File this under: helpful info.
You can take away the luggage, cameras and bathing suits – but no traveler is complete without a working passport. In fact, the world is almost entirely limited without one. Needless to say: my face turned to one of horror on a recent trip to Switzerland, when immigration informed me I was out of passport pages. As a young traveler, I could hardly imagine a day filling up every single page, I yearned for it. But suddenly, it became the only thing from allowing me to explore the world.
I’m an American citizen holding a US Passport. As a travel journalist, I’m never home for long. And on this occasion, I was making my way from Switzerland to the UK. I’m currently in the UK and will be traveling extensively in Europe before returning to the US. But I’m out of pages, and countries can refuse entry if appropriate stamp and visa space isn’t provided. Some countries even require two full blank pages. U.S. Citizens have their passports stamped at European borders, and this could’ve quickly escalate into a no travel situation.
First thought: panic. Should I… fly to New York and try to get a passport issued quickly? Should I pay an expediting company to get one in 48 hours? Should I try the US Embassy in London. For future reference: New York was a viable, albeit expensive option. Using an expediting service was not. These services don’t ship internationally, so far too many risks would need to be taken to fulfill a timely delivery. The US Embassy in London remarks of a 3 week turnaround time for US passport renewals, which was not enough time. But looking closer at the website, they mention it’s worth making an appointment, if imminent travel exists.
I made an appointment at the US Embassy in London. On first attempt, no appointments were available for a month. But I followed advice to check back frequently. An hour later, there had been a cancellation for an appointment the very next day. I arrived at the embassy with all the forms filled out for a passport renewal, my current (full passport) and new 2”x2” photo. After a very swift, minimal wait, I explained my imminent travel to a US Embassy representative. She suggested an emergency passport may be best. The turnaround? 15 minutes! The US Embassy in London was absolutely brilliant. I received a new temporary one year passport in 15 minutes, and when I have a break in my travels of 3 weeks or more, I can receive a full 10 year passport at no additional cost.
If your passport is lost or out of pages, don’t panic. It’s always wise to store a photocopy of your passport somewhere secure, in case you ever need it for reference. Consult a State Department website for your country, to track down the nearest embassy or citizen center to your location. Whatever you do – don’t hesitate. The sooner you address your issues the sooner you’ll have an acceptable solution. In my case, I was able to save hundreds of dollars by using an embassy rather than flying to New York, or using an expeditor costing at least $700.