they breathe a sigh of relief. “It cost a bit more to do it the way we did, but it was worth it to get to go to Alaska!,” Lorie told us. Beyond the hotel and driving costs, expedited passports cost an additional $60 plus the standard renewal fee. “That was the price to pay for not keeping it renewed!”
Lesson Learned & Passed Along
Ensuring your passport is up-to-date is crucial to avoiding unpleasant surprises while traveling. Right now, we urge you to check and double-check the expiration date on your passport. And don’t just make sure it’s valid for a month or two, but that it remains valid for at least six months after the end date of your trip.Why?
Israel, for instance, requires that your passport be valid for six months beyond your intended return date. A number of Caribbean islands have the same requirement. Most countries in the European Union require passport validity for at least three months after the end of your 90-day entrance visa—which equates to six months for some travelers. In other words, if you’re traveling outside the U.S., the safest approach is to assume your passport needs to remain valid for at least six months after you leave that country for home.
Even if your passport doesn’t expire for several years, go ahead and mark that day on your calendar or smartphone—then make a note to renew it at least six months before it expires. If you don’t have a valid passport or have never had one, then take our advice: apply today.
If you’re wondering how the Alaska cruise turned out for Michael and Lorie, they had the time of their lives. “We absolutely enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. Everything was extraordinary… We could have just jumped back on and gone again!”
And now, with valid passports, they are more than welcome to do so.