After your plane ticket, accommodation and travel insurance, you will also need to ensure you have a valid passport for any overseas travel.
This might sound like a no-brainer but it is surprising how many people plan a trip without thinking about whether the passport is still going to be valid for long enough to go and come back.
Also, not just valid for the period that you intend to be away, it needs to have validity for a period beyond that. Imagine if you end up in hospital with broken bones for example and then your passport expires, how are you going to get back home without it?
6 months is the general rule for how long your passport should be valid for beyond your intended date of return from travel. Some countries will allow less but 6 months is a good guideline and the upper limit of how long a country will expect your passport to be valid for beyond the date of your return home.
A friend of mine recently arrived at Sydney International Airport to travel to Wellington, New Zealand for a weekend for a wedding only to find out that he was not allowed to board the flight as his passport expired the following month. This then resulted in him having to pay higher fees to get a passport issued that day and fortunately he was put on the next flight that evening without any extra charge. Imagine if he had been flying over on the day of the wedding! He’d have missed it.
So rule of thumb… have 6 months left on your passport after your intended date of return
However, don’t just get one without any travel planned and have it laying about.
Conversely though, passports are a considerable expense for something that most of us don’t get to use as often as we would. In Australia, an adult passport costs A$250 at the time of writing (https://www.passports.gov.au/web/queries/fees.aspx). In the USA, an adult passport costs US$140 (http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/information/fees.html). A British passport costs £72.50 (https://www.gov.uk/passport-fees).
Given that they are so expensive, I have never really understood why some people get a passport when they have no planned travel as it is a document ticking away in validity. As much as we would all like to fantasize that we get whisked off on an overseas trip at a minute’s notice, it really doesn’t happen for the majority of us.
That 10 year passport really becomes a 9 ½ year passport when you consider that even if you want to travel within those last 7 months you will most likely need a new passport at that time. So why would you waste the money having a passport sitting there when you have no travel planned? It’s just money going to waste. Like having your millions tucked under your bed instead of gaining interest in the bank.
So, if I don’t have a passport and am planning on travelling, when do I need to apply for one?
I’m certainly not advocating leaving it to the last minute either, I would say if you are planning travel in the next 3 months then apply for it now. That will give you a bit of wiggle room either side of the time that the passport issuers state that it should take.
Australian passports should take 3 weeks (https://www.passports.gov.au/Web/FAQ.aspx#faq4);
British passports issued in the UK, the usual time is 6 weeks for your first UK Adult Passport (https://www.gov.uk/apply-first-adult-passport); and
American passports take 4-6 weeks (http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports.html).
If you are going to require visas for any of the countries that you are visiting then you will need a valid passport before you can apply for them so you may then want to apply for a passport even sooner. But essentially 3 months before travel is a good timeframe to apply for your new passport if you don’t require visas. If you do require visas then allow a few weeks extra on top of the visa processing time to this 3 month period. For example, if a visa takes 3 weeks to be processed then I would ensure I apply for my passport at least 4 ½ months before travel.
By Ellie Palmer