Got your passport? Good for you! Although the number is growing–latest estimates say that 42% of Americans have a passport–it still means that 58% have never left the country. Compare to the U.K., where 76% have a passport. In Canada, it’s 66%.
Before 9/11, the number was even lower. In 1997, it was a meager 15%. But when U.S. citizens were required to have passport to enter Canada and Mexico, starting in 2007, things started to change. By the end of that year, 27% of Americans were proud passport owners.
It’s got cool secret features!
One good reason to have a passport: All the nifty high-tech methods that go into making it. The State Department is responsible for the safety of citizens, including those of us who travel abroad. Check out some of the Secret Squirrel features that ensure your passport’s authenticity.
- Holograms: To thwart nasty forgers, a passport has a see-through hologram on the photo and personal information page. Used since 1984, holograms keep getting fancier–and harder to duplicate.
- Secret Inks: Yep, an improvement on the invisible ink in your childhood detective kit, special inks are used that change color with temperature; ink that’s different colors from different angles; and some that appear/disappear with UV light.
- Microprinting: Get out a magnifying glass–or a microscope–and look at the teeny text and patterns on the paper. Some are only one micron, about .00004 inch. (A human red blood cell is five microns!) VERY difficult to forge.
Now for the not-so-exciting but important stuff…
Once you get a passport, you’ll need to pay attention to a few things before you jet off to see the Eiffel Tower or make the trek to Machu Picchu. Or even just head to a relaxing all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana. The U.S. Department of State’s website has some sound advice and current information for international travelers.
Check expiration date and blank pages: A passport has a definite expiration date; you’ll be asked to include that date when you fill out information for international travel. But the actual date you need to pay attention to is six months earlier.
Travel in the 26 countries of the Schengen Act–most of the European Union–requires that you have six months left on your passport AFTER you leave. If you’re traveling through a country that’s doesn’t have this restriction, like Canada, you’ll be fine there…until you go to board the plane for Europe. Bam! Your long-anticipated journey ends there if your passport doesn’t meet the rules.
Same goes with having blank pages. You’ll want to check the State Department website for the specific requirements of each country. It’s safest to have four blank pages. If you don’t, you’ll need a new passport. The old method of simply adding visa pages went away in 2016.
No damage allowed. This is tricky, because the guidelines say “significantly damaged,” leaving plenty of room for interpretation. The passport cover and the page with your photo must absolutely be intact. If there are missing pages, tears, holes, or water damage, or unofficial markings…well, you’ll need a fresh passport. But what’s normal wear-and-tear for one agent may be considered damaged by another. Carly Baker found out the hard way. Don’t take a chance if you’re not sure.
If I had my way, every American would have a passport. It’s the best means of identification…and lets you take advantage of great last-minute travel deals. Just saying!
Don’t have yours yet? It’s easy to do! Click here to learn how.
Looking for places to go with your passport?