Travel Tuesday

A momomentous event has occurred in our journey to Europe 2014 …

*pause for effect*

… we finally applied for our passports!

J’s never had a passport, but I already had one from when I went to Jamaica in 2008, and from 2010 when I went on a trip my college put together to Greece and Rome. However, a slight change has occurred in my passport information; namely, my name! (Get it?)

I’ve had the forms filled out for months (available here if anyone’s interested), but they’ve been sitting in a drawer until we finally got our passport photos taken, which we never got around to doing — meaning, I was never sitting around at home with nothing to do until I suddenly came to the realization that my hair and makeup looked awesome so I should go get my picture taken that would live on, unchanged, for 10 years, to be viewed by many stern airline employees and curious acquaintances  Yeah, for some reason, that moment hadn’t happened yet.

If one wants to be technical, we could have taken our own photos. We are photographers, after all. But, I mean, have you seen the requirement list?

  • In color
  • Printed on photo quality paper
  • 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size
  • Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. View the Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
  • Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
  • Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
  • Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
  • With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
  • It goes on (oh yes, there’s more)

Yeah, I didn’t really want to tackle that baby. I’m scared enough of government offices when I have all the right paperwork. I didn’t want to invoke any more wrath than necessary with my amateur passport photo. I really want to know if someone has come in and showed them their bathroom mirror selfies to see if that would work. I’d love to be a fly on that wall.

BUT, the day arrived. I had the morning off and J had the day off, and we were already getting ready to go get our FREE CFA BREAKFAST (!!) biscuits, so we thought we might as well get our photos done too. Even better, Walgreens is currently running a $2 off passport photo promotion, making them $9.99 apiece, and you get two prints each (which turned out to be helpful. Details to come). I can’t find the link to it on Walgreens’ website, but when we got ours the cashier said it was running through the end of the month. Wouldn’t hurt to ask.


So we got our portraits. I didn’t quite imagine it would be a $99 point-and-shoot camera in front of a white window shade, but, hey, he’s the expert. I had Jon check my hair and makeup, then took my place. The employee told me my ears had to be visible. K, hair behind the ears. Not my favorite, but whatever. Then he told me all my hair had to be off my shoulders. So, hair behind my ears and pushed back. I narrowly escaped a ponytail. SO glad I curled it this morning. Neverless, they turned out okay, and it’s actually making me consider a haircut. Didn’t look half bad. The photos were ready in about 10 minutes, which was great. And we’re PRETTY sure he smoothed out our skin, because my makeup ain’t that good.

We got our photos and went home, but realized we still had some time before I went to work and decided we should try to go ahead and apply for the passports themselves. I assumed we would have to apply downtown (doesn’t every important thing have to be applied for downtown?), but found out the post office could take the application if it wasn’t a rush job. So I gathered our birth certificates, marriage certificate, social security cards (turned out we didn’t need those, believe it or not), drivers’ licenses, my former passport, our photos, and our applications. Is there anything more terrifying than carrying all of that around together? Hey, world, you want to steal my identity? Here it is! Like a good little proactive girl, I signed my application where it said to, and then told J to sign his. He signed, then looked his application over, and read off to me the big bold letters, “DO NOT SIGN UNTIL TOLD TO BY AGENT.” Awesome. Turns out renewals have different procedures than first-timers. And of course, like the good little proactive girl I am, I had already stapled his photo to that application (hence the two photos. Well done, Walgreens). So, I typed out the application again, printed, did NOT have him sign, grabbed his second photo, and off we went. Walked in to the post office and promptly saw the “Passport applications only seen by appointment” sign. Awesome. We waited in line anyway just in case, and one of the sweetest, most helpful government employees I’ve ever worked with came out, said she would let us do it anyway so long as the line stayed manageable, which we were TOTALLY okay with. She looked over our applications, pointed out some small errors, told us what fees to expect, and got us right in. The passport agent was efficient and helpful, and answered all our questions. We were in and out in about 15-20 minutes. Perfect conclusion to what could have been a really frustrating experience.

Moral of the story? Read the fine print, and be grateful for helpful people.

To be technical, I may not have needed to renew my passport, since I’ve only had it for 5 years. I had been told that I could bring along my marriage certificate to prove my name change, but I was a little terrified of having different names on my documents. I couldn’t help but imagine Jon and I being pulled away from each other in a strange airport by foreign speaking security guards claiming I was a spy, shoving me into a black car and dumping me in an underground prison, never to be heard from again.

That’s probably not exactly how it would go down, but, hey, I watch BBC drama. It’s how I view European life.

Here’s an action shot!


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