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Passport & Visa Problems and how to avoid them

Ruining Your Trip: Passport & Visa Issues, Taking Children out of the Country & Other Possible Mishaps


How often do we say, “what could possibly go wrong?”

Few things are simpler to remember than your passport when you are preparing for your trip

Well that is pretty obvious, right? Wrong!

It happens more than you would think, and can absolutely ruin your travel plans. One of the worst trip-killers is when someone forgets or mis-places their passport and their vacation becomes a stay-cation because they are denied boarding at an airport or cruise terminal. Or, they fail to get permission to take their minor children or grandchildren with them and the trip ends before it begins.  And there are some other pitfalls to avoid as well.

Of course, the first thing is to apply for a passport in time to receive it….we suggest you get one now even if you don’t have any travel plans in the near future.  Depending upon the country, they are good for quite a few years, and if you have a sudden opportunity to travel out of your home country, then that is one less thing you have to worry about.

Here are just a few examples of passport problems submitted to us:


Example #1 Grabbed the wrong passport.

In my hurry to leave the house I reached in the desk drawer, grabbed my passport and headed to the airport. Unfortunately I grabbed my old (expired) passport and not my new one. Got to the airport and was not allowed to take my flight. Had to run home, get the new passport and by now I had missed my flight. Since I was traveling with a group I had to buy a new ticket and catch up to them at the hotel in Lourdes. This meant getting from the airport to the hotel in Lourdes on my own as well, so it added a lot to the cost of my trip…..not to mention the stress!

Example #2 Forgot to get parent’s permission

Ok, so you brought your current passport and also that of your kids or grand-kids. You’re not off the hook yet. If you are the grandparents taking your grand-kids, then you must have a letter from the parents authorizing you to take them out of the country. And if you are a parent traveling alone with the kids (eg, married but without your spouse, widowed, divorced, etc.) and taking your kids then you will need a letter from the other parent. Obviously if you are widowed this is not possible, so you may even want to bring a copy of your spouse’s death certificate. All this sounds like a lot of work and not very pleasant but it really is best to be prepared. This is taken very seriously by airlines and cruise lines so don’t even think about trying to avoid it. It won’t work.

One person reported: Our cruise almost ended before it began because I forgot to get my ex-husband’s permission for my new husband and I to take the kids on the cruise. Fortunately my ex was available (and cooperative) so we were able to contact him and he faxed a letter of permission—fifteen minutes before they closed off the boarding process!

Example #3 Packed my passport in my suitcase

We try to stress the importance of keeping your passport in your possession (see #5 below as well). Here is why:

After checking in our luggage and getting our boarding passes for the cruise, I thought everything was fine. Then, when we got ready to board they asked for my passport. I realized that when checking our luggage I had mistakenly stuck my passport in my bags. The cruise line had to manually search through maybe 5,000 bags to find my suitcase and retrieve my passport. They found it just in the nick of time—cruise ships don’t wait for you! Needless to say, it was an anxious way to start our cruise.

Example #4  Passenger could not get back to the U.S…no green card

A passenger from the U.S.  was a Mexican national but was a legal resident of the U.S.  As a legal resident of the U.S. she had a “green card” that showed that she was, indeed, a legal resident  So she did not need a U.S. passport and brought her Mexican passport, which was fine, but not her green card.

The tour operator had told her to be sure to bring her green card with her, some well-meaning friends convinced her not to, fearing she might lose it. All went well entering France (all she needed was her Mexican passport) but when it came time to return to the U.S. the airline would not allow her to board. Without that green card she would have been denied entrance to the U.S. and the airline would be fined for allowing her to board.

She had to stay behind in Paris at her own expense while her son went to her house, got the green card, sent it Federal Express to her in Paris and then she had to re-book her flight (and pay a hefty change fee to boot).

Moral…..take an expert’s advice over your well-meaning friends’ advice.

Example #5 Let her spouse keep her passport

We always recommend you to keep your passport on your person and not let others carry it for you.  I am sure if you are going with an organized group they will tell you the same thing.  But, in the hustle and bustle of traveling, these instructions don’t seem very important.  After all, if you are traveling together, what could go wrong?  Well, as it turns out, that is OK probably 98% of the time, but you don’t want to be in that 2%.    Here is what one agent shared with us:

A lady was traveling  from the U.S. to Split, Croatia on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.  The group was flying on Air France from the U.S. and would change planes in Paris for the Croatia Airlines flight to Split.  On the overnight flight the woman got confused as to time and accidentally took too much of her medication.  Not fatally, then goodness, but enough to knock her out.  When she landed at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, they could not wake her up, so the paramedics came and took her to the infirmary at the airport. She finally recovered after a few hours (by now the rest of the group had gone on, and since her husband only had a transit visa he had to go on ahead as well).  So now that she had recovered the real problem arose……….she had no passport!

She would not be allowed to travel without it, so she had to spend the night until it could be arranged for her husband to send the passport back to her from Medjugorje (not an easy task, either).  Then she had to make her own flight arrangements to Split and take a taxi to her final destination.  Not only did she have the extra expense but she lost part of her time in Medjugorje. Not a good way to start her pilgrimage.

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Guidebooks aren’t dead–and why you should consider using one

The importance of Guidebooks

It was recently revealed that the venerable “Frommer’s” travel guides were purchased by Google and soon thereafter it was announced that they would discontinue publishing the travel guides in book form.

In the age of the internet, many people get their information from websites such as ours.  That is a good thing since there is such a wide range of sites out there, but we caution against relying on websites alone (even this one).

For starters, guide books are a great planning tool before you set out on your travels.  The better ones are generally written from first-hand experience.  And they often go in to more detail than general travel websites.

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An Unexpected Blessing: My trip to Jordan

A week ago, Diana von Glahn of The Faithful Traveler contacted me. She wanted to know if I was interested in traveling to Jordan with other members of the press. She would pass my contact information along to key organizers of a Jordan Religious Press Tour if I was interested.

Are you kidding me? Of course I said yes.

Within one week, I had filled out the application and received word that I was chosen to go to Jordan and visit key sites from April 9 to April 19. Next month.

And I had been lamenting that I would have to wait until August for the Catholic Press Association pilgrimage to Poland before I would be making my next trip! But God has a way of filling our cup to overflowing and taking us places we never dreamed we would be able to go. Abraham learned that late in life. So did Moses. And now, at fifty, I am feeling the call to go … to meet my Lord in many places.

So, April is Jordan–Eastern Holy Land.

August, Poland–Sts. Faustina, John Paul II, & Maximilian Kolbe

November, Israel & Bethlehem–Holy Land.

December, Mexico–Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Have I mentioned lately that I love pilgrimages, and travel writing about places of faith is right up there at the top of my “favorite things” list? I can stay up until two in the morning writing while on pilgrimage (which I do almost every night) and still get up for a six o’clock wake-up and a day of prayer at holy places. That’s grace. At home, I need a solid eight-hour night.

Well, the official itinerary arrived just a few days after I submitted the application. I eagerly read through each day’s events.

By day four, I had to stop reading. I was overwhelmed by the gift that was unfolding before my eyes:

Bethany Beyond the Jordan: considered to be the actual site of the Baptism of Jesus
Bethany Beyond the Jordan: considered to be the actual site of the Baptism of Jesus

Leave Amman behind to travel south toward the wilderness on the eastern banks of the River Jordan known as Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan. According to the Bible, it was here that the prophet Elijah ascended to heaven on a chariot of fire, and where John the Baptist came centuries later preaching and baptizing in the spirit of Elijah“.

Pope John Paul II overlooking Mount Nebo (photo courtesy the Wall Street Journey)
Pope John Paul II overlooking Mount Nebo (photo courtesy the Wall Street Journal)

Then, drive a short distance to Mount Nebo, where the Bible says Moses climbed after his long Exodus journey to see the land he would never enter, and where he was buried nearby by God himself.”

I slipped out of my chair and knelt beside my office desk. My heart was full, and prayers of gratitude seemed the only appropriate response.

I have been working out to meet the physical demands of making pilgrimages. I have increased the incline of the treadmill when I work out, setting the incline as steep as I can handle because the itinerary says we will have the opportunity to climb Mount Nebo, if we feel we can handle the hike up the mountain.

I’m going to do it. So it is time to get into even better shape.

Through words, I will take you back to those moments in salvation history.

I’m going to Jordan.

You come, too.


Denise Bossert:

Denise is a convert to the Catholic Church. She is the daughteDenise Bossertr of a Protestant minister. In 2005, she converted to Catholicism after reading books by Carmelite saints. Her syndicated column called Catholic by Grace has been published in 63 diocesan newspapers. She has also written for Catholic magazines and appeared on EWTN’s Journey Home and Women of Grace. She is a Catholic travel writer and pilgrimage leader with Select International Tours and Cruises. Her first book is entitled Gifts of the Visitation and explores the Blessed Mother’s journey from Nazareth to Ein Kerem where she remained with St. Elizabeth for three months prior to the birth of St. John the Baptist. Website: denisebossert.com

Denise Bossert, Catholic columnist & author



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Travel reviews: Real or Fake?

One of the criticisms of travel review websites is that they can be manipulated by people to either build up their own reputation or tear down the reputation of a competitor.  We are sure that most of these websites do their best to avoid this happening since their reputation (and their income) derives from people trusting that the information provided on their site is honest and accurate.

Still, they can be manipulated.  We want to pass on an article written by Arthur Frommer, the venerable travel guide publisher about a restaurant that got great reviews for a period of several months on a major travel review website despite the fact that it did not exist.  

So by all means visit those travel review websites.  They will give you a general idea if an attraction, restaurant or tour company is reliable….just don’t use that as your only resource.  Do some additional research.  

This is why we offer tips on how to choose a Catholic tour company, ways to check on a company’s reputation and how to evaluate an itinerary on our main website.  It will help greatly if you can make an informed decision based on solid information from more than one source.

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Mother’s Day Mass from the Lourdes Grotto in San Antonio, Texas


Click here to view the video  Mass from the Oblate Grotto in San Antonio, Texas.  This replica of the Lourdes grotto is one of the most visited places for Catholics in the state of Texas.

For more information about the shrine click here to go to our webpage on the Catholic Travel Guide website.  It is open daily to visitors from all over, but is also a place of worship for locals as well.

In the video you will see Catholic artist Tobin Pilotte with his wife and six beautiful children taking up the gifts.  Isn’t it refreshing to see young Catholics bringing more than 1.6 children in to the world?  One of the tenets of our Faith is that children are a gift from God, not an economic and ecological burden.

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Is it safe to travel there right now?


What a question….sound familiar?   How often have you heard this comment after excitedly announcing your decision to travel to a certain destination?  It seems that as soon as you make plans to visit somewhere then things start to happen: a bombing, an earthquake, or the local populace going on strike.  And of course the media is all over whatever sensational news there might be. That’s how they make their living!

 Well, having been in that position more than once, here is how the conversation usually goes:

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The Way of Saint James

How often do you stop and reflect? In the rush of a fast-paced society, how frequently does a word or phrase slacken your pace, or perhaps even bring you to a full halt? Every day, I work on improving the experience of pilgrims traveling The Way of St. James. I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I’ve spoken the name of this historic route over the last few months. But this morning, as I read over route details for the hundredth time, perusing hotel schedules, tour guides, and trip agendas, a thought occurred to me that ground my day to an unexpected halt. I realized, rather suddenly, that I knew virtually nothing about St. James!

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Travel gets in your blood

Watching some movies tends to bring out the travel bug in many of us.  Older movies such as “the Sound of Music”, or newer ones as well, or perhaps the popular “Rick Steve’s Europe” series.  You are on this blog for one of two reasons, either you like to travel or you are interested in visiting some particular shrine or discovering more about Catholic culture in other places.  Probably it is both.

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Walking the Camino Santiago–the Way of Saint James

If you have spent even a small amount of time studying the basics of church history, you know that the twelve apostles covered a rather expansive amount of ground following the initial wave of persecution in 62 AD. Before the last of the apostles (John) died in AD 100, the Gospel had been spread through most of the Roman Empire and even beyond into the outlying people groups.

The routes taken were numerous and the miles walked incredible. Paul, by himself, covered hundreds of miles during his three primary missionary journeys. Thomas was confirmed to have gone as far as India and rumored to have preached in China. While the lines between what is confirmed and what is rumored tend to blur when looking into the apostles’ journeys, today we have the opportunity to walk some of the paths that our forerunners traveled and experience glimpses of the annointings they carried.

As we all already know, it starts in Jerusalem. If you only make one religious themed trip in your lifetime, make Israel, and more specifically Jerusalem, your destination. The apostles were some of the greatest men of God to ever live, but nothing beats walking where Jesus walked, standing where He preached, and praying where He prayed. Like any pilgrimage, it’s an experience you cannot describe, but it is more real than anything you’ve ever experienced. After you’ve explored Jerusalem, a great next step is to follow one of the routes that Paul took up through Eurasia, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to traveling a uniquely beautiful area of the world, you will encounter awe-inspiring Cathedrals, exquisite cultures, and numerous historical sites that will provide contextual learning opportunities concerning the early church.

The next option, and probably the easiest to follow, is El Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St. James. For those unfamiliar with this route, it is actually the most popular pilgrimage in all of Europe. Almost 300,000 travelers embark on some portion of El Camino’s astounding 500 miles of well-marked path. Unlike a piecemeal adventure along the northern border of the Mediterranean, this route is easy to follow and offers a unique social, and subsequently spiritual, experience. The journey ends in the historic town of Santiago de Compostela and the tomb of St. James. The route’s accessibility and ease of travel, particularly on the more frequented 100 mile home-stretch, has resulted in travelers from every age group, religion, and ethnicity finding their way here.

For those looking to spread God’s love and the Good News, this route is a fantastic ministry opportunity. Most travelers come with open minds, looking to broaden their understandings and tap into the spiritual world, and you will have no problem connecting with them on a deeper level than you will experience elsewhere. And for those simply looking to grow inwardly, taking  is a safe bet.

The paths are many, although often hard to find. While we should never focus on the past at the expense of the present, it is my personal opinion that we should always be looking to tap into the rich things that have been passed down to us by those who ran the race well. If we want history to remember our faith, it might just help us to walk the paths of those whose faith history already remembers.

Author Bio:  Tiffany Olson loves all things spiritual and travel. She works at a small web firm where her primary duty is to help inform that public on a wide range of interesting topics including all of the wonders found along the way from El Camino to Santiago.