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It was all going so smoothly. Flights booked? Check. Hotels? Check. Passports renewed? Ummm… passports are good for a long time, right? Well, not exactly. I learned my lesson about kids and US passports the hard way.

1. Child Passports are Only Valid for 5 Years (and not even really that long)

Adult US passports are typically valid for 10 years, so it may not even cross your mind that your kid’s passport has expired. In our case, I only knew to check the dates because I had almost made the same mistake with my oldest son three years ago. The rules change when kids turn 16, and again when they turn 18.

You’ll get a new passport before you are 5.

Also, remember that many countries won’t allow you to visit with less than six months left on a passport, which makes the true life of a child passport even less than five years.

2. Kids Can’t Renew Passports

My daughter’s passport expired in January last year, but we weren’t traveling until June. That little chore kept getting pushed further and further down the to-do list because the trip was six months away. No problem, I can just renew it, right?

Wrong. You see, you can’t just renew a kid’s passport. You have to get an entirely new one.

Image by Getty Images
(Photo by Getty Images)

3. Make an Appointment

To get a new passport, both parents and the kid have to show up at a local passport acceptance location, which for most people is the post office or perhaps the courthouse. If your work schedules are anything like ours, you’ll be happy to know there is a work-around for the two parent rule.

Most post offices are only open during regular office hours, except Saturday mornings — and you probably need an appointment. You would think that being in the suburbs would be an advantage as post offices are all over the place. However, in my case, the next available appointments for passports at any post offices within 50 miles were in July. Did I mention we were traveling in June?

4. You Have Options If You’re Late

Once I realized the dilemma, I turned to my solution for most problems: social media. The Twitter team at the State Department got back to me right away. They were able to share the dates of my regional passport’s office next open house. Unfortunately, that date didn’t work for my trip, but it’s definitely worth reaching out to them.

In my case, we left town. It turns out that many rural community post offices often don’t have the demand for passports that suburban and metro areas do. Ten minutes of research located a post office in a trailer 100 miles away that had an appointment available the following Saturday. By spending $68 on a hotel, we not only got her passport processed (saving the $60 expediting fee) but also enjoyed a mini-getaway. Win-win … but barely.

Bottom Line

Getting your child’s passport taken care of is not fun, and it will take more effort than you are probably used to when getting your own. I’m confessing my boneheaded maneuver in the hopes you will take my PSA to heart: Get your children’s passports renewed early (and often).

If you need additional child passport related tips:

Featured image by goodmoments/Getty Images

Know before you go.

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