People who travel internationally are generally among the savviest travelers. But they can still make mistakes — and some of the most common ones involve passports.
Here are eight of the worst:
1. Forgetting that Canada and Mexico are indeed foreign countries. During decades of working in the travel industry, I’ve almost never had clients leave their passports home when traveling to Europe, Africa, Asia, etc. But I’ve lost track of those who forget them when they’re crossing the border into Canada or Mexico.
To be fair, although it’s now been almost seven years since the requirements were instituted, travel to Canada and Mexico didn’t used to require passports. And it’s not open for discussion. One CEO client, who shall remain nameless, realized that he had left his passport at home on a day he planned to go right to the airport after work for a Canadian ski trip. He decided he could talk his way through it. He was wrong. But Air Canada did rebook him for free the next morning.
2. Forgetting that children’s passports last only five years — not ten. I worked with a family on an Alaskan cruise who told me they checked and all their passports were valid. The father had checked his passport, remembering that the family had gotten them all at the same time, more than five years prior.
Fortunately, his wife noticed the problem while packing the week before, and while it took a day spent in downtown Los Angeles and a rush fee, they were able to get their son a new passport in time for the cruise.
3. Not always keeping the passport in a regular place at home. I try to always return my passport to the same drawer every time I take it out for any reason. A friend told me the story of her well-traveled brother who couldn’t find his passport anywhere. “He took apart his luggage, his valise, his coat, everything. He had to get a new passport. Once he got a new passport, he went to his printer to copy it … and found his old passport inside!”
4. Forgetting your passport in a hotel room safe. Even if you’re sure you won’t get in a rush at the last minute, it’s not a bad idea to set up some sort of reminder, such as an alarm on your phone, to make sure you leave with your passport — and whatever else you’ve put in the safe.
For “safe,” also substitute any “safe” place you might put your passport in a hotel room. My husband once took his passport out of his backpack so he’d have it easily accessible for his early morning flight. And he only realized in the cab that it was still on the bureau. (Fortunately, the hotel was able to send another cab with the passport.)
5. Running out of pages. Some countries require blank pages to stamp entry visas. South Africa requires two blank pages. Period. It is no longer possible to have additional pages added to a passport either, so if you’re running low, you may need to get a new passport even when yours is still valid. Yes, it’s time-consuming and expensive when you just need more pages. And, no, the government doesn’t care.