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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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