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Travel Tuesday: Tips for Applying for a US Passport for Your Child

We are so dang excited for our upcoming trip to Kenya with the kids.  While Explorateur Journeys took care of the itinerary planning for us, there are still a lot of details to consider while planning a big international trip.  With all the travel that we have done, the hubs and I have gotten pretty good at planning, but the game changed for us once we decided to bring the two littles along.  As a way to help inspire other families like us to see the world with their young kids, I want to bring you along with us during our planning process (which I refer to as "the journey to the journey").  This starts with today's post on obtaining passports for the kids.  Please note: I am not a passport expert; I am just sharing my advice as a citizen that has recently gone through the process of applying for passports for my children. 

Grayson's passport expired last year, since minors' passports are only good for five years (he only had one stamp in his first one - Canada), and Sawyer had never had one.  So we had to start fresh, with photos and everything.  Here are some tips based on what we had to consider for applying for US passports for the boys.

It is important that you plan for passports as early as possible before your trip.  Not just because they can take up to eight weeks to arrive (and yes, there are options for quicker turnaround if you are willing to spend the money), but because the length of time your passport is valid (and conversely, the amount of time before expiration) matters depending on where you are visiting.  Some countries require your passport to have been valid for at least six months, or require that your passport's expiration date be no less than six months from the start of your trip.  Kenya is one of these countries, so it is a good thing we planned ahead!  This is a helpful article if you would like to know more.

You should make yourself aware of the passport photo requirements and guidelines before submitting your application.  The full list of requirements is here on the US Department of State website.  In general, you need to be able to see your entire face in a straight (not angled) shot.  Your hair should not cover your face, and ideally, your ears should also be visible. 

If taking the photo yourself, note that you will need a plain white background.  If you want to avoid any chance that you aren't doing it right, you can get professional passport photos taken at Wal-Mart or Costco for a reasonable price.
Sawyer was excited to take his passport photo at our local Wal-Mart in his favorite Captain America t-shirt...
...But in true Sawyer fashion, when he realized he was being photographed, he changed his expression to his signature "mad dog" look.
The resulting passport photo was so classically Sawyer.

Before going to apply for a US passport for a minor, you should familiarize yourself with the process and the requirements.  To do this, visit the Department of State's web page Passports for Minors Under 16.  It is key to note that whether the minor has had a passport before or not, the application must be submitted in-person (with the minor present).  Furthermore, both of the child's parents/guardians must be present at the time of the application, along with photo ID and proof of parental relationship.  If both parents can not be present, a separate parental consent form must also accompany the application.

I also recommend bringing your checkbook when you apply.  One or both fees (there are separate application and execution fees) may only be accepted via check. 

Make it Fun!
As one way to get our boys excited about receiving their new passports, we got them fun passport booklet covers.  We chose covers with their favorite Avengers characters from Etsy.  G got Iron Man, and S got Captain America:

Next week I will share more about the luggage we chose for them for their travels.  Stay tuned for more from our journey to the journey!

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