Passports for Your Family

As Simon and I are filling out passport paperwork for ourselves, I was reminded of our experience in procuring Joey’s first passport when he was 2 weeks old.

Some general useful tips for passports:

-Most airlines will not let you fly internationally if your passport expires in less than 6 months

-The fee to get a new passport once you have changed your name due to marriage is the same as renewing your passport (unless you had the old passport for less than a year). So if you are dirt cheap like us, you may want to wait until about 8 months before the old one expires to change it. Just remember that all of your international flights before that would have to be booked in your old name.

-Try to not lose your important documents around your home and when moving. For example, birth certificates and marriage certificates. These are quite useful when applying for other important documents like passports.

For babies specifically:

-For new passports, you must go to a post office or authorized location to apply. You cannot do it via mail.

-BRING THE PHOTO!!! Don’t believe the helpful people on the phone that tell you that the staff are used to babies and love taking photos of them. They will instruct you to lay your precious, tiny, infant on the floor of the post office. If you go that route, at least bring a plain white blanket or sheet to put under them so you don’t have to use the questionable cardboard they offer you.

ImageAfter a couple of attempts, the helpful post office lady informed us that this photo may or may not suffice since it had low contrast. Thankfully, it worked.
ImageIf you guessed that Joey was wearing a scuba onesie in his passport photo, you were correct! here is the full view (there is a tank on the back), thanks to his Papa.


-For said photo, your child must have a neutral expression (no smiles or tears), two open eyes, and no hands, feet, or other items in front of their face. They must be against a plain (untextured) white background. Laying down on a blanket works well, or drape a plain white sheet over their carseat before setting them in. Make sure no wrinkles are visible in the photo. This will be at least 84 times easier to achieve if you just wait for your newborn to be awake and plop them on something white than if you wake them up at the post office before putting them on a cold dirty floor.

-If you are actually doing this, check the most recent guidelines. Generally they ask for a 2″ square photo with the head (measured from chin to top of head) measuring 1″ to 1 3/8″ high.

-Children’s passports are good for five years. When you try this again with your five year old that you have finally taught how to smile and say cheese for a camera, you will need to explain that this time they must not smile.

Once you have the passport, use it!

-You went to all that trouble. Go get some stamps in it! You want your baby to have street cred with the other babies when they compare their passport booklets.

ImageEven lap children get their own boarding passes to clear security and get on the plane.

-Even for domestic flights, your lap child (0-2 years old) needs proof of age. I was almost not allowed to take him to San Francisco when he was three months old because the nice lady at the check-in counter didn’t believe me that he was under 2. Passport or birth certificate are fine for this.

Random Useful Travel Tips:

Your small child can ride through security in any baby carrier (ergo, bjorn, moby wrap, etc), including the metal detector. Just kidding – several other well traveled mamas have informed us that you may be asked to de-carrier your babe. Strollers will have to pass go through the x-ray scanner with your luggage.

-For most US Domestic flights you can gate check a car seat and stroller for your lap child. You can also bring an extra carry-on for them. If you spend $10-$20 on a special bag for the car seat, you can stuff in all kinds of other useful items like diapers, laundry, and blankets inside. We find it way easier to leave the car seat at the check-in counter, where they will happily take it, so we don’t have to lug it through security.

-Most airports now have a special family line at security, and if they don’t will let you go through the priority line (NOT TSA pre-check) if you ask nicely.

-Your kiddo’s food is immune from the 3 oz carry-on rule, just remember to pull it out for the x-ray and notify the TSA folks.

-We find it easiest to have a minimum number of items with us on the plane, and plan ahead for what Joey will need in-flight (food, drinks, naps, etc). A diaper change immediately before boarding is always a good idea.