Your foreign trip looms, and you have everything under control.
That’s what I thought. We had renewed passports within the last six or seven years, and passports are good for 10 years.
The day before departure I opened the passports for my wife and me and our 13-year-old daughter. First one, fine. Second one, fine. My daughter’s had expired the week before.
How could this be? Because, as the State Department’s passport page reminded me, for anyone younger than age 16, they’re good for only five years.
Did I mention the reason for the trip? My daughter would be joining seven teammates to compete in an international dance contest in Scotland. If she failed to show, this would not just be our problem.
I write about travel for a living. In this story, I am the cobbler with the shoeless child.
After a few minutes of stunned silence, I called the U.S. Passport Agency. The Western regional office (open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays) processes expedited requests for $60 extra on top of the usual $110 passport book renewal fee for an adult. For children younger than age 16, the application fee is $80, plus a $35 execution or acceptance fee, plus the expedited request charge of $60.
In moderately urgent cases (departure in three weeks), you can make an appointment by phone. In extreme cases, if you can pull together the proper identification and proper photo, you can show up at the office, stand in line and throw yourselves at their mercy.
If your problem is like mine — involving a child younger than age 16 — the child needs to be present as do both parents.
It was already after 10 a.m. the day before our trip. The fast part of the process was calling Grace’s school, pulling her out early and racing across the street to the drug store to get a passport photo.
By a few minutes after noon, the three of us were in a car, racing to the passport office.
The passport people called my number about 3:30 p.m. (half an hour after they had stopped processing new requests for the day), then handed over a little rectangular miracle with a dark blue cover: a renewed passport, made from scratch in three hours.
We made our flight the next day. Our trip was saved. The dance team placed sixth in the world.