Important Tip When Getting a Passport

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Today we loaded up the infant, the five-year-old, ourselves, and all required documents and made the trek downtown to the District Clerk’s office to apply for Baby S’s first passport.  This is the sort of errand on the family to-do list that is probably never “fun”, but it is way harder with a crying infant and tired parents than it otherwise would be.  Even getting to this point of going to the passport office was a bit of a process itself since we had to first get her birth certificate, take passport photos of a squirmy infant (more on that later), fill out the passport application, etc.  Again, all relatively simple steps in a vacuum, but all exponentially harder to prioritize and complete when you are flat tired.

Working on taking an infant’s passport photo was…interesting!

Read all about how to apply for an infant’s passport here

In other words, just getting all of us and our documents to the passport office felt like a massive accomplishment.  All was going relatively well until I noticed the sign on the wall that reminded applicants that the US State Department fees had to be paid by check (no cash or credit cards).  That is something that I knew, but also something I had totally forgotten as we were gathering the necessary documents to head to the passport office.  My “emergency check” I stashed in my wallet had already been used and not yet replaced, so I had no a million credit cards, but no checks.  My heart sank quite a bit as I realized that all our effort to get to there was going to be in vain thanks to forgetting a small but crucial item.

Very, very thankfully my husband had one ratty and partially torn “emergency check” tucked away in his wallet.  He basically saved the day and prevented me from probably having a mini-exhausted-mom-breakdown in the courthouse.  Whew.

So, my important tip and reminder when getting a passport is to remember not only all the obvious document, but the check to pay the State Department fees, too!  This is doubly true if you are also doing it in a sleep deprived fog for your traveling newborn.



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  1. Outside of the U.S., the State Department does take payment by cash (USD or local currency) and sometimes even by credit card when it comes to passport applications.

  2. I assume by check online that money orders aren’t accepted? I never carry checks (love the emergency check idea by the way), but it’s never been a problem as I either wait until the next day or run down to the nearest supermarket to grab a money order. Not allowed in this case?

  3. Money orders are accepted. Since you didn’t go to a post office that would not have helped much. 95% of passport acceptance facilities are post offices, I am surprised you went somewhere different.

  4. I feel your pain! I took my 5 kids (1-11) to get passports at the same time. Pictures went so bad (all making each other laugh so the lady had to keep taking pictures over and over) that I saved the passport office for the following week.

  5. We always go to the post office for the passport. Debit cards are accepted for the money orders for the passport. It’s all seemless as the post office clerk takes care of everything. You just sign.

  6. MP: You really need to take a break from all this for a year. Keep the blog, spend time with your new baby and forget about actually travelling for a year or two. All the places you want to go will still be there!

    • Ha ha. You’re not wrong – we took a year off from travel with our first kid. However, the short answer is it is now not just a hobby, but a career that is supporting our family (which I’m super thankful for, but there is no “maternity leave” for bloggers). Of course there are family/places we want to visit too, but either way totally stopping isn’t 100% a viable option. We are keeping things as limited as possible though. Need the passport for a work trip….

  7. same issue here… but no emergency check in the wallet. Ran to the bank, got a money order, ran back (only 1/2 mile each way), thought I was done.
    And then I realized I had to separately pay for expedited processing. Another run to the bank and we were done.
    Small issue: the clerk who filled one of the forms took my data from the visa page (rather than bio page) and was convinced that the visa issuing post was actually a name. Hence I am apparently called Toronto. I was lucky as my wife apparently is called Milan.

  8. Hey, MP! I’ve been on vacation for a month and hadn’t even realized that you already had the baby. Just wanted to say congrats!!!

    Welcome, Baby S, and safe travels! May your road be paved with free upgrades, on-time departures, and 3 beeps at the TSA checkpoint!

  9. Baby S seem to be growing fast – what are you feeding her? (Just kidding!) I saw that you changed the graphic on the top of the webpage. 🙂 Very cute and congrats!

  10. I too am a working mom. I have two little ones and can barely keep it together sometimes. just wanted to say congratulations and good job. I know how hard it can be!

  11. This is crazy. We just had almost the exact same experience getting passports for our 3 kids. My wife brought the checkbook but had only one check left. They wanted 2 checks one for the county clerk. Luckily, they would take cash for the county clerk payment, and I happened to have just enough cash to cover it, and I never carry cash.

  12. Hi MP, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog over the last couple years and congrats on the new one! But part of this process confuses me. If I understand correctly, the US government is saying that their own greenbacks which are supposed to be “legal tender for all debts, public and private” is something they won’t honor? What gives with that?

  13. Always get photos done at a drug store or Walmart first. They are usually 1/2 the price of the post office. I think the post office charges about $15.

    • We did them ourselves and printed them using an online sizing service for free…well technically there was the 29 cent Walgreens fee to print. 😉

  14. Cute pic! We took our infant daugther’s photos at CVS and her daddy’s hand propping her head up shows up in the photo, but that was okay with the Passport clerk. What I don’t understand is why you didn’t go to the Post Office on a Saturday? Many offer Passport Services on Saturdays. I’m assuming you checked the State Dept. site and there simply weren’t any close to you?

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