Traveling can be a wonderful way to make memories, whether it's by yourself or as part of a couple's trip, friends getaway, or family vacation. If your trip requires a passport, one thing you don’t want is a problem at the last minute. Being in the travel industry, I see a lot of passport mistakes that sadly end up derailing or ending a carefully planned vacation. Are you making these passport missteps?
NOT KNOWING YOU NEED ONE
Traveling outside of the United States and its territories requires a passport. As of May 2025, travelers without a Real ID who are traveling domestically via airlines in the U.S. will also need a passport. Check before you go if you do need one, especially for cruising. Here’s why you may want to obtain one for cruising, just in case.
NOT KNOWING YOU NEED A VALID PASSPORT
In some destinations, a valid passport means there are at least six months left before it expires. Other countries require three blank pages to enter. It’s best to check entry requirements for your destination so that you’re not surprised later.
NOT KNOWING THE PASSPORT MUST BE DAMAGE FREE (BEYOND REASONABLE WEAR & TEAR)
It is a government document used for identification, as well as entry in and out of a country. It is a big deal. A significant tear in the booklet, missing pages, or damage—especially to the page that contains your personal information and your picture—are causes for concern.
NOT THINKING MUCH OF INACCURATE INFORMATION
Your passport must match your other identification and show your official name, as well as your name's official spelling. Things such as an incorrect initial, names that are reversed, or a misspelling can create unnecessary hassle at your travel points and may prevent you from traveling until the inaccuracy is fixed. It’s always easier to address this type of issue beforehand, not when you’re not trying to board a plane.
NOT APPLYING FOR A NEW PASSPORT SOON ENOUGH
It takes time—sometimes a lot of time—to get a new passport. As a result of complications experienced during the pandemic, many folks had a longer-than-normal wait time. It still makes sense to apply early and prepare for a longer wait than you’ll need. Here are some hints for getting your passport quickly.
NOT KEEPING TRACK OF THE PASSPORT’S EXPIRATION DATE
Yes, they expire. No, you don’t want to discover this when you’re trying to board your cruise line. Also, remember that a child who was under the age of 16 when their passport was issued needs a new one in just five years. Adult passports are good for ten years.
NOT APPLYING FOR YOUR PASSPORT CORRECTLY
The application requirements for a U.S. passport are very specific. Be sure to adhere to them. For example, if you send in a photo that’s not compliant with these rules, your entire application may be rejected. Use the correct form, have the necessary accompanying documents, know who needs to be present for an in-person application, and how to pay. In many cases, it makes sense to visit your Clerk of Courts office or AAA office for assistance with photos and forms.
NOT REMEMBERING IT’S AN OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT (NO SOUVENIR STAMPS)
A stamp on your passport from your vacation venue is a no-no. Authorized officials of the U.S. or of international countries are the only ones who can stamp a passport. Get your novelty and souvenir stamps on another sheet of paper or stamp another booklet you have, but never authorize an unofficial stamp on your official government document. Otherwise, your passport may be declared invalid, and you may be denied entry into a country or back into the U.S.
These guidelines can help avoid stressful hassles, as well as an expensive delay or cancellation. If you have additional questions or issues, call or visit your local AAA office or visit the US Deptartment of State’s website.