On a cruise – do I need a passport?

Have you booked a cruise? If it is your first time, you may wonder exactly what it all entails. It is essential to have the proper documentation while traveling. Not having the best form of identification can cause unnecessary and stressful challenges. Now is the best time to get all your paperwork in proper order.

Reliable and trusted identification

In many cases, a passport is not strictly required for cruise travel. However, cruise lines highly prefer passport identification as it is the highest and most well-regarded form of personal identification. There are many types of personal identification, yet many of them are easily forged, thus considered wholly unreliable. Why not go up to the absolute highest standard and obtain a passport? This is the wisest course of action as the passport has many uses and you will be relieved that you have it many times over.

Representing yourself in the best way

Passports are issued by governments and normally contain nationality, age, place of birth and expiration date. One of the principal elements of a passport is a clear, attractive passport photo that showcases the best of you. It is quite essential to select the proper place to get your passport photo taken. You will be living with this photo for a long while and want it to represent you clearly and attractively.

Make sure your hairstyle is complementary to your makeup, if you use it. You may also wish to wear a shirt with a collar or a special design at the top, as long as it is not too distracting, as in the case of a wild print. Some people prefer to wear a solid color.

It is fine to either have a serious expression or a smile for the passport photo and it is up to your discretion: see https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/photos/photos.html for exact passport requirements.

While having a passport on a cruise is not always necessary, it is vital to carry the best form of identification possible, and that is certainly the passport. Immaculate passport photos are an essential element to passport presentation. Be certain to obtain passport photos of only the very highest standard, and your passport will be your very best form of personal identification for years to come.

Important milestones for international travel

If you’re traveling abroad, especially if it’s for the first time, there are a few things you need to remember to get done ahead of time. Here are some important milestones you should keep track of to have a smooth and easy international trip:

Six weeks before you leave (or more): apply for a passport

Six weeks is the amount of time required to process a passport with routine service, but if you pay extra for expedited service, you can shorten the time to three weeks. Just make sure you’ve taken appropriate passport photos that are up to US regulations. You can easily take your passport pictures on this website and add them to your passport application.

Four weeks before you leave: make an appointment with your health care provider

If you need to get any vaccinations for the country that you’re visiting, this will give you enough time to complete any vaccine series and to let your body build up an immunity to the disease. You should also ask your doctor for prescriptions for any other medications you may need while traveling.

Three weeks before you leave: Call your bank and your wireless provider to let them know about your travel plans

If you’re using your credit card abroad, this may trigger your bank to suspend service in case of identity theft, so if they know where you’re going to be, you can prevent this from happening. As for your wireless provider, they may have international service options in place, so you can decide what’s the best plan for you, rather than getting charged exorbitant international fees for data usage.

Two weeks before you leave: Register with the American Embassy in the country you’re visiting

If you have any problems while traveling, you’ll be a lot safer if your government knows where you are and how to contact you.

One week before you leave: check the weather at your destination, and adjust your packing appropriately

You should read about general weather conditions when you’re planning your trip, but it’s important to get up-to-date information as you get closer to your departure date.

How to enjoy stress-free family travel

For families with young children and babies, traveling can be an incredibly stressful process; no matter how much you’re looking forward to a relaxing vacation, you’re no doubt dreading the juggling of passports, luggage and little ones. The best way to minimize stress is to be very organized and plan, plan, plan, so check out our handy family travel to-do list to keep on top of things.

12 weeks before travel: take passport photos

It can be tricky to get a good child passport photo that passes all regulations, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get the right shot. You can submit your passport pictures to us at Paspic and our innovative technology will tell you if they’re likely to be approved. If they’re in good shape, you can have them printed and delivered straight to your door.

10 weeks before travel: submit passport application

It takes around six weeks for passport applications to be processed but during busy periods it can take longer, so be sure to get yours in within plenty of time – we recommend around eight to 10 weeks before you travel.

6 weeks before travel: plan your packing checklist

This may seem a little early, but by planning what you’ll need to pack now, you can ensure that you purchase any missing essentials well before you actually start to pack. Consider clothes, sunscreen, medications, first aid supplies, electronics and even things such as snacks, toys or games to help keep the kids occupied on long journeys.

2 – 4 weeks before travel: confirm travel arrangements

Many travel agencies will require the payment of any remaining balances around one month before your vacation, so this is a great opportunity to double check all your travel arrangements and itineraries, submit any forms and documents to them and provide emergency contact information if necessary.

1 week before travel: start packing

If you planned well ahead, you should have everything you need to hand in order to make packing a breeze! We recommend getting the majority of your belongings packed up to a week before and having a list of last minute items such as phone chargers that you’ll be using right up until the day of travel. Decide what will be in your main luggage and what you’ll need in hand luggage, such as passports, travel documents, cellphone, wallet, and keys.

Vacation day

The big day has finally arrived, and all you need to do is throw those last few essentials into your suitcase, gather up your hand luggage and be on your way, feeling as relaxed and in control as possible!

7 things you don’t need or want for a baby passport photo

Baby passport photos might be the single hardest passport photos to obtain. Why? Because all the same rules apply, but a baby is hardly as capable of lining up for a simple picture. Here are a few things that will just get in the way or prove counterproductive to your endeavor:

1. A helping hand

If any part of any other person shows up in a passport photo, that photo isn’t valid. That means you can’t be in your baby photo – not a shoulder, not a hand, not an anything. You need to figure out a way to get that perfect photo without catching a glimpse of anyone else involved in the process. So you can have a helping hand – but you can’t have it in the picture.

2. A prop

It might be hard to get your baby the right distance or angle away, but don’t let that lead you to props and other supports; those aren’t allowed in the picture either. If you can manage to work something out that doesn’t show in the photo, you’re golden, but if it’s at all visible you’re back to square one.

3. A pacifier

It might help keep your child content and neutral-faced, but that doesn’t help when it obscures so much of his or her features. Lose it, or your photos won’t clear inspection, no matter how much else you get right. The same goes for other toys and tools.

4. The camera on your phone

You need a clear, properly focused, well-lit photo. Your camera phone almost certainly isn’t going to cut it.

5. Hats, hoods, and other headgear

Anything that might obscure the face of your baby should be removed, barring daily-wear items mandated by religious or health needs.

6. Distractions or noises

If your baby isn’t looking at the camera, or they’re making a face because of something they saw or heard, their photo probably isn’t going to make it through inspection. A quiet area you can control works best.

7. Poor lighting

Bad lighting can just as easily invalidate your baby passport photo as anything else on this list, yet many parents forget the issue entirely; they get tired of trying to catch the perfect photo, and grab one when an opportunity strikes – without setting up lighting first.

Photo: Day time nap by Fimb licensed under Creative commons 2

The fascinating history of the passport

When someone needs to travel, they just reach out for their passport and head to the nearest airport. What many people do not know is that the passport is only around 100 years old. Before the Germans introduced the modern day passport bearing a picture in 1915, people used to travel to other countries using a simple document that had a description of the owner.

Just before the current passport was adopted, there was an attempt to include more personal details in the travel document. The early version of the passport included the name of the traveler, a brief mention of their size (tall, short, small, etc.) and hair color. The document also described their face and any other recognizable mark, such as a missing finger or a scar.

The British had their distinct version of a passport in the form of a note that a traveler carried around. The typical note read something like “John Smith, a British subject, on a mission to travel around the continent”.

The launch of the German passport in the year 1915 necessitated the use of a passport picture for easy identification. The earliest passport photos did not have a standard size, so one could use any photo of their choice. As long as the picture could fit within the document, it was acceptable. People took passport photos leaning on their favorite horses or while playing the guitar. In those days, hats were accepted on the pictures, meaning people wore their fanciest hats on the passport images.

The rule that one had to show their full face without a hat came into effect in 1926. At around the same time, the UK specified the size of a passport photograph. Colored images gradually made their way into passports from the early 1940s. As more people started using air travel, governments saw the need to improve their passports. From around the 1960s, the US government asked people not to smile on their passport pictures. Minors traveling with their parents were also required to take a child passport photo.

Today, the passport has undergone a major transformation. People now use digital images, and passports have more security features. The current passport is more compact yet has more information than its predecessors. We can only wait and watch to see the new direction this valuable travel document will take.

Situations where you’ll need to change your passport photo

When applying for a passport, you are required to submit a picture that meets the standards set by the Department of State. If you are over 16 years old at the time of application, you are issued with a passport that is valid for 10 years.

If an individual is less than 15 years old during the application and uses a child passport photo, they ought to have their passport renewed every five years until they are over 16 years old. As an adult, you will be obligated to present new passport pictures that are less than six months old during renewal.

Although you do not have to replace the passport picture on your passport until you have to renew it, some circumstances require you to change the photograph. According to the US Department of State, you need to get new passport photos if your appearance has changed drastically since you acquired the passport.

Some of the changes include:

If you have made a gender transition

When someone has a sex change, they take hormonal medication that alters their facial appearance. Anyone that has undergone gender transition should visit the passport office to update their passport photos and personal details.

Facial surgery

When someone undergoes a radical facial surgery, it extensively alters their appearance. Such people are supposed to visit the passport office in the Department of State to change their passport pictures.

Introduction or removal of prominent marks on their face

If you had a plain face when applying for the passport and you choose to have a facial tattoo a few years down the line, you will be required to change the picture on the passport. The same case applies to someone that has facial piercings that have either been introduced or surgically removed.

Drastic gain or loss of weight

If you add or lose a lot of weight that alters your appearance, you will have to visit the nearest passport office for a change of photo.

If you take note of the above points, you will not be detained at the airport the next time you choose to travel.

4 common mistakes that will get your passport photo rejected

A passport photo serves as your introduction to the world. When you reach the immigration desk at any airport, the first thing you have to do is present your passport. The officer usually takes a look at the photo on the passport before looking at you to verify your identity. For this reason, you need to have a clear picture. Although passport photo sizes vary around the world, the common denominator is that the image should represent the passport holder without any room for doubt.

When applying for a US passport, you are supposed to present your photograph to the Passport Services within the Bureau of Consular Services. If the picture that you present alongside the application does not meet the set standards, it will delay the issuance of this vital document. You will be asked to send another picture that is acceptable. The delay may end up costing you a crucial opportunity, especially if you need to be somewhere at a specific date.

The following are some of the reasons that can cause the rejection of passport photos:

1. Insufficient light exposure

When taking a picture at home, you need all the help you can get to ensure that it meets the high standards expected. The type and amount of lighting you use will impact on the final image. You can use our passport photo guidelines to assist you in taking acceptable copies since pictures with shadows will be rejected.

2. Colorful background

Whether you are taking a child passport photo or one for an adult, the background needs to be plain. If you use a setting with pictures or patterns, it will be rejected.

3. Facial expressions

Many people do not know that smiling on a passport picture is not allowed. You should have a neutral expression when posing for the photo. Also, you must face the camera directly. Any tilting that distorts your face is not acceptable.

4. Wearing dark glasses

In case you wear prescription glasses, only clear lenses are allowed. The person looking at your photograph must see your eyes through the glasses. If the glasses are too dark, the picture will not be accepted.

If you avoid the above photograph mistakes, your passport application will be a smooth affair.

Photo: rejected by Sean MacEntee licensed under Creative commons 2