Carefree travel not spontaneous

In those carefree pre-9/11 days, adults could travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean with nothing more than a driver’s license and, maybe, a birth certificate. Kids just went along for the ride.

But we live in a post-9/11 world, one in which documentation is important. Even walking across the bridge to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side now requires a passport. (My husband, kids and I did it pre-9/11 with just our driver’s licenses and no identification for the kids. That was fine for the Canadian immigration officials, but it drew some stern looks from the American officials.)

These days, determining whether you need a passport depends on where you’re traveling and how you get there. Every person, even infants, traveling by air on an international flight must have a passport now. Effective June 1, 2009, the everyone-needs-a-passport requirement will expand to include travel by land or sea.

The deadline has been pushed back several times, but there will come a day when we all will need passports to travel outside the United States and return home. So, if you have plans for foreign travel in the future, it makes sense to get your documents now before the rates go up or you have to pay extra for expedited processing.

Getting a passport for a child under age 14 can be a complicated process. You have to hand over the original certified birth certificate and bring the child along when you apply for the passport. And, unless both parents are present to sign the documents—with their own proof of identity—the parent who appears with the child must present a notarized statement of consent from the other parent.

For more information, forms and details on special application requirements for adopted children, foreign-born children and other situations, visit the U.S. State Department Web site at passport.

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