Are you taking the family on an international vacation for spring break? Awesome! You’re going to have a great time. You might be busy with planning excursions and figuring out what to pack, but don’t forget to check to make sure everyone in the family has a valid passport before your trip.
It’s especially important to check your children’s passports before your spring break trip. Adult’s passports are valid for 10 years, but passports issued to kids under age 16 are only valid for five years! If it’s been a while since your last big family trip, your children’s passports might be closer to expiring than yours.
Today, we’ll review some of our top tips for passports for family vacation travel.
Tip 1: Check the Passport Validity Requirements for Your Destination
Spring break is the perfect time to pack up the family and head to a sunny destination like Mexico, Jamaica, or the Bahamas! Keep in mind that everyone in the family needs to have a valid passport book any time you are flying out of the United States. But just how much validity does your passport need to have? Some countries require you to have a minimum of six months validity left on your passport in order to enter, but other countries will let you enter even if your passport is closer to the expiration date. Not sure of the passport requirements for your destination? Check out PassportInfo.com’s page on popular destinations, or review the State Department’s Country Information.
Here are the passport validity requirements for some of the most popular destinations for spring break travel:
- Bahamas: passports must be valid at the time of entry.
- Bermuda: passports must be valid at the time of entry.
- Costa Rica: passports must be valid for the full duration of your stay.
- Jamaica: passports must be valid at the time of entry.
- Mexico: passports must be valid for six months past the end of your stay.
Tip 2: Make Sure All Passports Are Signed
Did you know your passport is not fully valid until it is signed? Take a moment now and check to make sure everyone has signed their passport.
Even the kids’ passports need to be signed. School-age children can sign their own passports. If your kids are too young to sign for themselves, you can sign their name, and then your own name followed by “mother” or “father.”
Passports should be signed in blue or black ink. Sign using your full name as printed in your passport.
Tip 3: How to Get New Passports for Your Kids
Do the kids need new passports? Even if your kids have been issued passports in the past, it isn’t possible to truly renew a passport that was issued before their 16th birthday. Depending on your child’s age, you’ll need to follow either:
- The minor passport procedure for kids age 15 or younger
- The new adult passport procedure for kids age 16 or over
You’ll need to submit both your child’s birth certificate and the most recently issued passport.
There are special passport requirements for teens age 16 or 17 – check out our article on passports for teen travelers to learn more.
Tip 4: Check Your Passports for Damage
Let’s face it – kids can be rough on their belongings. Before you head to the airport, you should check to make sure that everyone’s passport isn’t the worse for wear! A damaged passport can be a reason for you to be denied boarding of your flight or entry to your destination country. Look for damage like:
- Loose or torn cover
- Torn, cut, or missing pages
- Severe water damage
- Unauthorized markings (including kiddie doodles!)
Damage like that is severe enough that you’ll need to do a mutilated passport replacement. But even minor damage like fraying covers or worn, curling pages can be enough to cause you headaches and hassles on your travel! Better to get your passport renewed and travel with a fresh, undamaged passport.
Tip 5: Carry ID for Your Kids on Domestic Flights
Perhaps you’re staying inside the US for spring break. Maybe you’re flying to Florida to hit up the theme parks, or winging out to Arizona for baseball spring training. If you are flying domestically, we highly recommend that you carry identification for your children. Although it isn’t a strict requirement, we find that families who have ID for their kids have a much faster and easier time getting through TSA security! A passport book or passport card is ideal identification for kids too young to have driver’s licenses, but even something like a school ID can help.
Tip 6: Get New Passports in Time for Spring Break
If you’ve just realized that you, your partner, or your kids need new passports before you travel, don’t worry. You can get a new passport in time for spring break! The best way to get a passport in a hurry is to use a registered passport expediting company. They will be able to ensure that your passport is processed without delays, and will be back in your hands in plenty of time for your trip!