8 Vacation Spots Driving Distance From the USA

If you haven’t been in the loop for the past few centuries, the United States is pretty big. So big in fact that it’s the fourth largest country in the world, yet despite this it shares only two land borders. To those summer travel junkies who have always wished they could hop in their car and drive to a foreign land rich in culture, worry not. It so happens that our only two land neighbors in Mexico and Canada are also pretty large countries. Like the USA, Mexico and Canada have a variety of cultures existing within their borders.

But will you need a New Passport?


Before we get into the nitty gritty, I should mention what the exact requirements for entering Mexico and Canada are. For those that do not have one, you’ll need to acquire a new passport. Alternatively, if you plan on driving over the border like this guide suggests, you could bring a passport card with you instead. Passport cards work like new passports but they can only be used to cross certain land and sea borders. You could also just carry both and feel ultra secure.

Canada

Canada is almost cheating in this game of near the border tourist spots. Why? Most of Canada’s population lives within 30 miles from the US-Canadian border, so most industry, including tourism, is focused in this area. Let’s start this off with one of the more “foreign” feeling locations in Canada though.

Quebec

Ah, Quebec. Quebec gets a bad wrap, mostly because of the common stereotype of the french being rude to foreigners. While the residents of Quebec are not technically French, they came to be from a French colony. We can neither confirm nor deny whether Québécois carry the same reputation as their brethren over in Europe, but if you want to see what it’s like to be immersed in French life without going to France, this is the place. The primary language spoken in the Canadian province is of course French, so it’s kind of like France lite. Don’t expect everyone to speak English just cause Canada acknowledges both French and English as its national languages!

Niagara Falls

Located near New York, you can actually view Niagara Falls from the US side of the border, but while your there you may as well cross on over and say you went abroad. Niagara Falls is famous for looking better than every single other waterfall, Scientists the world over have joined hands in agreement that Niagara Falls is definitely the most datable source of water on Earth. All joking aside, watching water tumble over stone into more water can be quite awe inspiring if there’s enough water being tossed around. If you haven’t ever been to Niagara Falls, rest assured, there is enough water being tossed around.

Vancouver

Vancouver is one of Canada’s major cities. The city itself is only located about 3 hours from Seattle if you drive, this makes it a great place to go if your in Seattle and want to see a more extreme version of it with nicer people. Kidding. Vancouver is known for its seafood, its hockey, a booming movie industry, and the fact that it rains 160 days out of the year. Vancouver is out on the world scene taking shots at Japan, Toronto, Hollywood, and England it seems. Cost of living in the city is also rather high, so I guess you could also compare it to San Francisco. Lucky for you all, hotels and AirBnB’s are not as pricey as rent is in the city.

Toronto

The largest city in Canada! It boasts a population of roughly 3 million people and sits on Lake Ontario. Unsurprisingly, the Canadian Province that Toronto is located in is called Ontario. Toronto has much in common with Vancouver, it even has a much larger film industry presence due to even larger tax breaks and stand out architecture. The CN Tower which looms over Toronto is open to the public, and after a short 1 minute ride to the top you’re able take in all of Toronto at once.

Mexico

While the destinations located in Mexico don’t have the luxury of being kissing distance from the border, they do inhabit a much warmer part of the world. This means you may have to plan for a bit more of a road trip than the Canadian entries in this article. If you plan on traveling during the winter in hopes of escaping the cold, or if you’re just trying to take advantage of the extra hours of sunlight the summer provides, these locations are sure to be worth the drive.

Baja California

Baja California literally translate to “Below California” and believe it or not it’s just south of the US-Mexican border in the state of California. How convenient. The Baja region of Mexico is home to many an activity, Tijuana which is a bustling party town is literally on the border. If that doesn’t do it for ya, there are also several coastal towns that can provide many a beach goers a good time. There are wall watching tours available as well, so if you’d like to see some cetaceans basking in all their glory. Even further south of Baja California is Baja California Sur, which is home to La Paz and a whale museum. So if you wanna go all in on the whole whale thing, there you go!

Mexico City

While Mexico City doesn’t have access to beaches like the rest of our Mexican entries, it does have a population larger than that of New York City, making it one of the largest cities in the world! Naturally this means that the City is brimming with culture and many activities for tourists, whether they be on the more touristy side of things or not. You could begin the trip by easing in with a day trip to Teoihuacan, then go off the deep end and indulge in some not-so-casual Lucha Libre action. All in all, Mexico City has much to offer to the casual and avid tourist alike. Even if you don’t plan on making Mexico City, it’s still a great place to stop by if you’re heading to somewhere like the next location on this list.

Cancun

Cancun is renowned for being a stellar vacation spot for the youth of the world. In the USA venturing to Cancun during Spring Break could even be considered a rite of passage, if you’re into that sort of thing. Cancun is a great spot to visit for great beaches and partying, however like our next destination, it’s a way of a drive from the border. Starting from Houston, Texas, you’re looking at a 34 hour drive. Might want to pack a few snacks for the trip. On the upside, before you hit the beaches, you can stop at various other locations in Mexico on your way to Cancun to make the most out of your trip!

Tulum

Tulum is just a bit south of Cancun so it shares many of the same problems with it as far as transportation goes. Like Cancun, Tulum is a beach paradise, with one added caveat: it’s the only beach in Mexico that also sports ancient Mayan ruins. The city itself does not receive as much attention as its neighbor in the north Cancun does, so this might be an excellent alternative if you’re trying to stay away from too many tourists. That all being said, Tulum is quite the place to behold, and as a host of ancient ruins the area does receive some attention from travelers looking to take advantage of the locale’s unique set up.


Conclusion

That’s all the locations we have for you today! If your interested in learning more about either Canada or Mexico, you can get more information here and here. If you’ve never had a passport or passport card and were interested in obtaining one, we can help with that as well! We at The Passport Office have been aiding travelers with their passport expediting process since 1993. Visit our website to find out more information about how to expediting your new or passport renewal process.

TOP 5 Cruise Destinations

With the summer months quickly approaching, have you thought about those summer vacation ideas? How about a cruise?! It’s one of the easier summer vacation ideas out there since you can book most of the activities from the cruise line website. Whenever it’s time for vacation, I have a mental block on where to go and I can’t possibly be the only one. So, to make things easier for you, I have come up with the top 5 hottest travel destinations for this summer. Your summer vacation ideas don’t have to be stressful.  Once you have your reservations squared away, your next step should be to get your passport expedited, or otherwise you may find yourself high and dry come vacation time.

Cuba

Since this is still a new destination, I would leave the kids at home for this trip. If you’re in a hurry to vacation here before school’s out for summer vacation, you’ll need both your expedited passport (if yours is expired) and a visa issued by the Cuban government.  It’s worth it though, since Cuba holds so much history and there is so much to do, especially in Havana. Most sights to see are within walking distance of the cruise ship port! The walking tour is called “La Habana Vieja” and is offered by the cruise lines. You get to see each of the four main squares and how unique this UNESCO World Heritage site is.

Top Things to do in Havana, Cuba on a Cruise

Right down the road from the cruise terminal is the Havana Museum of Rum, which gives you a little bit of Cuban history, as well as a demonstration of the actual production process of rum. When you get tired of walking, you can catch a ride in one of their 1950s antique cars to finish touring the city. Cruise lines do offer this experience in advance, but local tour companies offer it for a cheaper price. Be sure to ask the tour guide to take you past Hemingway’s house, another must-see attraction while you’re here.

The Bahamas

A family favorite and a personal favorite summer vacation idea is The Bahamas. For this one, no visa is required, just an expedited passport if you want to hit the beaches the first day of summer (school’s out most places June 6th this year).  No matter which port you end up in, it is a guaranteed tropical adventure.  Excursions can be found anywhere on these islands. Literally. On the island of Exuma you can swim with pigs. Real. Live. Swine. And on the off-chance pigs do start to fly, you’ll have your expedited passport ready to get in the airplane and witness this miracle for yourself.  But I digress…in all seriousness, you can pluck the pigs right out of the water and cuddle with them if you want to in Exuma.

Since some of us like to keep it not so extreme and just go snorkeling, there is something for everyone in the Bahamas. Atlantis Resort has an all-inclusive water park that is out of this world and Nassau hosts a pirate tour for your little adventure seekers.  Be mindful though, child passports are only valid for 5 years (unless they were older than 16 when they got it, in which case they need an adult expedited passport if theirs is expired) so they might need a new expedited passport as well.

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Alaska

The weather is constantly changing, but that’s the best part. Between the mountains and the glaciers, how glorious! The wildlife there is diverse too. You can encounter all sorts of creatures, from eagles to whales. It is recommended that you remember to pack layers because it does get mighty cold in Alaska. Actual cameras, you know, ones with a lens, are also recommended for this travel destination because you cannot possibly capture the beauty on your smartphone camera app.

While you are in Alaska, the Misty Fjords National Monument is a must see. It is located near Ketchikan, which means it is only accessible by plane or boat. Thankfully, no expedited passport or emergency passport is needed since this is technically a domestic destination, but what is needed is a floatplane so you can get an aerial view of this National Monument.

Another amazing opportunity  in Alaska is the chance to visit is a Native American community. The Tlingit people are right outside Ketchikan and are known for their totem pole-making. The Saxman Village tour gives you an inside look at the Tlingit culture and has the world’s largest collection of totem poles. On the island of Metlakatla awaits the only Native American reservation in Alaska, and that is about 15 miles south of Ketchikan. There, visitors can get the inside scoop on another indigenous group, the Tshimshian.  How cool is that?

The Western Caribbean

Another quick, fun summer vacation idea is the Western Caribbean. This cruise typically consists of Key West, Mexico, Jamaica, San Juan and perhaps a stop in the Bahamas depending on how many nights you’re looking to go for. That expedited passport you applied for will come in handy to explore the beautiful beaches that Jamaica has to offer. Doctor’s Cave Beach and Seven Mile Beach are two of Jamaica’s must-see beaches, for surfers and sun worshippers alike.

A surfer at Boston Beach | ©Flickr

You will also need to pull out that expedited passport when you step off the boat and into Cozumel, where you can learn how to prepare traditional Mexican dishes from a local chef while taking in the festive culture of Cozumel. Cruising through San Juan, it is recommended that you take the time to visit magnificent Old San Juan, as well as the Adjuntas Coffee Plantation. San Juan also has a Rainforest called El Yunque, good for a day of hiking and animal watching. If your cruise is going to stop in Key West, you’re in for a real treat. The nightlife there, and day life, for that matter is a whole different world. They have trolley tours for you to see the whole town, or you can just do the bar crawl…either way, there are plenty of options to choose from. If you don’t want to stay on land, you can rent a boat or go parasailing. What Key West is really known for though, is the sunsets, THOSE are one-in-a-million.

The Mediterranean

If the Mediterranean is your fancy, you should already have your tickets. And if you forgot to book your tickets, I’m guessing you also forgot to check your passport expiration date.  So if your heart’s set on Greece, Italy and Spain, get your passport expedited with just 3 easy steps, while we handle the rest.  Realistically, it’s not unachievable even at this late, especially because you’re going to be getting your passport expedited, but to save yourself some money, now would be the best time to book the cruise tickets if you’re serious about this getaway and summer is the only time you can go.

Must-see’s for this tour include the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, The Acropolis in Athens Greece, and the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, to start off with.   Aside from visiting the historical monuments, cruising to the Mediterranean is really for the cuisine and shopping. Barcelona is big on scooters..you can rent one there to sight-see all around Spain, which puts which will put a different spin on things. When you get to Greece, you’ll have the opportunity to look around the oldest city in Europe and travel around the volcanic island of Santorini. After arriving in Italy, you can wander around Vatican City and eat your way around Rome. They do offer a panoramic tour of Rome, which covers sites spanning over 2,500 years of history. This panoramic tour of Rome gives you the opportunity to visit all the main attractions, including Capitol Hill and the Tabularium. Then, they drive you back to your ship when the tour is over. You know how I mentioned shopping and food before? Since Italy is known for their fashion and design, it is only proper that they offer luxury shopping. Their shopping tour includes a personal shopping session with a professional shopper and image consultant. The expert guides you through the top shops, saving you time and money and helping you avoid purchase mistakes.

See the source image

Did you see a destination that was appealing to you and now you need an expedited passport for that special destination? Don’t fret! The Passport Office has over 20 years of expediting passports.  If you do happen to lose your passport on your international journey and need an emergency passport, applications for an emergency passport are accepted at the nearest United States Embassy or consulate general when traveling abroad and domestically, emergency passport applications are accepted through a registered passport expediting service such as The Passport Office, when applying for an emergency passport within the United States.

DS-82 Passport Renewal Application Form

No one likes paperwork, especially paperwork that might cause you issues if you make a mistake on it. Passport applications are exactly this kind of paperwork. A single mistake on the application could delay your passport weeks, even for US passport renewals. If you’re not traveling anytime soon, this isn’t an issue, but if you’re applying for an expedited passport renewal, you will want to ensure that the application is perfect.

The application in question is called a DS-82 form and is specific to those applying for a US passport renewal. New passport applications must be submitted using a DS-11, but that’s an entirely different can of worms. Today we’ll be discussing the DS-82 passport application form and what you need to do to fill it out without making a single mistake.

Where to Start

Before you can start filling out the DS-11, you’ll need to get a hold of the application itself. Shocker, we know. You can find the passport application available for download online (LINK HERE)…these are typically PDFs that can be filled out either using a PDF editor or by printing out the application and filling it out by hand. HOWEVER, while this is an option, it is not recommended that individuals applying for an expedited passport renewal fill out the form in this way. We highly recommend using the US Department of State’s online form filler located here.

When you fill out the DS-82 passport application using the online form filler you are granted a variety of benefits. For one, since it’s not filled out by hand or using a PDF editor, you can be safe in assuming that the font meets the legibility standards of  the US Department of State. Additionally, the form will catch any general mistakes you may make and won’t allow you to complete the application until these errors are corrected. Let’s take an in-depth look at the online form filler and its’ quirks.

Using the USDS Online Form Filler

To get started select “Submit” where it says “Complete Online and Print.” This will take you to the passport application itself; at this point the form isn’t a DS-82 or DS-11. Once you get to the section titled “Your Most Recent Passport” make sure you select the option that applies to you. If you don’t have a passport, then the form will become a DS-11 application (see you in another guide). If you have a passport book, card, or both and they haven’t been expired for more than five years, the form will become a DS-82. Make sure to enter the issue date of your passport book or card correctly as entering in a random date may alter the form that is generated. The DS-82 is specific to US passport renewal. If you are receiving a DS-11 form instead you may have entered something in wrong so go back and double-check to be sure!

Make sure you enter the correct information to get a DS-82 for your expedited passport renewal

Let it be known that if you have both a book and card but were only interested in renewing one, you still must submit the other. Once you’ve moved past this page, you’ll be prompted as to whether or not your name has changed since your passport was issued. At this point, you should select ‘yes’ if you are doing a name change. You should also go back and check to make sure that the name you entered on the first page is indeed your current name. Select the appropriate reason for name change, then select continue.

After you review your US passport renewal application and correct any mistakes you might spot, hit “Continue” again. Select what services you would like and make sure that you select the right box. If you go past this point having selected the wrong option, you’ll either have to pay for the services selected when you mail in your passport application or fill out the form all over again. Note that this website cannot charge you but is giving you a quote on government fees for the selected service. Select your service and “expedited at agency,” select ‘standard delivery’ and hit next. Typically, those who apply for a US passport renewal will have the passport delivered via USPS. Since you’ll be getting an expedited passport renewal, the delivery will be handled by a third party. Scroll down, click on the checkbox, and print your passport application. That’s it, done with the form filler!

Accessorizing  Your Passport Application

Now that you’ve completed the application, you’ll have to sign and date it on the first page. Make sure one last time that all the information printed is correct and that there is a barcode in the upper left hand corner. This barcode is important as it allows USDS agents to quickly scan applications into the computer, rather than manually transcribing the application. US passport renewals being submitted as expedited passport renewals that do not have a barcode may be suspended or delayed. After you’ve signed your name and insured everything on the application is correct, it’s time to accessorize.

Passport Photo

Getting a passport photo is kind of like getting a mugshot: no one ever smiles in them, everyone looks tired and well, you get the idea. You’ve had to have taken photos when you originally applied, but if you’ve never processed an expedited passport renewal you’re probably not familiar with stapling the photos to the passport application. For all US passport renewal applications, the applicant must self affix the photo onto the DS-82 application. It’s pretty simple, first you’ll need to take the photos. We recommend getting them done at a local specialist like CVS, Walgreens, or Target, which all offer passport application photos. If you’re working with us, we here at The Passport Office can take the photos for you as well.

If you decide to take the photo yourself, make sure that you take it on a white background, and that you print it out on 2×2 glossy paper. The photo you use must have been taken within the last six months to be used. You cannot use a photo from a previous passport application. Place the photo in the 2×2 box provided and staple vertically along it’s four corners as is indicated by the box.

Where to staple to ensure a successful expedited passport renewal


Check or Money Order

You’ll need a check when applying for your expedited passport renewal. A money order or cashiers check is also sufficient. You cannot pay with cash or card. The check should be made out for either $170 if you are applying for a passport book renewal, $90 for a passport card renewal, or $200 if you are doing both. Make the check or money order payable to “US Department of State.” If you are paying with a check, when you write out the amount make sure the and comes after ‘seventy’ if you are getting just the book.

That means it should be:

One Hundred Seventy and 00

NOT

One Hundred and Seventy 00

The US Department of State will not accept checks with the latter written out as they consider everything after the ‘and’ to be cents. You can find an example check below.

Example check for those applying for an expedited passport renewal.


This example doesn’t have a name or address, make sure that yours does. The address need not match the address on your application or on your ID, something simply needs to be there. This means starter checks are not acceptable. If you’d like to do this without having to think about it too hard, I’d recommend getting a money order, as they are much more straightforward. Simply pay for one, fill out pay to, sign, date, done.

Letter of Authorization

In this example we’ve been applying for an expedited passport renewal under the assumption that you’re doing this through a private service (kinda like us). As such, you’ll need to attach a letter of authorization to the DS-82 application. If you are applying for a standard US passport renewal, you can skip this step. A letter of authorization is something that private expediters provide to you when you submit a passport application using their service. Below is an example of one of our own letters of authorization.

As you can see in this image, the first two boxes must be checked. Make sure your name is written last, first, middle. Your phone number should match the one on your DS-82 passport application and the date should be the same as the one provided when you dated your DS-82. Courier company name is typically listed at the top of the page, simply copy what is printed their into the space provided. Before signing make sure there are no errors present. If there are errors, acquire another form and fill it out again, you cannot scratch out mistakes to correct them. If the form has any visible marks that hint at alteration, the form will be thrown out and your expedited passport renewal application will be suspended.

Name Change

If you are doing a name change, you’ll also need to provide an original copy of the document that declares your name change. This can either be a court order or a marriage certificate. The one you provide should match the option you selected on the passport application itself. Keep the document you’ll be submitting for your name change behind the final page of the DS-82 passport application.

Bringing Your Expedited Passport Renewal Together

Once you’ve completed all of the above, place the check or money order face up on  the center top of the first page of the application. Open your passport book to the last page and place the inside of the back of the book under the DS-11 passport application with the letter of authorization near center top so that it’s opposite to the check. Once everything is centered, staple the stack of documents so that everything is stapled together. The stack should include all documents related to the expedited passport renewal process. If a document is missing, remove the staples and then reapply them after the document has been added to the stack. With that, you’re done!

You just need to mail in your passport application so that your expedited passport renewal can be processed! When people usually apply for a US passport renewal, you can ship directly to the US Department of State via USPS. Since you’re trying to expedite this, you’ll ship to the private expediter directly so they can process the expedited passport renewal on your behalf.

If you want to apply for an expedited passport renewal but don’t know who to turn to, we’ve got you covered. We at The Passport Office have been helping travelers expedite their passport applications since 1993. Whether you’ve never had a passport before or you’re a frequent flyer, we make the process easy. If you’ve already received your expedited passport renewal and would like to apply for an expedited visa, we can help with that as well. Check us out over at Visa Service Department.

Re-imagining the Travel To-Do List: Your Guide to Packing and Planning Smarter

Whether you’re planning a quick weekend getaway, or a three-week vacation, understanding how to better organize your next trip can save you a lot of time and stress. If you’re unsure of how many suitcases you’ll need and how much of each item is really necessary, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.  

First, discover our helpful packing tips for various types of trips. We will discuss beneficial packing hacks and outline how much you really need to bring along with you. It will probably surprise you…   

Then, we will help you navigate how to get a new passport in time for your next trip. Spoiler: the key is that you don’t have to tackle the confusing passport process alone. There are many reputable passport agencies who can help.   

At the end of this guide, you’ll be packing and traveling like a professional in no time! So, get your suitcases ready, grab your passport checklist and keep reading.  

Start planning and packing like a pro, from navigating the new passport process to figuring out how to organize your suitcase.

Discover How to Pack like a Pro for Your Next Trip    

We understand that sometimes the packing process can be overwhelming prior to your trip. By learning the secrets from travel experts, you’ll be able to focus more on the exciting elements of your next trip, like finding fun excursions and local events. Explore our following guide to stress-free, super simple packing.  

Weekend Trips 

How Many Suitcases Do You Need? 

Just one.  

How Much of Each Item is Necessary?  

Shoes- no more than two pairs. Consider bringing one comfortable pair, such as sneakers, if you’ll be doing a lot of walking. The second pair should be something versatile that you can easily dress up or down, such as a pair of flats or fancier sandals for women and nicer boots for men.  

Shirts and pants- try to limit yourself to one set of pajamas, two pairs of pants and two shirts total. By laying out your entire outfits for each day, you’ll feel less compelled to overpack several shirts that probably won’t get worn.  

Jewelry- Consider bringing one or two pairs of earrings and just one necklace. If your trip is only two days, this should give you enough options.  

Additional Helpful Packing Tips 

  • To save room in your suitcase, only bring travel-sized toiletries, such as shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and face lotions.  
  • If you’ll be swimming, be sure to pack large plastic Ziploc bags to ensure your wet swimwear won’t dampen your other clothing items when you repack. 
  • Roll, don’t fold your clothes to save even more space in your bag!  

One to Two Week Vacations 

How Many Suitcases Do You Need? 

One large suitcase and one medium-sized suitcase.   

How Much of Each Item is Necessary?  

Shoes- try to stick to no more than three pairs of shoes. By thinking of the types of activities you’ll be doing, this should be easy to achieve. Consider packing one pair for walking or hiking, another for casual daytime activities, and one more dressy pair for evening events.    

Shirts and pants- Pick out a specific outfit for each day of your trip. By committing to pre-planned outfits, you won’t have to stress about what to wear once you get to your destination, as it will already be decided for you. Consider factors such as the forecasted weather and how you’ll be spending each day as you select each day’s outfit.     

Jewelry- Depending on the type of trip you’re going on, how casual or formal your resort is, and how you prefer to accessorize your outfits, the jewelry you pack may vary. Generally, packing three to five pairs of earrings and three necklaces will give you lots of options.   

Additional Helpful Packing Tips 

  • Keep in mind that most hotels or home rentals will have a blow-dryer on hand for you. It’s worth double checking this before taking up valuable space in your suitcase for these items.  
  • Consider skipping bringing an extensive health kit with you, especially if you aren’t hiking or spending a lot of time in nature. Remember that you can most likely purchase these items at your destination.  
  • If you’re checking your bags at the airport, consider bringing a few essential items in your carry-on bag. For example, bringing an extra outfit with you is a great idea, in case you’re stranded without your bag for a day or two. It’s also a smart idea to pack a photocopy of your travel itinerary, driver’s license and new passport information in case any of these items get lost along the way.

Planning for Two Week Trips & Beyond   

How Many Suitcases Do You Need? 

This will vary depending on the length of your trip. If you plan each outfit in advance and you’re conscious not to overpack, you should be able to make do with one to two large suitcases for every two weeks you’re traveling. Consider also packing two medium-sized carry-on bags, as well.  

How Much of Each Item is Necessary?  

Shoes- if you’re traveling for more than two or three weeks, you may need to pack several different pairs of shoes, for multiple occasions. Keep in mind that it may be easier to purchase less expensive footwear, such as sandals for example, while on vacation if your suitcase doesn’t allow you to fit them. If your trip requires bulkier shoes, such as snow boots, it may make sense to mail some of your shoes ahead of time to your vacation rental to save precious suitcase space.       

Shirts and pants- Along with packing specific outfits for each day of your trip, consider including items in your suitcase that you’re able to wear multiple days. For example, packing staple items like white and black shirts, and blue jeans, allows you to re-wear the same outfit more than once inconspicuously. Also, consider using a laundry service while on vacation to cut back on the number of outfits you’ll need to bring with you.  

Jewelry- Again, generally speaking, packing three to five pairs of earrings and three necklaces will give you lots of options during your travels. Consider packing your more expensive jewelry in plastic bags and keeping them in your carry-on as you travel. This will help protect you in the event your bags are lost at the airport.   

Additional Helpful Packing Tips 

  • If you’re traveling somewhere that will allow you to buy toiletries and bathroom essentials at a local store while on vacation, that’s generally much easier than packing a month’s worth of products in your suitcase.   
  • Don’t forget to plan several weeks ahead for certain travel requirements for longer trips, like a new passport, or a passport renewal. Then, as you’re packing, be sure to pack a photocopy of these important documents in both your suitcase and your carry-on.  
  • Consider getting a suitcase with a TSA-approved lock on it. This will allow you to feel safe when you leave all of your belongings in your hotel room or house rental while on vacation.  

Now that you’ve mastered properly packing for your next trip, it’s time to review how to navigate the new passport process.   

How to Master the New Passport Process Prior to Traveling 

Learning how to pack like a pro is only one piece of the traveling equation. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to ensure your passport is ready to go long before your trip. This may mean applying for a new passport or renewing your current one. The best way to ensure this is a stress-free and smooth process is by enlisting the help of a reputable passport agency.  

An agency can answer all your passport questions, from helping you check all the boxes on your passport renewal checklist to assisting you with a new passport or with the child passport process. Review the three easy steps below to get started.  

Step 1: A common question travelers have is “how long does it take to get a passport?” First, if you’re on a time crunch and your trip is fast approaching, don’t fret. Many passport agencies offer expedited passport services for your new passport, to help you through each step of the process. Some agencies, such as The Passport Office, even offer same day services at their locations.  

Step 2: Now that you’re aware of how quickly you’re able to get your new passport, it’s time to choose a reputable, experienced passport agency to help you. This part is important! Choose an agency that has positive online reviews, offers safe and fast services and excellent customer support.   

Step 3: Last, determine whether you want to get your new passport online with the help of The Passport Office, or at one of their convenient locations. The Passport Office has offices located across the U.S. in San Francisco, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Houston. To schedule an appointment for new passport services, expedited or renewal services, contact the Passport Office today.  

Start Planning and Packing Smarter for Your Travels 

The Passport Office has assisted the American traveling public with their passport needs for years. If you are within the United States and need a new passport, let The Passport Office team help you navigate the process securely.  

To get started, apply for a new passport online or contact our team to set up an appointment today.  

Re-do your travel checklist like an expert by learning packing and planning secrets from the pros.

New Rule For US Passport Holders Entering the EU

The year is 2021. You’ve finally attained your new passport and you’re ready to travel through Europe like your folks did back in their day. However, as much as you try, you cannot…a new rule has been put into place that means US citizens must go through the grueling process of getting their European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) registration completed.

Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. ETIAS is predicted to only take a few minutes to apply for and will only cost applicants about $8. Currently US citizens are allowed to enter the EU’s Schengen Area as long as they have a valid US passport and a plucky disposition, so any labor added onto this load is quite the increase.

But why is the rule changing and why is it the way that it currently is? Today we’ll be taking a look at the Schengen rule’s history, it’s potential future, and what it might mean for American citizens trying to travel through Europe.

The Schengen Rule

All the places you can go in the Schengen Area with a US Passport
Blue areas are countries that are currently in the Schengen Area. Orange countries are in the process of joining.

The Schengen Area is a collection of 26 European countries (not all EU member countries) that do not currently have border checkpoints along their shared borders that require the presentation of a passport. This means that if you as a US citizen were going to travel to the EU today you would be able to travel by land from… let’s say Portugal to Germany, and along the way you wouldn’t have to pass through a checkpoint and present your passport.

To us in the USA this idea may seem a bit odd. We have rather strict border control here in the states with just our two neighbors, so how could 26 countries mutually agree to allow their citizens to travel freely between them? Well, there are many benefits to this rule’s existence. For one, let’s keep in mind that compared to the contiguous United States of America, most European countries are rather small. To give some more context, driving from Miami to Seattle would take about 50 hours to accomplish. When you compare that 50 hour drive to the 42 hours it would take to drive from Portugal to Estonia and then consider that on that drive to Estonia you’d end passing through 8 other countries I think the scale of the USA becomes a bit easier to grasp.

So, we have a large collection of culturally diverse countries that historically have not gotten along. In the wake of the horrors that occurred during both WW1 and WW2 an effort began to be made to prevent other such wars from occurring in the future. This eventually culminated in the eventual formation of the European Union.

Now with the European community closer than they’ve ever been in history, efforts were made to ensure that all European countries could benefit from both increased trade and security. The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 and went into effect in 1995. Essentially, it allows free travel for those within the Schengen Area. The consequences of the Schengen Agreement have led to an increase in trade among members of the Schengen Area as well allowed members to focus less of their defense budgets on protecting borders with their allies.

How This Affects US Passport Holders

As far as this rule applies to us here in the USA, it’s allowed for us to freely travel to a bulk of European countries without worrying about attaining a visa for each one. Furthermore, it greatly increases the speed at which one can travel within the Schengen Area. For example, once you’ve entered the Schengen Area, all travel within it can be done without presenting your passport at border checkpoints. This extends even to flights, and in fact all flights that occur within the Schengen Area are treated as domestic flights.

Now, if you looked at the map above for even a moment, you may have noticed that one of the most popular tourist spots in Europe is not included in the Schengen Area; the United Kingdom. By extension, Ireland is also not part of the Schengen Area, not because it’s part of the UK, but because it shares an open border with North Ireland, which is controlled by the UK. Essentially, because the UK and Ireland share an open land border with no checkpoint requirements, Ireland is unable to enter into the Schengen Area as it could lead to Ireland being used as a staging point for foreign nationals entering the UK illegally. Just keep this in mind if you’re planning your dream trip to see all of Europe.

Regardless of odd exemptions the rule has been a great boon to foreigners who wish to visit the EU and see all that it has to offer without the bureaucratic red tape that comes with strict border control. With changes in the international status quo come changes to established rules however.

Why Could It Change?

The Schengen rule as we know it today probably isn’t going anywhere come 2021. However the new rules could be a sign of a changing relationship between the USA and the countries of the EU. A recent Vox article describes this changing relationship, citing the incumbent US president’s negative view of the current US-EU Alliance. Additionally, the article mentions how five countries currently part of the Schengen Area still must obtain visas to enter the USA. This means that countries within the EU are receiving unequal treatment from one of their largest international allies.

Some countries within the Schengen Area have recently temporarily reinstated internal borders: you can find a complete list of these countries here. This is most likely due to the threat of terrorism within the EU. Again, unlike the USA, the EU is connected by land to the Middle East. Additionally, several EU countries took in a large influx of refugees from nearby humanitarian crisis areas. Some conservative politicians in the EU cite these refugees in conjunction with poor individual border security as a rising threat to the stability of the region. A heightend sense of individual state nationalism in the face of immigration and acts of terrorism may lead to tighter border control between members of the Schengen Area.

Should the EU dissolve in its entirety we could potentially see the end of the Schengen Area. While the EU itself and the Schengen Agreement are technically separate, the dissolution of the EU would be a sign of crumbling trust between EU member states which may ultimately lead to ex-EU members pulling from the agreement. While this future is unlikely, as seen with the UK’s Brexit movement, it’s not impossible for members of the EU to flirt with the idea of leaving. In fact, Brexit is currently threatening stability upon the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland as questions have been raised as to whether the border should remain open should the UK pull out of the EU.

Where Does That Leave Us?

So, good news, the EU isn’t dissolving tomorrow and you probably won’t require a visa to go to the EU’s Schengen Area anytime soon unless you plan on working there. But the rules are still changing in 2021, and while it isn’t that much more work it’s still something that needs to be done. So how will you do it? According to this fancy little fact sheet provided by the EU, the process would look a little something like this:

  • US travelers will complete an online application which takes about 10 minutes
  • The application fee is €7 (about $8)
  • After an automated search of numerous databases, around 95% of all applicants should be allowed entry within minutes
  • If the application isn’t accepted initially, it goes to Frontex for manual assessment, this takes another 96 hours
  • A majority of the 5% of applications that are not initially accepted, the majority should be approved within 96 hours
  • If a traveler’s application is refused, they may appeal the decision in the country they are landing in
  • The travel authorization will be valid for 3 years or when the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first

A few things to note, applicants must already have a valid US passport in order to apply and they’ll also need a method of online payment, which means a credit/debit card is required. Unlike a visa, the ETIAS will expire once your passport which means that you’ll need to get a new one, even if it hasn’t been 3 years. With this in mind, once 2021 rolls around, we’d recommend checking your passport before you plan on traveling to Europe to make sure you get the most out of your ETIAS. If your US passport is expiring soon, consider applying for a passport renewal. If your passport has been long expired then it may be time to apply for a new passport altogether.

The databases that the database search covers includes the following:

  • The Visa Information System (VIS),
  • Europol data
  • The Eurodac database
  • The Entry/Exit System (EES)
  • The Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Document database (SLTD),
  • The Interpol Travel Documents Associated with Notices database (TDAWN)
  • A specific ETIAS watchlist

So as long as your face and name don’t end up on any of those lists you should be fine to gain entry into the EU. You may find yourself joining the 5% who don’t get instantly approved should you share a name with someone who is on the list, or if you are somehow related to someone listed on one of the databases. Do keep the fact that you could become part of that 5% in mind though. Don’t think that just because the chances of you getting approved lean in your favor means that you should wait until the day before you flight to apply.

Conclusion

All in all this change won’t mean the end of the world for those of you who enjoy hostel-hopping their way across Europe. It just adds a simple step with a small fee, and if you’ve ever applied for a new passport or visa on your own, it should be a cakewalk.

If you plan on traveling to EU before these new changes hit and need a new passport or a passport renewal, we’ve got you covered. We at The Passport Office specialize in getting expediting passports for travelers traveling within 30 days. Visit our main website for more information and get your application started today.


Three Outdoorsy Locations for Indoor People

Traveling can be tough when your a homebody. We understand, however as technology has improved, some brilliant entrepreneurs had a series of great ideas. This group of like-minded individuals pondered if it was possible to bring all the great aspects of the outdoors indoors… And it looks like they’ve succeeded.

Today we’ll be going over 4 outdoorsy locations for indoorsy people! What do I mean by outdoorsy locations for the indoorsy? Why of course I’m talking about large scale resorts and theme parks that one would typically find outside… But instead it’s inside. This may seem like something out of Pauly Shore’s Biodome, but we have the pictures and sources to prove these places exist. Keep in mind we’ll be browsing through a selection of locations outside of the USA, so if you’re currently a US resident you’ll have to obtain a new passport in order to attend.

The Tropical Island Resort in Germany, visit it now when you get a new passport!

The Tropical Island Resort, Krausnick, Germany

Located just south of Berlin is our first stop on today’s adventure. The Tropical Island Resort feels out of place in landlocked Germany. The resort features a beach, that’s right, a massive indoor beach that generates its own waves to simulate the actual experience of being at a beach. On top of that, this tropical paradise is also chock full of tropical foliage and fauna, making it the largest artificial tropical rain forest in the world as well as the largest indoor beach! That’s what I call a two-for-one. The park was created by a Malaysian investment group who assumed that the people of Germany deserved a beach despite not living in a country with one. The investment group assumed right, and this park now sees almost 1 million visitors each year!

Now, most people who would be interested in attending such a place are going to be German since that’s the target audience, but don’t let that stop you from checking out this spot! In addition to a massive indoor beach and artificial rain forest Tropical Island Resort also has a zip-line. Why go to Costa Rica to zip line through the jungle and get your wallet stolen by monkeys when you can just as easily go to Germany zip line through the artificial jungle and get your wallet stolen by a pickpocket? Hard to think of a good reason, we know. Do keep in mind that if you’re traveling to Germany in the winter and want to escape the typically cold weather you can always head to this resort. Be wary however, you may find it harder to get a slice of this tropical paradise when the locals are attempting to escape the cold as well. Either way, you’ll need to obtain a passport if you plan on entering Germany, and some rumors about future EU laws may require US citizens to acquire a visa as well.

The slopes at Harbin Wanda Ski and Winter Sports Resort. Visit now when you get a new passport and Chinese visa.

Harbin Wanda Indoor Ski and Winter Sports Resort, Harbin, China

If the cold is your thing and you’re wondering if there’s anywhere– ANYWHERE in the world that can satisfy your 24/7 need for a place to roll around in the snow, do we have some news for you. The Harbin Wanda Indoor Ski and Winter Sports Resort is the exact opposite of our first entry. Built in the Chinese city of Harbin, which coincidentally is known as “The City of Ice” and is also the location of the world renowned “Harbin Ice and Snow Festival,” this massive indoor sky resort is the largest in the world! The total cost to complete this complex came out to about $4.6 billion dollars. The first thing you should expect to find in this winter wonderland is ski slopes, which thankfully the resort has many of, six to be exact. The slopes vary in length and width so there’s something for beginners to experienced skiers!

If skiing is too much of an outdoors activity for your indoorsy lifestyle you’ve got nothing to worry about. The resort provides much more than just slopes and snow. If you’d like, you can always slide over to the ice hockey rink for a quick game or just to practice your ice skating skills. If neither of those activities suit you, or if you’re just being difficult, you can always check out the mall or movie theater… Or one of the several restaurants the resort has to offer. Essentially the Harbin Wanda Indoor Ski and Winter Sports Resort has everything you need in a large scale ski resort, that being said before writing this article I wasn’t sure if anything other than snow and skis was needed.

If you do plan on heading to Harbin to visit this resort you’ll need a China visa. If you’ve never been to a country that requires a visa and don’t know what that is, don’t worry! We have plenty of resources on our sister website for first time travelers to China. It should be stated that you need a valid passport before you can attain a visa to ANY country. So before booking a trip with the hopes of leaving the states, apply for either a new passport or passport renewal if you already have one.

IMG Worlds in Dubai, visit now when you apply for a new passport.

IMG Worlds of Adventure, Dubai, UAE

If neither sand nor snow tickles your fancy perhaps something more commercial might appeal to you. IMG Worlds of Adventure located in Dubai is the world’s largest indoor theme park, the complex is in fact so large that it’s classified as the single largest temperature controlled environment in the world. Enjoy all the fun of trouncing about as if you were in Orlando in the summer except you don’t have to wear any sunscreen until you step  out into that sweet sweet desert sun at the end of your day. IMG Worlds features a variety of activities and rides as one would expect a theme park to. The park was created by the IMG Group, the park currently features five distinct sections. Two of these sections are based off the American enterprises of Cartoon Networth and Marvel comics, the properties included in these areas were essentially leased out to be used for the theme park. The remaining sections include a “main street” style strip call Img Boulevard, a Jurassic Park inspired section call “The Lost Valley” and finally a large movie theater with 12 screens called the Novo Cinema.

Like any theme park worth its salt, IMG Worlds has a variety of activities to do. There are currently 17 attractions in the park, some are winding roller coasters for thrill junkies and others, such as LazyTown located in the Cartoon Network section (though I could have sworn that show aired on Nickelodeon in the states), are aimed at a much younger audience. If theme park attractions aren’t your thing you’re also welcome to stop by one of the 37 shops and restaurants to pick up some grub and some themed plastic souvenirs. Conversely, if you’ve had enough walking for the just stop by the Novo Cinema and catch a flick, with 12 screens there’s bound to be something playing that you’ll like.

If none of the activities currently offered interest you then perhaps you’ll only need to wait a few years before something new crops up in IMG World. There are already talks about expanding the park to include a variety of other zones, including areas dedicated to (but not limited to), Nickelodeon, Pokemon, Disney, Mattel, Sabban, Anime World, Ubisoft, TV Tokyo, and Legends of Arabia. As well as all of the just mentioned zones, this expansion would also include a new Cartoon Network and Lost Valley area. The new areas would be located in a large complex adjacent to the already existing one. This new park extension will be called IMG Worlds of Legends and you can see a concept image by clicking here. No doubt that once construction is complete it’ll be decades before another indoor theme park comes in close to the size and scope of IMG Worlds of Adventures.

But what if you don’t want to go to any of these places?

Now you might not have plans to travel to any of the locations we’ve mentioned thus far, not because the crazy indoor locals don’t impress you, but because you have no plans to visit the country it’s located in. That’s fine! As mentioned in each individual entry, these are the “largest” in the world of their particular kind. That means there are others sprinkled about the world that might not be as large but might scratch the itch you’ve been trying to for years. For example, the Harbin Wanda Indoor Ski and Winter Sports Resort is only one of many in China, there are actually an alarming 27 indoor ski slopes in China, including some that are currently in development. And that’s just in China! Several countries in Europe also have indoor ski slopes such as: Belgium, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the UK. Two are currently in development here in the states as well, so don’t experience FOMO if you aren’t planning on traveling out of the country soon!

As far as indoor beaches go those are a bit tougher since several countries already have beaches. However there are still a few to be spoken for! Naturally China has once in Chengdu, this one rivals the one in Germany as it also features a beach with wave pool. There are also locations in Japan and Kazakhstan. Finally, while it isn’t as luxurious as it’s counterpart in Germany, The Fallsview Indoor Waterpark in Canada is a good option if you live in the Northern USA and want to see what all this indoor beach nonsense is about. Fallsview is located close to Niagara Falls which makes it only a short distance from the US-Canada border. This makes Fallsview your go-to assuming you have either a US passport or passport card to cross the border.

Finally we have indoor theme parks. You can actually find  few of these sprinkled throughout the states. No, I’m not talking about Chuck-E-Cheese’s or Dave n’ Busters, those don’t count. The Adventuredome in Las Vegas, Nevada offers many of the amenities that IMG Worlds does, and all without leaving the country! However, if you want to go all out on your US indoor theme park vacation, we’d have to recommend the one located inside of The Mall of America. Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, is the largest mall in America when you account for the theme park attached to it known as ‘Nickelodeon Universe”. While Nickelodeon Universe is no IMG Worlds, it’s still the largest indoor theme park in the States and it has three unique roller coasters. The best park? When you’re done riding those three roller coasters five times each, you can easily spend the rest of your day  browsing through the biggest mall in the country.

If indoor locations aren’t your thing, maybe you should check out this article and learn about some places that may not be around in the next century.

If you do plan on traveling internationally to visit any of these groovy indoor attractions you’ll need to obtain a passport first. Lucky for you, we’re experts when it comes to passport. Whether you’re in need of a new passport, passport renewal, or if you’re just looking for some information, visit our main website here to get started today!


Places To Visit Before They Disappear

Paris, France. A city of beauty, art, music, and cuisine. Paris has been around for years and has cemented itself as the number one tourist spot in the world, and will probably hold that title for years to come… It’s nice, yeah, but it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So what about all of those niche travel spots that might not be around in the future? They say that the polar bears will go extinct soon so may as well catch a glimpse so you can brag to the grandkids someday. Today we’ll be looking at some places that you can currently go to today but may not be able to in the future. We’ll also be going over how to attain a new passport or passport renewal at the end, so if you’re in need stick with us until the end!

Notre-Dame Cathedral

On April 15th the Notre-Dame Cathedral caught fire while undergoing various restoration projects. The fire was linked to the restoration attempts and as I write this the fires rage on. The verdict is yet to be out on whether the Cathedral will remain open following this disaster, or whether the monument will even survive. If you are currently in Paris I’d urge you to catch a glimpse of this architectural marvel on the off chance that things go south during future restoration attempts.

Komodo Dragons on Komodo Island. See them today when you apply for a new passport.

Komodo Island

Komodo Island is known for its large acid breathing lizards. No, not Godzilla, but the native komodo dragon. Unfortunately a few folks who like potentially deadly overgrown lizards decided they should smuggle a few off the island which has ignited a bit of a crisis in Indonesia which administers Komodo Island. The government of Indonesia has decided to place a temporary ban on entrance into Komodo Island beginning in 2020 while they implement measures to help preserve the endangered Komodo Dragon. Unfortunately for those of us who like to travel, this means we won’t be able to engage with one of Indonesia’s hottest tourist spots come next year. Fortunately for those reading this in 2019, you still have a few months to book a trip and get over there before the island is indefinitely closed to the public.

Should you make the trip this year you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of ways you can approach the island. If you’d like to get more intimate with the island there are several Indonesian based tour companies that will take you to explore the entire island chain. That’s right it’s more than one island, three to be exact. These tours will take you through walking tours of the islands’ native flora and fauna, chances are you’ll even get with in walking distance of a komodo dragon. If walking isn’t your thing the islands are also a great place to dive, and most tours include this in the package. For those who just want a glimpse before moving on, a few cruise lines including Viking Cruises take a route which begins in Australia and has a day long stop on Komodo island for sightseeing.

The Great Barrier Reef

No fluff here, ocean pollution is a problem. Our ever rising population has led to record high levels of consumption which produces a load of pollution. Coral, those colorful rocks which dot reefs, are actually animals and not plants like some may think. Coral is more sensitive than a middle schooler who didn’t get asked to the dance, even touching coral can cause it’s structure to break down due to the natural acidity of the human body. With this in mind, the ever changing climate and acidity level of the ocean coupled with the trash collected in our oceans has led to massive coral die offs the world over. This includes one of the most iconic reefs in the world, The Great Barrier Reef. In fact, over half  of the reef has been reported to have died since as 2016. For those who aren’t familiar with the death of natural ecosystems; that’s fast. Unfortunately coral reefs take decades to form as the hard coral we think of is actually build up of the dead animal organism that actually is the coral.

So, what’s a traveler to do with a rapidly dying ecosystem on the verge of collapse? Typically if you want to see the Great Barrier Reef you begin your journey in Australia which officially administers the reef. From there you’ll most likely have to join one of the many tours that visit the reef every year. Since the reef has been such a money maker for travel agencies over the years a litany of companies offer tours for everyone’s budget. Make sure you have your passport before booking your trip, as you’ll need it to enter Australia. If you have a passport but it’s running low on pages or is expiring soon, consider applying for a passport renewal. Regardless, once you do make it to the reef you’ll probably be looking at it in one of two ways. If you enjoy snorkeling/scuba, many tours will gladly provide you with diving gear to get intimate with the reef’s inhabitants. Be warned, the reef’s inhabitants include a few species of sharks, so if you watched Jaws as a child and are still scarred perhaps our next option is more your speed. For those who suffer from acute aquaphobia, you still have the option of viewing the reef from a glass bottom boat. These boats are exactly what they sound like, boats with a transparent glass bottom that allow it’s riders to look down and enjoy the sights of the reef without any close encounters with hammerheads. Either way, head to The Great Barrier reef before all of the once vibrant coral turns a bleached white.

Italy's Venetian canals. Enjoy the beauty of Italy when you apply for a new passport.

Venice, Italy

Italy itself is known for being a large tourist destination with a wide range of cities, From Rome to Venice– Oh yeah, Venice might not be around in the future. This is also linked to human pollution, and more importantly, climate change. With the increasing climate comes rising sea levels. For those of you unfamiliar with the Italian city of Venice, the locale is known for the canals that criss-cross through the city. The waterways make travel by boat in the city viable, and for many it’s actually the preferred mode of transport through the city as the entire city is actually located on a series of small islands which are connected by a series of bridges. Naturally, the combination of it’s scenic waterways and being in Italy has made Venice a popular tourist spot.

With the rising sea levels however, it’s likely that soon travel by boat will be the only method of travel in the future as the sea may soon overtake pedestrian walkways. Climate change may not be the only culprit however, some researchers site shifting tectonic plates as one of the reasons the lagoon may soon disappear. This makes the issue plaguing venice a combination problem; the island itself is sinking while the sea around it is rising. If the local government doesn’t begin to look into solutions the entire city is slated to be underwater by the year 2100. However if things are heading that way in the near future it’s entirely possible that the city is instead evacuated rather than an actual fix being implemented. With all of that taken into consideration, it may be a good idea to head over sooner rather than later. Trust me, a gondolier ride through the thriving city of Venice is a lot more romantic than a gondolier ride through the half sunken remains of Venice.

Island Power Hour

All this talk of sinking cities has got me thinking of all the small scenic islands that may go the way of the dodo once sea levels rise too much. Instead of going in depth with all of these individual islands I’ve decided to group them together for the sake of time. Let’s first start with a list of all islands at risk of being swallowed by the sea:

  • The Maldives
  • Micronesia
  • Tuvalu
  • Fiji
  • Seychelles
  • Torres Strait
  • Palau
  • Republic of Kiribati
  • Samoa
  • Nauru
  • Marshall Islands
  • Solomon Island

Now, some of these aren’t islands but rather a series of islands called an archipelago. Fiji, for example, is an archipelago that contains about 330 islands. Some, like Tuvalu are comprised of as few as 9 islands, all of which are slated to disappear within the next few decades. Those of you out there with particularly sensitive FOMO senses may feel a bit tingly right now. Worry not, even though Tuvalu is a prime candidate to join the “hello I’m underwater” club there is also some evidence to show that it’s growing as fast as it’s sinking which may save it if climate change efforts around the world strengthen within the coming years.

Don’t think you can rest peacefully with the knowledge that these islands will most definitely exist in the coming decades. So far Tuvalu appears to be the only island outgrowing the threat of rising sea levels. If you haven’t visited any of the locations listed above consider an island hopping adventure to cross off as many as possible in a single go, you don’t have much time after all. Like with most forms of international travel you’ll need an active passport. If you don’t have a passport you’ll have to apply for a new passport. If you currently have a passport but lack the pages to visit all the islands on this list consider you can apply for a passport renewal.

The Arctic Circle

Now we get to talk about polar bears! All water contributing to rising sea levels has to come from somewhere, and the arctic circle is one of those places. Rising temperature means the ice that usually sits quite comfortably up at the north pole is melting at alarming rates. Currently NASA is claiming that arctic ice is decreasing by an alarming 13% a decade. This has several unfortunate consequences in The Arctic Circle. For example, unlike its sister pole in the south, The Arctic Circle doesn’t sit on any land. For example, let’s say that all the ice in Antarctica melts… Well, for one, everyone living on an island is probably screwed. HOWEVER, the good news is that under all that ice is a solid piece of land, so species like the penguin may not go completely extinct should a mass melting happen simply because they’ll have somewhere to be.

Polar bears may not be so lucky. Under the massive ice sheets of the north pole is… Nothing but ocean. While some land masses like Greenland and some of Canada’s northern territories extend into The Arctic Circle, they don’t make up a large part of the Polar Bear’s habitat. In other words, once all the ice up north melts the polar bears will either go extinct or be forced to move further south. Unlike their more common relatives like the black bear, polar bears are massive, about two to three times more massive than a black bear. So while the black bear has thrived in human inhabited areas due to it’s relatively small and non-threatening stature as well as its ability to scavenge, it’s unlikely the much more aggressive polar bear will be met with much acceptance if it’s forced to enter human cities to find food.

As far as visiting The Arctic Circle goes you’ll probably be heading there via boat or cruise ship. Cruises typically include excursions such as polar bear and whale watching. Naturally there are no airports located in The Arctic Circle because it’s mostly ice, hardly anyone lives there, and hardly any able bodied tourist wants to go there. There are some fly over tours that begin in Alaska and then head north to give passengers an aerial view of The Arctic Circle. Unfortunately no matter how you approach an arctic tour it’s going to cost you in the thousands, so maybe skip this spot and catch a polar bear in the zoo if that’s out of the realm of possibility for you.

That’s All! But What If You Still Need A Passport?

That’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed the read. Perhaps you noticed that all locations listed are outside the USA, this doesn’t exclude the USA from losing land to the sea however, in fact everyone’s favorite state Florida may lose a large portion of land to the sea in the future. However, if you’ve been to Florida and want to explore outside of the country you’ll need a passport! Lucky for you we’ve been helping travel lovers acquire passports for years, click here and check out our website for more info. Whether it be new passport, passport renewal, or replacing a lost/stolen passport, we’ve got you covered.

The Top Honeymoon Destinations for Every Type of Traveler

When it comes to exploring honeymoon locations, the possibilities are endless. Whether you’re a cold weather person and love the snow, or you prefer tropical temperatures and laying by the beach, there is no shortage of international destinations to consider.  

So, where should you start? How about applying for a new passport before your trip; what does that process involve? We’re diving into several exciting honeymoon destinations for every type of traveler. Whether you prefer fun adventures or total relaxation, we’ll let you know exactly what to expect when it comes to the passport process.  

Let’s get started!         

#1. The Adventure Seekers 

Costa Rica 

Calling all adventure seekers! If you and your significant other love the thrill of outdoor activities like backpacking through the wilderness, zip-lining and/or horseback riding, consider a honeymoon in Costa Rica. The warm weather makes nonstop outdoor activities possible almost every day of the year! And in Costa Rica, there is simply no shortage of things to do, from exploring volcanos, exotic rain forests, to visiting a local outdoor market.    

Guatemala

Alternatively, Guatemala also offers incredible adventures! If you and your beau prefer a more diverse option that isn’t a traditional destination for honeymooners, consider this beautiful country. Although there are plenty of bustling bars and restaurant options for you to explore, there are also pristine lakes, historic landmarks (be sure to see San Pedro!), and many hiking trails to discover as well.  

#2. For the Nature Lovers 

Bora Bora

Looking to spend most of your time outdoors, soaking up as much time in nature as possible? Then consider a trip to the small island of Bora Bora. Located approximately 160 miles away from Tahiti, Bora Bora is only 6 miles long but full of incredible scenic views, and jaw-dropping beauty. The small island includes tropical jungles, a dormant volcano, warm ocean water on all sides and much more.     

Sydney, Australia 

If you’re located in the U.S., Sydney, Australia requires a full day of flying but it’s absolutely worth it. If your ideal honeymoon includes gorgeous white sand beaches and amazing marine wildlife, this is the place for you. Additionally, the city has a state-of-the-art aquarium, botanical gardens, and the Taronga Zoo to also visit.    

#3. Looking for Total Relaxation?  

Cayman Islands 

If the inside of a spa or the umbrella above your beach chair is the only thing you’re interested in exploring on your honeymoon, we have you covered. Consider a trip to the Cayman Islands and fill your days with exploring the islands many beaches, exquisite spas, and yoga studios. If you feel like being adventurous one day, there are plenty of opportunities to charter a local boat to see the turtles and dolphins who frequent the area.     

Bali, Indonesia 

Bali is an ideal honeymoon spot for couples looking for lowkey fun. From its renowned resorts that overlook the beach, to the beautiful walking trails, there is no shortage of activities to take part in. Bali offers visitors animal sanctuaries to explore, yoga studios, serene beaches and much more, all for a relatively inexpensive cost compared to other international destinations.      

#4. The Ultimate Cultural Experience   

Paris 

If you prefer to use your honeymoon as an opportunity to experience new and exciting cultures, consider a trip to Paris, France. Few things are more romantic than seeing the Eiffel Tower at night or walking the historic cobblestone streets of the city with your significant other. The Luxembourg Gardens are another great place to explore during your trip, as well as the Arc de Triomphe. Between the incredible tourist opportunities and French cuisine, there’s a chance you may never want to return home again.    

Rio de Janeiro Brazil 

Rio de Janeiro may not be the first place that comes to mind when you consider honeymoon destinations, but you’ll want to add it to your list. Known for its gorgeous beaches, incredible scenery and the Carnival celebration, Rio de Janeiro has many landmarks to explore. Brazil is also home to the Maracanã football stadium, one of the largest in the world and a tourist favorite. The spectacular cuisine, outdoor farmer’s markets, and all the bright colorful buildings make for a fun and exciting trip.      

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Tips on Getting a New Passport Before Your Honeymoon

Before you’re able to start packing your suitcases, it’s important that you’ve properly planned for your honeymoon trip. For example, have you considered getting a new passport? If you’re planning on changing your last name immediately after your wedding ceremony, you’ll need to take into account that you’ll be required to get a new passport that reflects your new last name.   

If you’re wondering how to change your name on your passport, don’t worry, getting a new passport and dealing with a passport name change is incredibly simple if you know where to turn to for help. 

1). First, be sure that you’ve left yourself enough time to have your new passport processed before your trip. If your updated passport isn’t ready, you most likely will not be able to travel internationally. Please note, it can take anywhere between a few days up to 6 weeks to receive your new passport. This depends on how quickly you choose to have your passport processed, whether or not you properly submitted your paperwork and required documentation, and if there are any issues during processing.   

2). If you’re worried about the timing of obtaining a new passport in relation to your honeymoon, opt for expedited passport services. This will significantly cut down on the amount of time to takes for you to receive your new passport!  

3). To save yourself time, stress and hassle, consider turning to a professional passport agency. Chances are, after planning your wedding, you’re ready to let someone else handle the details of the passport process.  

The Passport Office specializes in helping people with the passport process, from start to finish. Whether you need a new passport or are trying to navigate the process of a passport name change, we can help. We offer both in-person and online passport services, for your convenience.  

Online, getting a new passport is just three easy steps. You start by filling out an application with several questions. Once submitted, you’ll receive detailed instructions on what to do next. From there, The Passport Office staff will prepare your documents for processing. And that’s it!  

Grab Your New Passport and Explore These Top Honeymoon Destinations This Year

Don’t let the idea of getting a new passport dampen your excitement for an incredible honeymoon trip. By hiring a professional and experienced team to handle the passport process for you, you’ll be able to focus on which destination best suits you and your beau, rather than which travel spot allows you to avoid the passport process.  

If you’re in need of name change services, help with how to change a name on a passport, or getting a new passport, we would love to assist you and your significant other. Begin the process online or schedule an appointment at one of our locations.  

8 New Passport Photo Do’s and Don’ts

When planning an upcoming trip, chances are you have researched the hotel, necessary flights, and travel activities. Have you checked to see if your passport is up to date? If it is time to renew your passport, that could mean a new passport photo, too.  

Most adult’s passport photos are valid for ten years, however, there are some exceptions to this rule. To ensure your passport is ready to go for your next international getaway, find out when you need a new passport photo, as well as eight passport photo do’s and don’ts. Let’s dive in!   

When Do You Need a New Passport Photo? 

There are several reasons to get a new passport photo taken. First, anyone under the age of 16 is required to apply for a child passport. For someone older than 16, here are four factors that may require a new passport photo being taken:  

  1. A significant change in your appearance due to extensive plastic surgery, severe facial trauma or facial deformities.  
  2. A large amount of weight loss. If serious weight loss has affected the appearance of someone’s face or facial structure, they may need to take a new passport photo.  
  3. A gender transition. If an individual has changed their gender from male to female or vice versa which has led to a significant change in their appearance, a new photo is mandatory.    
  4. The addition or removal of extensive facial tattoos. Additional tattoos on a person’s face or the removal of significant facial tattoos often requires a new passport photo.  

If you are unsure if the changes to your appearance constitute a new passport photo, contact the Department of State for further clarification. Next, let’s explore eight common passport photo do’s and don’ts to prepare for your next passport photo session.  

#1. Use Clear Photos Only 

One of the biggest reasons a new passport photo is not accepted is because the photo is not clear. Be sure the photo is in focus, not grainy and is in color. Additionally, check that you are not too far away in the photo and that all of your facial features are seen clearly. Specifically, the bottom of your chin to the top of the head should be between 1 -1 3/8 inches.  

#2. Check Your Photo’s Light Quality  

Another common mistake when it comes to new passport photos is ensuring the picture features adequate lighting. Passport photos cannot include shadows, particularly over a person’s face or head. Furthermore, the picture should not be overexposed, discolored or too bright. Red eyes should also be avoided.   

#3. Keep Your Eyes Open 

Although it may seem obvious, your eyes need to be fully open in your passport photo. For the best results, focus on the person’s nose who is taking your passport photo. This will ensure your eyes are not tilted too far up or down. Unfortunately, if you blink and your eyes close during your photo, you will need to retake it. Additionally, both of your eyes need to be included in your photo, meaning side profile photos are not accepted.  

#4. Your Face Must be Uncovered

Passport photos require that your face is not covered by hats, hair or eyeglasses. As of 2016, eyeglasses can no longer be worn in U.S. passport photos. According to the U.S. State Department, if you are unable to remove your glasses temporarily due to medical reasons, you will need to include a signed note from your doctor with your passport application. Additionally, jewelry that hides your face as well as headphones and other electronic devices are prohibited in passport photos.  

#5. Know the Correct Photo Dimensions 

When submitting a new passport photo, be sure it is the correct dimensions. Photos should be 2 x 2 inches. The picture should be printed on a matte or slightly glossy paper. Ensure that your photo does not have any holes, significant creases or smudges on it, as well. These factors may result in your passport photo being denied.   

#6. Strike the Appropriate Pose 

Unfortunately, selfies are not allowed when it comes to passport photos. It is required that someone else take your photo for you, or you use a tripod and a photo timer. In terms of your facial expression, your face should appear neutral or with a slight smile. As a rule, you should not smile with your teeth in your passport photo. Additionally, you want to ensure your head is centered in the picture frame and not tilted. 

#7. Pick the Right Attire   

Although it is tempting to dress up for your new passport photo, your picture should be taken in your everyday, normal clothing. Uniforms, as well as clothing that resembles a uniform, are not acceptable. Additionally, clothing featuring a camouflage pattern are also prohibited. To ensure you are following the passport photo rules, stick to basic clothing items such as jeans and a t-shirt.  

#8. Learn the Rules for a Child’s Passport 

The passport photo requirements for children and babies differ slightly than the requirements for adults. In an infant’s photo, it’s acceptable if their eyes are not fully open or looking straight forward. However, toddlers and older children are expected to be in the center of the photo, with their eyes facing forward and open.   

In order to take a passport photo for an infant, the U.S. State Department suggests laying the baby on his or her back on a plain white or off-white sheet. If possible, ensure there are no shadows across the baby’s head or face when taking the photo. For additional help, visit the U.S. State Department’s website to see example photos for a child’s passport.   

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Get Travel Ready with a New Passport Photo Today     

Let The Passport Office help you prepare for your next international trip. If you are in need of expedited passport services, passport renewal, a child’s passport or other passport help, look no further. Our team has over 20 years’ experience in the passport industry and offers fast and secure delivery. 

To get started, explore our eight office locations across the U.S., or get started online. We look forward to assisting you with your passport needs.   

Top International Travel Destinations for the Entire Family

Planning your next vacation? Go on an adventure and travel internationally. There are tons of incredible travel destinations outside of the U.S. that are ideal for exploring with your entire family. Whether you are interested in an action-packed trip full of outdoor activities, or prefer a vacation with more relaxing sightseeing, there is an international travel spot that is perfect for every family.  

To get started, check out our helpful tips when booking a family friendly trip. Then, discover seven amazing international travel destinations that are perfect for your family’s next getaway. Start packing today and do not forget to include their child passport.  

Helpful Tips to Successfully Book a Family Trip   

Before we begin, let’s review a few key tips for traveling abroad with children. Booking an international getaway with your entire family has incredible benefits, like allowing your children to experience new cultures and cuisine. However, it also requires a bit more planning than traveling with other adults.  

  1. First and foremost, be sure your children have a current child passport at least six months prior to your trip. In the U.S., a child passport is required for all international travel for children under 16. Consider using a passport services agency to ensure you filed the correct forms and accurately submitted all documents for the child passport process.   
  2. Ensure your children have all the necessary immunizations for international travel. Visit a travel clinic or your child’s primary care doctor approximately 3-6 months before your trip to ensure they have their required vaccinations in enough time. 
  3. Leave yourself ample time to get from one destination to the next during your travels. It is a good idea to assume that it will take longer to get everyone out of the house in the morning when you’re traveling with your children. Additionally, the flight check in process at the airport may take longer as well. Consider padding each leg of your trip with extra time to avoid being stressed or late the day of your trip.  

Remember, if you need help applying for a new child passport, or renewing passports, The Passport Office can help.  

#1. London 

London, England offers something fun for the entire family. If your family is a fan of Harry Potter, you are in luck! Stop and get a photo at Platform 9¾ in Kings Cross station or consider traveling to the Harry Potter studio just outside of London. There are family friendly activities in London such as touring the Tower of London to immerse yourself in English history or visiting the famed Shakespeare Globe Theatre. For additional fun, take a ride on the London Eye for a view of the entire city, or walk the cobble streets of Fournier Street in London’s Spitalfields neighborhood to see beautiful historic houses.   

#2. Montreal

If you are interested in exploring Canada, visiting Montreal is a must! If you are located in the northern United States, traveling across the border by car allows you to avoid renting a car once you arrive. If you opt to drive instead of flying, each family member will still need their adult and child passport handy.   

To discover the city’s rich history, stop in to the Pointe-à-Callière museum. Next, head to Mont-Royal, the mountain in the city’s center. There, you and your family will have the opportunity to hike, bike or even paddle board on the nearby lake. If outdoor adventure is your style, consider visiting Montreal during wintertime to explore the Hôtel de Glace which is an entire hotel made of ice and incredible ice sculptures. A visit to Montreal during colder weather also means your family will be able to take advantage of the many ice-skating rinks throughout the city, including Patinoire du Bassin Bonsecours in Old Montreal.   

#3. Sydney 

Looking for warmer weather? If so, Sydney, Australia is a fantastic tourist destination for your family. Spend a day at one of the many beaches, including Coogee Beach or Shelly Beach, soaking up the sun and admiring the gorgeous ocean views. If marine fun is of interest to your family, a visit to the city’s impressive aquarium is also a wonderful idea. Other fun places to explore include the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Taronga Zoo. Last, the historic Sydney Opera House offers kid-friendly entertainment with shows frequently geared towards children of all ages.      

#4. Barcelona

Barcelona is a beautiful travel destination with lots of options for your entire family to explore. Get a closer look at Gaudi’s artwork by planning a visit to Park Güell or wow your kids with an exciting ride in the city’s cable cars in Montjüic. If your family is a fan of soccer, you will want to check out the Camp Nou stadium, which is the largest stadium in all of Europe and the third largest in the world. For more fun, the city’s L’Aquarium Barcelona boats the largest sea tunnel in Europe, and the Tibidabo Amusement Park offers rollercoasters and other rides for all ages. Barcelona’s close proximity to France also allows you to take a quick trip to the French country while you are there; just be sure to keep your adult and child passports handy during your travels, in case you opt to explore additional countries.   

#5. Bail 

Bali, Indonesia has become one of the hottest tourist destinations over the past several years, for good reason. From its picture-perfect beaches to the year-round warm weather, Bali is an inexpensive travel destination with tons to explore. You can opt for a hotel with a stunning beach view, or a private pool that overlooks the local rice fields. Most hotels in Bali offer help planning tourist activities, such as walking trail adventures, ceramics classes or even fish feeding excursions. If your family includes animal lovers, be sure to make a stop at the Mandala Suci Wenara Wana ‘Monkey Forrest,’ which is a protected sanctuary for the adorable animals.           

#6. Cayman Islands 

Beach vacation, anyone? If spending your vacation snorkeling, walking the beach and catching sunrays sounds like your kind of fun, consider a trip to the Cayman Islands. The largest island in the Caymans is the Grand Cayman Island. This is the most popular island and features sandy beaches that are hot tourist destinations, such as Cemetery Beach and the famous Seven Mile Beach. The teenagers in your family can enjoy some of the best scuba diving spots in the world, and the younger children will love the opportunity to swim with the island’s giant turtles. If you grow tired of time at the beach, stop into the island’s museum or take a pirate cruise!  

#7. Paris

In addition to beautiful family picture opportunities at the Eiffel Tower, Paris also offers more fun activities for the entire family. Consider touring the Arc de Triomphe or the Catacombs located underneath the city for a look at Paris’ incredible architecture. If the weather is nice plan to explore the Luxembourg Gardens, where musical performances and theater shows are often happening. If your kids are craving more adventure, by Disneyland Paris where they can burn off some major energy on amusement rides. If you are feeling extra adventurous, consider taking a quick flight to Belgium or Switzerland while you’re in Paris. Take full advantage of your child passport’s during your vacation as they are only valid for five years at a time.    

Start Planning the Ultimate Family Friendly Trip   

Traveling internationally with your family is exciting but comes with its own set of challenges to consider. Preparing for a trip can be overwhelming but the passport process does not have to be. Do not let applying for a child passport discourage you from booking a memorable vacation. 

For years, The Passport Office helps American families with their passport needs. If you are planning an upcoming family trip and need assistance applying for or renewing a child passport, we seamlessly navigate the process.  

Begin the process for a child passport online or schedule an appointment at one of our convenient office locations instead.