Yes, that’s right. I am encouraging you to lie to them. For their own good. As I write this, it is mid-April and our trip is in June, less than 2 months away. And one of my kids is still waiting on her passport. She applied in January, US State Department received it the first week of February. And she’s still waiting.

Another student, who doesn’t check email regularly, is late on her final payment, due 10 days ago.

I cannot stress enough how much it is important for your travel agency/tour company to receive the documents they need on the timeline they set forth. Some of our plans in Spain are on hold waiting on this one passport.

New rule on my trips: All passports are due by Jan. 31, which means you must apply by November. This trip isn’t a surprise to anyone. Enrollments are always due in mid-late September, and many enroll early in the spring before that. The only reason someone would have for not applying sooner is if they’re about to turn 16. And I would make an exception for a student who will turn 16 in November or December, IF they expedite the passport.

Why 16?

Because passports for those under 16 are valid only for 5 years, so it is more cost-effective to wait and apply for an adult passport that is valid for 10 years, even with the fee for expedited service.

Another concern about under 16:

Parental Consent. For those under the age of 16, typically BOTH parents must authorize the issuance of the passport, and this is easiest done if both go in person with the student to apply. If there is only one parent listed on the birth certificate, then that one person can appear with the child. If there is no second parent due to death, divorce, etc., evidence of this must be brought when applying. There are ways to accommodate situations like an incarcerated parent who cannot appear (this happened to a colleague, on very short notice), but those exceptions take time to work out. The sooner this happens the better. For those who are 16-17, the requirement is simply that they prove that at least one parent is aware that they’re applying for the passport by appearing in person with their child or signing a note and sending a photocopy of their ID.

So, from now on, I’m going to LIE to my students. The deadlines from our tour company will live in my head, and for the students and families, I will be giving them dates for payments a week earlier than they are actually due, and passports about a month. Hopefully this wiggle room is enough.

For details on the passport rules and other FAQs, visit

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