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VOL. 130 | NO. 209 | Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Lance Wiedower

Check Your Passport Before Traveling

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A couple of weeks ago, my family drove north across the border into Canada. We had our passports ready, and after a few basic questions we were granted entry and drove along our way.

Before our trip I made sure I had our passports packed, which are well within their expiration dates years down the road. That’s pretty much all we needed, I thought.

And in this instance, we were fine. But after returning home I read the headlines of an American couple that was denied entry on their booked US Airways flight for their honeymoon because her passport appeared damaged.

I’ve read various reports about the actual damage. And in looking at a picture it made my stomach drop realizing my old passport probably looked somewhat like this new bride’s rejected one.

I can’t imagine how unsettling and heartbreaking it would be to arrive at the airport for an epic international trip, only to be told I can’t board the plane because the pages on my passport are frayed.

Looking at my current passport, I’m confident it’s in good shape. The exterior only has a moderate curve to the back cover from being in my pocket on a three-week trip to Europe.

But how can you know your passport is in good enough shape to cross borders?

Condition: Protect your passport at all costs. You don’t have to store it in a safe, although that’s where I store mine. Whether you travel internationally once per month or once every five years, keep your passport in a safe place where it won’t get harmed. It’s important to keep the cover from getting bent, and the inside pages from getting worn. The same goes for carrying your passport while traveling. Don’t let it get bent or you’ll find yourself bent out of shape trying to get back home.

Blank pages: Some countries require travelers to have at least two blank visa pages in their passports. I have a travel writing friend who had to get new pages added quickly to continue a trip. Just because the passport has two or three years before it expires, it doesn’t matter if you’re out of blank pages.

Expiration Date: You’re traveling to Europe two months from now and your passport still has five months before it expires. You should be in the clear, correct? Wrong, because many countries, including those in Europe, will deny entry if your passport is within six months of its expiration.

Facial changes: Have you lost a significant amount of weight that has changed your facial appearance? It’s important to make sure your passport photo closely resembles what you look like. We’re not talking about a new beard; I actually dealt with this on my recent Canadian adventure. I felt the border agent looked at me for an extra few seconds, but I had no problems with my new beard.

Name: Make sure your name is spelled correctly on your boarding pass. Gate agents have no reason to believe that you accidentally left off an extra “L” in your last name when booking airfare. Your name is as it appears on the passport.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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