In a Passport Pickle

Once upon a time, a woman and a man were planning a trip together.  They were both VERY excited about the possibilities that lay before them!

After discussing several different options, they decided on a destination.  The woman did some research, found a great deal, and booked their adventure.  The townspeople cheered.

But lo and behold, it didn’t go quite as planned.  Before long, their quest to travel to a foreign land took a harrowing turn.

While finalizing their travel plans, the woman discovered that:

  • Her passport was going to expire in less than 2 months but she needed to have at least 6 months left on it in order to be allowed into another country 
  • His passport had expired 6 months ago, so there was no way around him renewing it

Just GoDrat!  She should’ve checked that BEFORE finalizing their trip 🙁  She discovered that they could get one in 3 weeks or less if they applied in person at a Department of State Passport Agency near them and had all the necessary documentation and fees at the time they applied.  She also learned that up to 10 people from the same household could apply at the same time using the same confirmation number.

She shared her findings with the man, but he had already done his own “research” and had made his own plans to get his passport taken care of.  A work colleague told the man that getting an expedited passport would be no problem because he’d had to do it himself and he got his passport in 2 weeks. “We have plenty of time,” the man told the woman. “It takes 2 weeks, probably less.”  The woman, however, was very skeptical!

With his friend’s reassurance, the man called the local branch of the United States Post Office (USPS) and made an appointment with their passport department for the next morning. (Branches of the USPS process passport applications and also take passport photos on site.)

22 Days Before the Trip

The man went to his appointment with all of the items listed above except the photo, got new passport photos taken there, paid the fees, and was told that he would get his passport in the mail on a specific date (two weeks from when he applied).  He had paid additional fees so his new passport would be overnighted to him at his home address.

Despite the man’s confidence that he’d receive his passport when promised, the woman didn’t want to risk it.  She called the passport office closest to her (Washington, D.C.), made an appointment over the phone for the following week, and got a confirmation number.  Then, she went online, answered some questions to find out which passport application she needed, filled it out online, and printed a copy.

Although she had made an appointment with the passport office, she called the same branch of the post office that the man was going to and talked to a woman in the passport division to see if she should go there instead of the passport office.  She told the passport office employee what the man had been told: that he’d receive his passport on a specific date.  

The passport office employee told her that the man was misinformed; there was no way they could tell passport applicants exactly when they’d received their passports.  They could only give them time estimates based on the current volume of applicants and average turnaround time.

The woman shared this information with the man, but he said he wasn’t worried about it.  The woman was very worried, though.  If he didn’t get his passport in time, she would either be going by herself or not at all.

16 Days Before the Trip

The woman went to a local Wal-Mart Photo Center and got new passport photos taken.  Cost: Less than $8.

15 Days Before the Trip

The night before her appointment at the passport office, the woman gathered the items she needed to take with her:

  • Her current passport
  • Her completed passport application
  • Proof of her upcoming trip out of the country
  • Her new passport photos
  • The confirmation number that she received when she made her appointment
  • Payment for the passport & rush fees

14 Days Before the Trip

The woman went to her appointment at the Washington, D.C. Passport Office with the above items in hand.  Despite some minor (but extremely frustrating) issues relating to the passport application form, she was told that she could pick up her passport either:

  1. The same afternoon after 3 pm, or
  2. The following Monday (3 days later) after 9 am.  

She chose Monday morning and went home with her receipt and a sigh of relief.

10 Days Before the Trip

The woman returned to the Washington, D.C. Passport Office, waited in line briefly, showed her receipt, then left the Passport Office with her brand new passport in-hand.  She was very relieved that she’d gotten that taken care of with time to spare.

9 Days Before the Trip

As the date that the man was supposed to receive his passport drew closer, the woman urged him to check the status of his passport online or by calling (1-888-874-7793).  He told her he’d try.

8 Days Before the Trip

When the due date arrived and he STILL hadn’t received it, the woman insisted that the man call and do some digging until he got a definite answer as to when he could expect it.  The man said he’d called the hotline but just got general information, nothing definitive.  The woman told him that time was running out and that he needed to find out what was going on.  Reluctantly, he agreed to call the following day.

7 Days Before the Trip

After some digging, the man found out that his passport hadn’t been processed because the photos the USPS had taken of him didn’t have the correct background (white or off-white).  He was furious that they didn’t call him to let him know the issues with his application since he had applied for an expedited passport.  

Despite that, the man immediately left work and got new passport photos taken (but NOT at the USPS!).  Then, he overnighted them to the processing office in New Hampshire so they would have them immediately.  The following Monday was a holiday and all government-related agencies were closed.  Talk about stressful! 

1336500120730-26 Days Before the Trip

The man told the woman that the passport office in New Hampshire received his new photos and was expediting his passport. (Fingers, toes, eyes and legs crossed!)

That same evening, the man received a LETTER via REGULAR MAIL from the USPS.  In their infinite wisdom (said, dripping with sarcasm), they MAILED him a letter telling him the same information he’d found out the previous day before.  Had the man not called until he’d learned that there was an issue, there would’ve been no way he would’ve been able to leave for the trip on time. 

2 Days Before the Trip

The man told the woman that his passport would be sent via overnight mail and was scheduled to arrive at his home address by 10 am the next morning.  They were charging him for overnight shipping – again – but they wouldn’t be able to provide him with a tracking number until the next morning.

1 Day Before the Trip

The man told the woman that he got a notification that his passport had been delivered to the management office of their condo complex.

10 Hours Before They Had to Leave for the Trip

The woman picked up the man’s passport from the management office.  Crisis averted…by the skin of their teeth :S

[su_column size=”1/1″]The moral of the story:
If you find yourself in a situation where you need your passport expedited:

  • DO take control of the situation and go to the passport office IN PERSON as soon as you can.
  • DO NOT leave matters in the hands of fate, chance, luck, or the U.S. Mail (no offense, USPS, but you dropped the ball on this one)[/su_column]

I hope this story and these tips help you avoid being caught in the same situation. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

As always, wishing you awesome travels!

A Traveling Broad


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  1. Great story and lesson. I really liked how you made the man seem like the kind of guy who would drive in the wrong direction for hours without stopping for directions until it started getting dark. lol.

    1. It’s a true story, Tracey. Not trying to make him sound any certain way, just recounting the course of events. Luckily, “the man” did a great job driving in Costa Rica. The story illustrates why I do all the planning! LOL.

  2. Amy, plan your next trip to Peru. I have been to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Far East, North and South America…. If I could only take one trip…. It would be to Peru. The People are awesome, the sights amaze young and old alike… Choquequirao, Machu Picchu, Cusco *Qosco”, will all fill your senses, give you a lasting respect for the Inka and a lasting sense of Awe at all that you will see, smell, taste and feel. It is by far the most exotic and fascinating place on planet Earth.
    I might even be convinced to go with you on that kind of trip =:)

    1. Joe, Peru sounds really interesting. Have you been there yourself? My boyfriend has been there a few times and talks about it fondly. I will definitely add it to my bucket list 🙂

  3. WHAT A CAUTIONARY TALE!!!! This is a great read. I’ve shared it on Facebook and Pinterest because I feel it can help someone avoid similar stress levels– I’m sure that was no fun at all! Is there a post here about your Costa Rica trip? Thanks!!

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