A quick guide for all new passport owners out there


Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 12:15 a.m.
You're going to get a passport. You're flying to Cancun in March, or you're planning a long road trip to British Columbia in 2008, and you know this little baby will make it all possible.
Now, a lot has been written about the new rules regarding passports, and how to go about getting one. But virtually nothing has been written about what to do with the document once you have it. So, for all you passport rookies out there, a few words.
  • Perusing the passport: In this age of declining work standards and increasingly poor spelling, a little proofreading is in order. Do not, however, send your passport back because the dates are written backward . This is just your government being a little Continental.
    You will also notice that nowhere is it written where your passport was issued, a detail that every foreign visa application will ask you for. When that time comes, just write "Pittsburgh." Next come pages of "Important Information," followed by "Other Important Information." This is important information and other important information (though neither mentions the place your passport was issued) that should be read immediately and can be referred to later, say, when it's late at night in some tropical capital and you're suffering from insomnia. By all means fill out the "Personal Data and Emergency Contact Information," page, but note: Though the form is in English, French and Spanish, you need not respond in all three languages.
    The bulk of your passport, you will notice, consists of blank pages. At first this seems a little cheap of your government - "I paid $97 for this! - until you realize that they are for visas and immigration stamps (not doodles or foreign currency conversions). Leaf through to make sure no one glued in a Steelers decal.
  • Storing the passport: The temptation when you get a new passport is to put it in a prominent place. The handsome cover fairly shouts travel, adventure, security screening. And as the pages begin to fill with stamps, you'll want friends and family to see where you've been. But, alas, a passport is not a coffee-table book. You need to tuck it away in a safe place. Let's immediately rule out the kitchen and the bathroom. Too much running water. Den, office and bedroom are usually dry, and furnished with drawers, but steer clear of those holding underwear. You don't want to mistakenly wear your passport on your hip.f-z A few days after putting your passport away, take it out for a ride to a photocopy shop. This will give you some practice in remembering where you put it. You will find that it fits easily into your shirt pocket and falls out just as easily when you stop to tie your shoe. A safe alternative is in a zippered pouch worn on a cord around your neck and tucked under your shirt. At the shop, make a few photocopies: one to leave at home and one or two to take on your trip. Remember: You need not photocopy every page; the one with your picture and personal information will suffice.
  • Remembering the passport: This is often the most difficult thing. Packing a passport is not part of your pre-trip ritual; you've never had it on a "don't forget" list before. Here's a tip: Buy a bottle of Sandeman or Fonseca and, after dinner the night before your departure, pour yourself a glass. Someone at the table is bound to ask, "Could you please pass the port?" Immediately you will be reminded of your vital document.
  • Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

    ▲ Return to Top