Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Panic Time

Saturday.....4pm......

Since C and I's trip to the UK is coming up on Thursday, our plan for last weekend was to start getting things together. I had a list of things to take care of....

UK money...check
enough cat food ... check
make sure we had enough prescription medication...check
reconfirm hotel/b&b/car rental...check
maps and guidebooks...check
calling credit card companies...check
making copies of passport info pages...check

And, for some reason, while making copies of our passports, I happened to look at mine. And that is when I noticed that my passport had an expiration date of....Feb 2009.

After looking at that page for a couple of minutes, then pacing around the house using every combination of cuss-words I could come up with, I tried to figure how, and/or if, I could get a renewal before Thursday.

I got to the State Dept internet site and of course, no people to talk to over weekends. What I did find was that if it was possible, I had to go to a regional passport office, the closest to me being in Houston. There were forms to fill out, pictures to get taken, travel documentation to round up, flights to/from Houston (I love SW Airlines) to book, additional ID to track down. I found some blog entries of people in my situation and read their horror stories about spending hours or days trying to get a renewal this quickly. But, the good news was, it sounded like it was possible. So, on late Sunday afternoon, I flew to Houston.

Monday...8am....

On the State Dept website, it talked about setting up an appointment for an expedited expired passport renewal. I made one, not knowing if you had to or not. Mine was set for 10am, but based upon things I had read over the weekend, I decided it would be best to be at the office when they opened at 8am. 8:15, not open. 8:30, not open. People who had 8 and 8:30 appointments were getting upset that the office wasn't open yet (the reason...they were having a meeting). Finally, at 8:45, they let us in. The first thing that became obvious once we got to the office was that if you didn't have an appointment, you weren't seeing anyone. The website didn't say this. The automatic phone system didn't say this...the signs and the security people in the office, however, were very quick to tell you this small, yet important fact. I was in line to check in for about 15 minutes or so, then got a number and was told to wait until my number was called. This person couldn't tell me how long that might be and when I asked if I would be able to get my passport before my trip, wouldn't say yes or no. Just said the person who called me would let me know that. Another 30 or so minutes went by and my number was called. Went to the window, handed over my stuff, then was told how much I had to pay for this expedited service ( but I knew the cost based on the website). Before I paid, I asked if this meant that I would have my passport before my trip. This person would only say.."it should be ready by 2:30 today". I got a receipt and a form that said that my passport would be ready at 2:30 and to come back to pick it up, but not before 2:30. I decided to stay downtown, try to hook up with some ex-coworkers for lunch (which I did) and then go back at 2:30 to get my passport, then head to the airport to catch my 7pm flight back to Dallas.

(On a side note, I had no idea until reading the State Dept website and blogs that many countries will not let you in even if you have a valid passport for the duration of your trip if it will expire in a certain amount of months. For instance, Israel will not allow you entry if your passport will expire within 6 months. There is a rather large list of countries that do this, with dates ranging from 6 months, to 3 months, 1 month. So a piece of advice, other than making sure your passport hasn't expired, if it's close to, check the rules of entry for the place(s) you are traveling to to ensure they will let you in.)

Monday....2:30pm....

I show up at the appointed time (not before) and was rather surprised to see how many folks were there before me. Many more than were in line in front of me that morning. I took that as not a very good sign. Got in line, went to the window and was told..."not ready yet". So, I waited. 2:45...many names called, not mine. 3:00, many more names called, not mine. 3:15, the doors to the passport office were closed and no one allowed in; again, not a good sign. 3:30, many names called, even people I recognized as being in line behind me, but not mine. I'm not getting a good feeling and am thinking I'll have to stay overnight and come back on Tuesday when....yes, my name is called!! 5 minutes later, valid passport in hand, I'm off to the airport to see if I can get an earlier flight, which I do ( I love SW Airlines) and am home by 6:30. And in a much better frame of mind....

All-in-all, not a horrible experience by any means. And actually, when thinking about it last night, to be able to get a passport renewal in a day in this post-9/11 time is pretty amazing I think. So our trip is back on and I'm back today taking care of the remaining things on my "to-do" list.

4 comments:

Stephanie said...

Yikes! Glad it worked out in the end.

I'm guessing that if your name were Abdul, you might be rebooking your trip.

Scooter said...

I didn't have quite the crush you did but I go through private services...get a passport in about 2 weeks. Have a great trip.

Mirela said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Sarah

http://adoptpet.info

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the encouragement Mirela/Sarah.