Monday, August 07, 2023

Passport Panic

 Our passports are not due to expire until August, 2024, so why did we turn them in for renewal in May 2023? A couple of reasons

  1. A friend of ours - Cary Tennis, was at the Miami airport ready to board his plane to France and they turned him away because his passport was expiring within 90 days of travel! I did not know this rule. We have travel planned for 2024 - not within 90 days of August, but pretty close. See his story about the ordeal at Marooned in Miami
  2. We've been hearing news that passport renewals are taking a long time. 10-13 weeks standard, and some stories of up to 6 months. 
We studied the calendar - we had international travel planned for October 2023 and April 2024 - and decided the safest time to submit the passports for renewal was - NOW - that was in May. The online passport renewal process apparently was down for renovations so we had to fill out real paperwork and send in our old passports by mail. I don't like being without a passport! We generally plan travels 6-10 months out, but there's nothing I enjoy more than taking advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities. Without a passport - that's impossible. 

In June, Jim accepted another year as president of our Toastmasters club, and I took on the role of VP of Education. This made us take a look at the Toastmasters International Convention scheduled for August 16 in the Bahamas. Toastmasters is a cool thing - we've been going to local club meetings and practicing our public speaking for over 20 years. We even visit Toastmasters clubs as we travel, in New Jersey, Arizona, and even Brisbane Australia. This year, the International Convention is in our District, and therefore we are part of the hosting. They were looking for volunteers to help run the convention. We decided to go - hey we can do a little scuba diving there as well! The prospect of doing something completely different - being part of a group of workers at a convention - has me really excited. I love meeting new people, and the people who are part of Toastmasters are interesting people. They're there because they want to improve themselves and learn and teach! My kind of people.  

Uh-Oh - we don't have passports! Well, passports aren't actually required for the Bahamas right? I remember going there may years ago and just showing a drivers license. 

Wrong. Passports are definitely required now - regardless of your mode of transportation. 

Well - our renewals were acknowledged received on May 30, we'll need them on August 15 - that's 11 weeks. I'll bet they'll be here in plenty of time. That 10-13 weeks is just outside estimates, right? 

We checked on paying for expedited service, but you're supposed to do that when you first apply. Now they say, if your date of travel is within 2 weeks - call the Passport office and you can get an appointment to visit the office (in Miami) and they'll manually finish the renewal process and you'll get your passport in a few days. So, we called on August 1 - they said, oh no, no, no - Aug 1 to Aug 15 is not within 2 weeks, call us back tomorrow. Geez. 

We called back on Aug 2 and asked to get an appointment in Miami. They said, no can do, you now need to be within 5 days of travel in order to get an appointment! Yikes - I don't think our blood pressure can take that kind of time frame. Can we pay for expedited service? She said, sure but it won't help - expedited service takes 27 days. 

What can you do? She said that she can send in a note on our file for "urgent travel." OK, please do so. She said, OK, but we did not receive any notification that our passport status had changed and no one contacted us to confirm that we had actual travel plans within 2 weeks. We were losing hope. Can we really wait till 5 days before to know if we can go or not? We started looking at cancellation policies on the flights, hotel, diving, and conference fees. Not good. Well, this may be giving me the opportunity to test if our Chase credit card really does give us trip insurance just by paying with the card. (nope - they have an exception. If you have to cancel travel due to not having the required documents - that's on you. No insurance coverage for that.)

I started planning other things for those 8 days. We kept checking our passport status, not really expecting to see any change. The backlog of passport renewals even made national news programs. Families who had planned their trip-of-a-lifetime were unable to go due to lack of passport. Sigh.

We kept checking the passport status hourly, it kept saying "In Process." We went on with our lives. I went to an appointment. When I came home, Jim said - come take a look:

I'll be damned. Something did happen! We screamed and did happy dances. We were SO SURPRISED. Well, as Jim says - they're not in our hands yet.

I'll let you know.


Happy Dance!! Jim's passport was in our mailbox on Monday Aug 7. Mine took a more nuanced route to get here. I watched the tracking screen while my passport was logged in at Opa Locka (several cities south of us), then Hollywood (one city south of us) then back to Opa Locka, and finally Fort Lauderdale. Mine reached us on Wednesday Aug 9. 
Here we come Bahamas! for the International Toastmasters convention ... and a couple days of diving. 

1 comment:

Rick and Kathy Rousseau said...

Since Covid hit, we have the same problem in Canada.
Be Safe and Enjoy!

It's about time.