A travel agent's guide through the passport pile- up
Passport issues and renewals are backlogged across the nation, as the U.S. Department of State reports an unprecedented number of applications.
Michiganders gearing up for international travel this summer may want to check their passport status. Issues and renewals are backlogged across the nation, as the U.S. Department of State reports an unprecedented number of applications.
In May the department said passport application numbers are on track break the record for highest yearly demand. For a growing number of travelers, this means waiting an extra few weeks or even months to receive that golden travel ticket. WGVU spoke with Shelley Kohtz, Vacation Travel Services Manager at Witte Travel & Tours, for tips on how to navigate the delays.
“It used to take six to 10 weeks to get your passport, but now we can take almost three months to get it back. Three, sometimes even four, and there doesn't seem to be any consistency to it from what I'm seeing," Kohtz said.
Witte Travel & Tours in Kentwood, Michigan offers travel planning and consulting, helping clients navigate the details when setting up a vacation.
Kohtz's advice is to get applications submitted about 4 months or more before any takeoff dates. She also warns all travelers with passports to keep a close eye on expiration dates.
“I think our biggest hiccup lately has been people that haven't used their passport in the past three years and pull it out and book a trip, and then they look at their passport and they think 'oh my gosh this expires next month.' Then you're in trouble," Kohtz said.
Passports for individuals aged 16 years and older are valid for 10 years. For those under 16, passports are valid for 5 years. However, Kohtz warns renewal dates aren’t always what they seem.
“A lot of countries more often than not require that you have at least six months validity on your passport in order to travel on it," she explained. "So in other words, if you're planning on going to Europe, let's say sometime this summer, and your passport expires in October you have to get it renewed before you go.”
The state department is working to relaunch its online renewal service, which has been paused since May. Travel agents say this could speed up the passport process and delays.
Despite the set back for travelers, the travel industry - which took a hit during the pandemic - has seen growing sales. Kohtz reported Witte Travel & Tours' earnings are some of its best sales to date.
"Last year was a lot better than we anticipated it and this year is just crazy good. People are traveling, whether they call it revenge travel or just came to the conclusion that 'you know what? Life is short time is short. I'm just gonna go because it's something I've always wanted to do,'" Kohtz said.