Six ways your dream vacation could turn into a passport nightmare

A traveler checks her passport to make sure it's going to get her through customs with minimal hassles - ConsumerAffairs

Travel experts point out things you should check in advance

Ever have a weird nightmare where your teeth keep falling out? What about a recurring dream where you're late to school? Let’s throw another on the fire: the idea of losing your passport just before a dream trip.

It happens. But it’s not the worst passport-related thing that can happen. When ConsumerAffairs polled some of our own traveler friends and the truth came out, we thought it was time to clue you in on all the things that could go wrong.

The Sorry Six of Passport Screw-Ups

Visas aren’t as common a requirement as they used to be, but they’re still around. China and Russia both require them, which is understandable, but so do Australia and New Zealand, two countries that you would think the U.S. is chummy enough with to avoid jumping through those hoops. Then again, so do Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt, India, and Kenya.

A notarized consent form is also recommended by the U.S. State Department if a child is traveling without both parents. 

To avoid last-minute embarrassment, use the State Department’s tool to check out what requirements may be on the horizon for where you’re headed.

If you’re planning on going anywhere this summer and think you can get your passport in time, think again.

Currently, routine passport processing takes six to eight weeks from the moment it gets in the pipeline, not the moment you send it. If you need something sooner, you might be able to get one in two to three weeks, but it’ll cost you an extra $60. You should tack on an extra two weeks for the passport to get back to you, too. 

It may take up to two weeks for applications to arrive at a passport agency or center. It may take up to two weeks for you to receive a completed passport after it is printed. 

You can try and push this process, says’s Scott Keyes.

“If you realize too late that your passport expiration date is approaching, you can make an appointment at a passport agency. You must be traveling within 14 days, and there are only about two dozen agencies in the U.S., so you may have to travel far to reach one,” Keyes said. 

Your passport might not expire for six months, but that could be a problem

Passport validity is a frequent issue for travelers because it’s another one of those things that’s country-dependent. Some people believe that your passport needs to be valid for six months beyond your intended stay in a foreign country.

While some countries do have this requirement, many others only require your passport to be valid for the duration of your stay. Be sure to check the country's specific requirements with that same State Department tool.

"It's common for countries to require a minimum of three or six months of passport validity for foreign visitors. These requirements ensure that visitors have a valid passport for the duration of their intended stay, as well as for a buffer period in case of unexpected delays or extensions,” David Alwadish, the founder & CEO of Passport & Visa Services, told ConsumerAffairs. 

“However, the specific duration required can vary from country to country. Some may require three months, while others may require six months or even longer. Some countries don’t adhere to the three to six month rule.”

Alwadish suggests that to cross-reference with the country’s validity rules, start from the day you return and add the number of months required for the validity. The rule is usually three to six months from the day you return, not the day you leave. It's crucial for travelers to thoroughly check the entry requirements of the specific country they plan to visit to ensure compliance with passport validity regulations. 

Trying to use a damaged passport is not a good idea

Some countries' customs officials can be very persnickety about how your passport looks. If there’s water damage or a hole punch, dog tooth marks, or one of the pages is torn, you might get taken off to the side and have a good talkin’ to. Be sure your passport is in good condition and, if it’s not and you have enough time to get a replacement, do yourself a favor and get one.

Not having enough empty pages could get you in trouble, too. World travelers like to chalk up lots of country stamps so they can have a drool-worthy passport to show their friends, but that could come at a cost.

Certain countries mandate a minimum number of blank pages for entry and exit stamps (at least two to four blank ones). Airlines might, too. It’s the last little quirk you need to trip you up, so be sure to check the specific requirements of the countries you plan to visit before you travel. Again, the State Department can help you out.

Get married and change your name recently? Going’s Keyes says that newlyweds frequently goof up on this no-no because they show up at customs with an airplane ticket that has their new last name, but with a passport that has their old last name. Oops.

“For example, if your last name is Smith, but you get married and change your last name to Brown, you have two choices: 1) Get your passport updated to Brown before you use that last name on any tickets, or 2) continue to use your old passport with the name Smith, but make sure you book your tickets under that name as well,” Keyes said. “If the names on your passport and ticket don’t match, you’ll likely be denied boarding.”

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