So…where do I begin? It was a two-month process to apply for my children’s passports (not counting the time it took to arrive in the mail). Why? Because you have to do it in person, which took two attempts. Between summer vacations, working, family gatherings, researching post office locations, and just being plain tired on the weekends, it was almost impossible to get this task done. Let this be a tale to learn from (and laugh at) in case you or someone you know attempts to do this with two little kids. Here’s a list of rules and reminders to go by:
- Where do you go: Not every post office (PO) photographs your passport photos, but they may accept passport applications. Some POs do both. Some do neither. When we went to our South Orange post office, we thought they took pictures, but before waiting in line we yelled out the question and the worker politely said, “No. We don’t.” So we walked to UPS to get them (which involved creating a large scene while coaxing Ella to STOP MOVING for the picture and placing our 10-month-old Luke on his back while his legs were flailing every which way because he wanted to roll around on the white paper underneath him!). Then I noticed my husband accidentally signed his name on the wrong line on both applications, so UPS said we could buy their white out and fix it. Because we were desperate to quickly get back to the PO, we bought the ridiculously priced bottle for $4.50 and didn’t even complain about the injustice of it!
- When do you go: Not every post office accepts passport applications without an appointment. Furthermore, some offices that require appointments on Saturdays may not require appointments Mondays through Fridays. Got it? We didn’t get it, so after returning to the South Orange PO and waiting in line, the same clerk looked at us and said, “Oh, we only accept applications during Saturday appointments and we’re booked until November. When do you depart?” I responded dryly, “In November,” and we walked out feeling worn out, annoyed, and like total failures. It wasn’t until weeks later that we made it to the Millburn Post Office to accomplish this.
- Follow directions: Do not use white out, do not write in blue ink, do not fill out anything in the bottom section of the first page of the application, do not sign the application until the PO clerk asks you to swear that all information is correct. Basically, don’t make any mistakes, which is hard to do when you are re-writing the two-page application for the THIRD time while your toddler is trying to break into all of the PO boxes and your baby is screaming to get out of the stroller!
- Can you go without the kids (first-time applicants): The simple answer is NO. The complicated answer is yes but you have to have a notarized letter stating why one of the legal guardians cannot be there and I didn’t want to chance something going wrong with how the letter was written or an unacceptable excuse!
- How crazy could it get: I felt like I was in purgatory. The clerk would pop her head out, look at the application, and then tell us something was wrong or that there was another complicated step (like going to the other window to purchase a money order because they don’t take credit cards or cash). Our double stroller was constantly in everyone’s way. Ella would be calm and then have a tantrum. Finally, things were progressing and there was calm. Then my phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number. I answered. A man’s voice yelled, “Hello! Where are you? Didn’t you call an Uber pick up?” Crap! While calming Ella down with the Elmo app on my phone earlier she had found a way to request an Uber driver! My star rating was surely going to decrease. The driver was not amused. #Oops.
One hundred plus dollars in the hole for expedited services and three weeks later, the two passports arrived in the mail. A true accomplishment that was worth the stress. After this experience, traveling with our little tots on a plane to the Caribbean will be a piece of cake, right?!