As I scrolled Facebook, a post from a writer friend in California stopped me in my tracks. Arlene Pellicane announced that her family had to cancel their epic Italian vacation because the kids’ passports weren’t in compliance for international travel.
Next, I received an email newsletter from my professional organizer friend, Danielle Wurth, talking about how her family trip to Mexico was derailed because of a similar scenario.
Hearing their stories got me thinking about how you and I could avoid the stress and disappointments that they experienced.
CHECK YOUR PASSPORT NOW
Seeing my friends’ international travel plans thwarted due to passport issues caused me to head directly to our safe to check our passport expiration dates. Low and behold, my husband’s passport was due to expire in 6 weeks.
We don’t have current plans to travel internationally, but thanks to my friends’ mishaps my husband was able to send in for his renewal and already has his passport back (valid for another 10 years) in hand for when he may need it. If my friends’ didn’t tell of their passport fails, we would’ve surely been in the same position when it came time to travel out of the country the next time.
3 Things My Friends’ Passport Fails Taught Me
1. Really smart people make mistakes
That means you and I are going to make mistakes, so we can relax knowing that failure is a part of life. My friends, Danielle and Arlene, are amazingly bright, talented business owners who have their acts together. It just goes to show you, that everyone makes mistakes.
Danielle’s husband was working on their boarding passes the night before they were to leave on their family trip to Cancun when Phil announced: “Honey, my passport is expired!”
2. It’s an opportunity for the kids to see how you handle disappointment
When negative experiences happen that affect our families, it’s important that we use the time to teach our children lessons on how to handle disappointments, frustration, and failure. It is good for kids to see that their put-together parents even make big mistakes sometimes.
“The best part as a parent was, as it was all happening and we were realizing our trip was off, my kids (ages 9, 12, 14) didn’t get upset or blame me,” said Arlene. “They said things like, “Mom, how could you have known about the passport? I mean, it was still valid (it expired in June, our trip was in March)” and “Mom, I’m so sorry for you, you’ve spent so much time planning.”
Arlene said, “It was a wonderful lesson on disappointment and that sometimes what you are excited about doesn’t come to pass…and that life moves on. That was a really good lesson for all of us.”
At the airport, the Wurths found out the only option was for Danielle and her sons to fly to Mexico as planned and for Phil to drive on Monday morning to the main passport office in Tucson (2 hours away). Danielle says, she hated to leave him behind and start their vacation without him, but they had no other choice.
“It was a gut-wrenching experience traveling internationally without Phil, who worked hard to plan the trip, and then was the one left behind,” said Danielle. “Having family dinner on vacation with one empty chair was bizarre and felt so out of place.” Luckily, he was able to fly out and join the family on Tuesday.
3. Our mistakes help other people
I’m so happy that my friends chose to vulnerably put their stories online in order to help others learn from their mistakes.
“Mistakes happen and lessons will be learned, but it’s important to be flexible, create a new game plan and a year from now it will be a great story in our family,” says Danielle.
Use social media as a way to help people learn and grow from your experiences and mishaps. My friends’ stories helped our family and just maybe their misfortune will help you too!
3 Ways to Avoid a Passport Fail
1. Always keep your passport current
In today’s Amazon culture, we are used to being able to get anything we need immediately. Unfortunately, Passports are not one of them. You have to plan ahead.
Even if you don’t have any upcoming international travel planned, a family member might be traveling overseas and you want to be able to fly to them if necessary.
My friend, Kim McAvoy, learned this the hard way. Her mother was traveling in Budapest, Hungary when she fell stepping off a tour bus, hit her head and ended up in the hospital where she later died. Kim was unable to travel with her Dad and brothers because her passport had expired.
TIP: Make it a habit to check the expiration dates of your family passports at the beginning of every year.
2. Ensure 6 months of validity beyond your scheduled travel dates
Go ahead and renew your passport 6-9 months before you are to travel. Many countries won’t allow you to board the plane if your passport will expire in less than 6 months from your departure date.
Passports for applicants 16 and older are good for 10 years. Passports for children under the age of 16 are only valid for 5 years. Go ahead and renew early so you don’t have any emergencies.
Depending on where you live there are Emergency Passport locations which will expedite the process for a hefty fee. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but why not be proactive and avoid wasting your hard earned money.
3. Make sure your passport is in proper condition
An expired passport is a common mistake, but it’s not the only one. You also need to make certain that your passport is not damaged in any way and also has enough blank pages available for travel.
Many countries require travelers to have at least two consecutive blank pages in their passports, while some even require four. Be sure to have more pages than you need for entry requirements. Passport and visa requirements can vary widely from one country to the next, and even seemingly insignificant violations can derail your travel plans.
For extensive online travel information, go to: https://travel.state.gov/
To avoid getting left behind at the airport, stranded at a border crossing or having to cancel your trip all together, make it a priority to keep your passport up to date and in good condition.
Have you ever had a passport fail that derailed your travel plans?