I awoke abruptly around 1 a.m. on December 24, 2013, not thinking about Christmas Eve, but worried that I hadn’t checked the expiration date on my son’s passport for our impending trip on December 27. I knew that his child’s passport expired after five years of the issue date, not 10 like an adult’s.
I quietly slid out of bed and checked the box where I had stored the passports. When I opened my son’s passport, my heart raced, because it had expired.
Since I couldn’t sleep, I checked the U.S. Passports and International Travel website that indicated that some countries will not accept a passport with an expiration date within 60 days of departure. I also learned that processing time for an expedited passport could take days to weeks.
We needed an appointment, and I exhaled loudly when I thought about the improbability of getting one on short notice the day after Christmas. I learned that we could walk-in without an appointment, but if they were busy, there was no guarantee.
The next morning, my worries were validated. I called the Washington office, and they said that they didn’t have any appointments and suggested that I call the Philadelphia office. I called the Philadelphia office, 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 and bring his expired passport with proof of international travel reservations, and they would issue a replacement passport that day.
After checking the documents needed for the passport, I woke my son on December 26 at 6:30 a.m., and we began our drive to Philadelphia.
“Why do we have to leave so early?” he asked.
“Because if there is an accident, or we have a flat tire, or run into Christmas Eve traffic, and miss our appointment, we miss our trip,” I said.
We arrived at the Philadelphia Passport Agency, and I noticed that several people had luggage, and I assumed that they had been turned away at the airport. As we stood in the first line, I sweated thinking about the consequences, if I had not checked his passport expiration date. Also, I worried that somehow I missed a relevant document needed for the 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, and that agent accepted our documents and sent us to have my son’s photo taken, where they told us to return at 2 p.m. to collect the passport. We left to explore Philadelphia.
“How lucky are you to tour Philadelphia with your mother on Christmas Eve?” I asked.
“Funny mom,” he said with a slight smile.
We traversed Philadelphia and ate lunch at the historic City Tavern. I loved this unplanned time with my son. Who needed to pack anyway?
When we returned to the U.S. Custom House to pick up his 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.