It is the most basic and universal of any advice that an international traveller can get: Never forget when your passport expires.
My parents, who leave the shores of the U.S. of A. about once a year on average, were going for a tour of Paris, followed by a stay with us in London. Our resident travel agent – my lovely wife – has figured out their lodgings, meals, transfers, their entire itinerary in Paris including a day with a personal guide, etc. She even synchronized their one-way trip on Eurostar with our return leg.
What neither of us thought to ask Mom and Dad is to check their passport expiration dates. (I tend to ascribe that to my own obsessive approach to documentation; it does not occur to me in the normal course of events that some people – my own parents, especially, – may be less anal about knowing what shape their papers are in.)
When my parents arrived at the airport for their flight to Paris, the check-in agent was the first to realize that their passports expired several months ago. They were re-booked onto the flight next day and advised to go to a passport agency to have their documents renewed.
Thankfully, doing it intraday is possible. With an early appointment at a regional passport agency, you can turn your application, photographs and old passports in, say, at 9:30, and get your newly minted documents by 11. My Dad called the hotline immediately upon returning home from the airport, booked an appointment at the Philadelphia office for first thing next morning, and by noon that day they were fully set to travel. Interestingly, the cost of renewing this way – $135 per passport – is the same as the expedited renewal by mail.
I am happy to report that Mom and Dad are already enjoying Paris.
Natasha, of course, had to make several adjustments to their itinerary, but the costs of that turned out to be fairly minimal, thanks mostly to the willingness of the hotel to adjust their stay dates without charges. The lost day was the more unfortunate result, but hopefully, they will be able to see most of the city during their shortened stay.
It should be noted that an intraday passport renewal at the New York City passport agency is not likely, simply because you will not get a next-day appointment there. However, there are intermediaries in New York – for instance, Rush Passport – that promise to turn it around for you in the space of six hours. I have no independent confirmation that it actually works, but the cost of going through them is certainly higher.
In any case, this unfortunate mishap is behind us, and we are meeting Mom and Dad tomorrow in the City of Light.
P.S. The Dept of State’s Passport website does not mention same-day renewal anywhere. The information center page advises to call the toll-free 24×7 number in case of an emergency, which is exactly what Dad did.