We Weren’t Alone With an Expired Passport

Expired Passport

I awoke abruptly around 1 a.m. on December 24, not thinking about Christmas Eve. I was worried that I hadn’t checked the expiration date on my son’s passport for our impending trip on December 27. Realization hit me that a child’s passport expired after five years of the issue date, not ten like an adult’s. I quietly slid out of bed and checked the box where I had stored our documents. When I opened my son’s expired passport, my heart raced.

Volunteers donate uniquely decorated Christmas trees.
Kennedy Krieger hosts the largest Christmas spectacular on the East Coast.

U.S. Passports

Since I couldn’t sleep, I checked the U.S. Passports and International Travel website. The site indicated that some countries would not accept a passport with an expiration date within 60 days of departure. Additionally, I  learned that processing time for an expedited passport could take days to weeks.

We needed an appointment, and I exhaled when I thought about the improbability of getting a meeting on short notice the day after Christmas. However, I learned that we could walk in without an appointment.  But if the passport office was busy, there was no guarantee.

Passport Renewal Locations

The next morning, when I called the Washington office, they confirmed that they didn’t have any available appointments. Moreover, they suggested that I call the Philadelphia office. Immediately, I called the agency in Philadelphia, and thankfully they gave us an appointment at 9:00 a.m. on December 26.

The representative said that we needed to fill out an application. Additionally, we had to bring my son’s expired passport with proof of international travel reservations.  Most importantly, she said that they would issue a replacement passport that day. At that point, I didn’t care about paying expedited passport renewal fees.

After checking the documents needed for the passport, I woke my son on December 26 at 6:30 a.m. Within twenty minutes, we had climbed into the car and were headed to Philadelphia.

“Why do we have to leave so early?” he asked.

“Because if there is an accident, or if we have a flat tire, or run into holiday traffic and miss our appointment, we miss our trip,” I said.

Philadelphia Passport Agency
The Philadelphia Passport Agency is in the United States Custom House.

Philadelphia Passport Agency

When we arrived at the Philadelphia Passport Agency,  I noticed that several people carried luggage. I assumed that they had been turned away at the airport.

First Line for Passport Renewal

As we stood in the first line, I sweated thinking about the consequences of not checking my son’s passport. Moreover, I thumbed through the papers in my file while I worried that somehow I had missed bringing a relevant document needed for the renewal.

Second Line for Passport Renewal

The agent confirmed our appointment and sent us to the second line. While we waited about 40 minutes, I shifted my weight like a pendulum. Finally, we approached the desk. That agent accepted our documents and sent us to the line to wait for the photographer to take my son’s photo. After the man took his photo, he told us to return at 2 p.m. to collect the passport.  Finally, we left to explore Philadelphia.

“How lucky are you to tour Philadelphia with your mother on the day after Christmas?” I asked.

“Funny, mom,” he said with a slight smile.

City Tavern

We traversed Philadelphia and ate a fantastic lunch at the historic City Tavern.  In addition to enjoying a delicious meal, I loved this unplanned time with my son. Who needed to pack anyway?

The U.S. Custom House

When we returned to the U.S. Custom House to pick up the passport, a lady ladened with luggage stood in front of us in line. I heard her tell the custom’s agent that when she checked in at the airport with her family, she learned that her passport had expired. She said that her family had continued their trip, and she was planning to get her passport and meet them that night if she could get a flight.

I thought, what a terrible way to start a vacation, knowing that could have been us. Luckily, even with all the hoopla, we left for our family trip early the next morning.

We scrambled to renew our son's expired passport
Even with passport trouble, we didn’t miss our trip after all.

Expired Passport

Most importantly, if you have a trip planned and you learn that your passport has expired, there is hope for you. Check out the U.S. Passports and International Travel website for everything that you need to know to expedite your documents.

Moreover, you can find services that will rush your passport renewal and do the legwork for you, for a price.

With all that said, I hope that you have a great trip!


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24 thoughts on “We Weren’t Alone With an Expired Passport

  1. Wow that must have been stressful! So glad you thought about it before you left and you were able to get a new one. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    1. Anisa, knowing that we had an expired passport with travel within three days was a bit stressful. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  2. Though it hasn’t happened to us yet, I am always scared of this possibility; I’ve bought international tickets before checking our passport dates, so I can relate to that. You were lucky to be able to get it in time. Glad it worked out for you. Thanks for sharing the experience and the way to renew passports last minute. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Emese-Reka, thank you for your comment. After seeing all those people in the passport office with suitcases, I knew that we were lucky.

  3. I am sure this happens more than we all think! So glad you got it figured out, but such a good lesson for us all to be super diligent with this!

    1. Kashlee, from the looks of the people in line at the passport office, it appears that traveling with an expired passport is not as rare and one would expect.

  4. Those pesky passports. They get tucked away and forgotten about until just before the trip! I have dual citizenship so I have two to keep track of. I’ve never got near the expiry date, but I have had a couple of anxious days wondering if my passport would make it back to me in time for my trip. I needed a Brazil visa, and flight was at 3pm on a Saturday, and my passport was delivered at 11am the same day … to close for comfort.

    Thanks for posting this passport tips to help others with a similar dilemma.


    1. Jay, I can’t imagine the stress that you felt waiting for that visa, I’m glad that you received it in time.

  5. YIKES! I’m so glad that worked out for you!! I can’t imagine how stressful that must have been, especially considering the Washington office wouldn’t even entertain the idea of a walk-in appointment! I need to remember to put reminders on our calendars for passports and global entry renewal!!

    1. Sara, we were lucky to get an appointment in the Philadelphia office, thank goodness.

  6. I can imagine it was so stressful when you found our your son’s passport was going to expire right before a trip. But it’s good to know that you were able to get him a new one in time for the trip! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  7. I can’t imagine the panic you must’ve felt! I have those scary moments sometimes, too, when I have a trip coming up… I often wake up in the middle of the night thinking “Omg, where is ________” or “Did I forget about ______?!” In your case, thank goodness you had that moment! I’m glad you were able to remedy the problem and have a good trip! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Jessica, After seeing the people in line toting suitcases, I knew that I was lucky.

  8. What a terrifying story! I have nightmares about expired passports too sometimes. It happened to me once, but I discovered it in due time. Luckily, it wasn’t December 25! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  9. Oh my gosh, that was a close call! The United States Custom House in Philadelphia sure is a beautiful building—Art Deco? In the end you got to sightsee a bit in Philly and spend quality time with your son. Love how you made lemonade from that lemon and used it to give some helpful information to us as well!

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