(Family Features) International travel tops the bucket lists of many aspiring travelers. However, two-thirds of Americans aren’t ready for international travel because only 36 percent hold a valid U.S. passport, according to the U.S. Department of State, which is required for travel outside of the United States.
While there are exotic destinations such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and even Puerto Rico (the country that’s become more popular due to the hit song Despacito) that do not require a U.S. passport, Americans applied for about 17 million passports in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs. It’s predicted that applications will hit 21 million in 2017.
“This summer is the perfect time to head out of town,” said Josh Belkin, Hotels.com vice president and general manager. “European destinations are particularly popular right now and with declining airfares, increased international flight options and great hotel deals, it’s an obvious time to venture abroad.
One of the main hang-ups in applying for a passport can be cost. However, with a qualifying international accommodation booking, Hotels.com is aiding Americans by offering free passports. The online lodging expert also offers these simple passport tips to ensure you’re ready to pack your bags for the trip of a lifetime:
- Be informed. Get to know the application process. In addition to the application form itself, you’ll also need proof of citizenship, identification and a 2-by-2-inch photo prior to applying at your local acceptance facility, such as a post office, library or government office. You can find additional details on the U.S. Department of State website.
- Keep time on your side. The routine application process can take 6-8 weeks, so plan ahead to avoid paying extra fees for expediting your application, which still takes 2-3 weeks.
- Know the photo requirement. Many people are unaware that you can’t wear glasses – prescription or otherwise – in your passport picture. You must also have a neutral facial expression or natural smile and cannot wear headphones, a hat or any other type of head covering.
- Choose a card or book. While passport cards cost less than half the price of traditional passport books, they are only valid for land and sea ports of entry between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean, and cannot be used for air travel outside of the United States. You’ll need the full passport book for international air travel, which also offers the land and sea benefits of the card.
- Get a free passport. With the Hotels.com passport coupon you can save $110, which covers the cost of renewing your passport, when you book by Aug. 31 for travel through March 31, 2018. To learn more, visit hotels.com/passport17.
With a passport in hand, you’ll be prepared to discover some of the most popular international destinations like London, Paris, Toronto, Tokyo and Rome, and check an enjoyable travel spot off your bucket list.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (woman holding up passport)