10 Things About Your Passport No One Will Tell You (But I Will!)

A good friend of mine is making the voyage to Europe in a few weeks. His birthday is in days and I kinda talked him into letting me get him a passport cover (you can get the one I choose here). It is the one thing he hasn't gotten and I feel like it is one of the tokens of travel that makes it all "real". This is someone I've known since childhood so it's fairly easy to know what he likes. However, I found myself asking him basic questions trying to gauge his style of travel. This is his first trip abroad and he asked me to use my best judgment. As much as I love being that person for him and many, I realized I was just as confused as he is now. I remembered that no one told me anything about my passport. I almost failed you too. So here goes ten great things to know about your trusty passport…

A Passport Cover Isn't Mandatory But Can Be Necessary…

So earlier in the blog I may have talked about having a bright, distinct passport cover. Basically, this is the norm for those traveling throughout several modes and possibly having their passport retained with many other passports. This way when some authoritative figure approaches everyone with a dish of random passports you can easily find yours. The reality is that will probably never happen unless you're taken hostage or in a third world country during mass exile. What will happen is that you invest in this vivid cover just for someone to rip it off at a check point or customs. So most travelers don't even have a cover or wind up removing it. It you have this intricate cover, you probably want to invest in something simple that can be removed easily. Try to take that puppy off the moment you enter secure areas where it will be needed. You'll have to fill out declaration forms with the information in it anyways. Then place your form and tickets within the book on the main page. Make it easy for you and them.

Your Passport Can Be Copied (in many ways than one)…

So yeah by all means copy your passport. Do this for your own personal records and to have as you frequent your destination. You don't wanna carry your prized passport around every single place you go. That is what a clear, recent copy is for. Now don't copy the whole damn thing!? Just copy the page with your pertinents on it. Now back to the passport covers - yes people can scan your passport just like they skim credit cards and read identification. They can do this while your are walking about the airport or hotel. This is why a case could be necessary. Look for one that actually blocks RFID scanning. This is why the right people need you to remove the cover - they should be the only ones "scanning" or "swiping" your passport. You may also do it at an airline kiosk or lounge.

So Yeah Your Passport Can Be Totally Stolen While In Your Hands …

You want to collect your belongings, boarding passes, tickets and passport with the quickness while traveling. Try to carry a decent bag to put your credentials in. Try not to hold your passport and documents out until you are specifically asked to do that by an official or a member of the cabin crew. The reality is if you have your unprotected passport out someone could scan your RFID chip embedded in it. So it is best to put it away every time in a zippered compartment. Surely, this can be a hassle but think about the possible loss of your identity while traveling. Just make sure things are secure as you move about no matter which method of travel you use. And don't ever leave it unattended or get so distracted you leave it out or behind.

If You Think Your Passport Will Only Come Out Once During Travel - Think Again

Sadly as valuable and important as your passport is … everyone needs to see and touch it. You will need it at ticketing even if you opt to use a kiosk. You will have to show it at security checkpoints (sometimes along with other photo ID). You will have to show it at customs and borders - even on a train or ferry. Sometimes random inspections will happen just waiting in an airport so be prepared for that. You will also have to show it at your hotel. These are all scenarios where you cannot show a copy instead and your passport will be exposed. Some officials simply view it, others may scan it, some stamp it and others may not. This is where the cover rule gets iffy so beware. I once had my cover tossed at me as if I didn't know the cardinal rule of taking off ones cover. I also had to use my passport to ensure baggage was transferred from one flight to another. So there.

If You Are Somewhere or w/ Someone Unfamiliar - Hide Your Passport...

Always hide your physical passport when staying at a hotel, share or "friends" place. You can do this because you already have a copy for your own use when out. You also don't want other so-called friends, housekeeping or guests having access to your documents. This doesn't mean secure it in the outside zipper compartment of your suitcase. This also doesn't mean placing it under your pillow. This means finding a great hiding place within your own belongings. I once hid mine in my travel sheets. I once placed it in a shoe bag. I once had it rolled inside a sarong. You don't want to hide it from yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. The goal is to put in within your belongings so you always have access to it but no one could ever fathom it would be there. Surely your hotel or share may have a safe but most people forget about things left in a safe. You can try the trick of putting your traveling shoes in with it - that way you can't leave until you retrieve your shoes AND your passport. But who really is going to do that? Seriously.

Sometimes Hotel Safes Eat Passports...

Yes, you can do the shoe trick. If you normally travel with one or two pair of shoes this just may work. However, sometimes you may put a passport or other valuables in a provided safe and never see them again. For the safes that take a credit card to open and access, they may be more reliable. However, ones with keys or combos, anything can and will go wrong. If you forget your code, some agent will have to assist you in getting it open. They will be there for the reveal of your items making what you want to keep hidden quite obvious. You can also lose keys which are worse. Then you might have to incur fees for someone to open the safe, replace the keys etc. Besides those safes with codes and keys are clearly accessible by hotel staff. I wouldn't put anything in those if I could avoid it. Leave it untouched if you can, just like the mini-bar and robes.

To Carry or Not To Carry Everything With Your Passport...

The passport cover (shown above) I've chosen for my friend is more of an executive wallet. There is a section for cash, some cards and a pen. In this I wonder will he travel daily with all his possessions in the said wallet or opt for something more slim while out and about? One would hope he immediately removes his passport when he is settled and continues using it as is. I would hope it is considered a functional item not just a cover. What I don't want is for it to be a burden. However, I'm the one that made travel excruciating going to a new place every 2.3 days. He will only be staying in two places over two weeks. So not much passport play in that time so I hope he can enjoy his wallet/case/journal/cover thingee. 

Your Passport Photo May Be Ugly and That Is Okay...

My passport photo is the ugliest photo I've ever taken. Trust I am no California girl on my drivers license either but at least I look presentable. My hair is a gigantic fro and surely I may wear my hair styled on most days but I chose to do my photo the way I wake up. That is how it is suggested and so it goes. My friends passport photo is lovely but it is totally not his natural hair color and how he plans to pull that off while traveling tickles me. At least on my off days which include most days I was lugging three bags to some foreign country - so my photo was true to self. These days I embrace my photo as the one authentic capture of how I look when I really don't want to be bothered. So enjoy your ugly photo because traveling produces the best of your bloated, sweaty, unkept and aggravated self.

Your Stamps Will Differ or Never Happen 

Her and I loved discussing the travesty of getting ones passport stamped. There really is no proof I ever went anywhere abroad. I have London and Iceland. Because I traveled France and Spain by train there was no stamp put in my passport. Now her … well she got a very campy choo-choo train stamp between the United Kingdom and France. Sadly, the guy I got didn't bother to do that for me. I like to think he was distracted. Maybe he felt I was going back to my native country. Or because London gave me a six month visa it wasn't necessary for my quick trip to Paris to be documented. I don't know but there is no way for me to show someone that I was legally in France for a duration of time. The lack of validation pains me. We also avoided customs in Italy which bothers me because I don't know if we did something wrong or we simply didn't need to because we were already traveling in the EU. Just know that every port of call isn't going to make a to do about stamping your passport. You may come back with only one stamp.

Your Passport Can Open Doors or Shut Them

Boy have I used my passport since being back stateside. It has gotten me out of parking tickets, obligations, legal woes etc. I simply showed my passport which tells people I have no alliance to much of anything, anywhere or anyone. I had my six month visa in the U.K. which sort of worked as an alibi for steady travel abroad. I used to watch people use their passports for additional ID, to open lines of credit etc when I worked retail. It annoyed me that a U.S. citizen would rather give a passport than a state I.D. Now I strongly believe people who are unfamiliar with them take a liking to those that possess one - which includes pretty much anyone in the service industry within the United States. You can start a conversation and easily end one just by brandishing a heavily stamped passport. Now the kicker was when I attempted to use it while applying for jobs. The overall reaction I got was that I was unreliable and not credible. Of course no one said this but eyes rolled and I didn't get callbacks. My out of state ID held more weight in an interview than my passport. Generally, no one cared about my long absence from the working world. It also didn't work for applications and paperwork because it really doesn't work for paycheck distribution and emergency contacts. Of course, I don't really need it outside of traveling abroad but I thought I could whip it out anywhere. It could be a North Carolina thing where most people haven't even flew before but I would suggest leaving it at home - in your cover and well hidden - when not traveling or writing a check. 

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