Go check your passport right now. Go on, we’ll wait.
Do you have more than six months between the date of your next trip abroad and the expiry date? If not, then you are asking for trouble.
Everyone thinks that their passport is good for ten years, but that’s not really true. Your passport is good for about nine and a half. That’s because various countries require that you have anywhere from three to six months left on your passport in order to enter. If you don’t, they might not let you board the plane or get through immigration once you land.
Terry McCabe, a travel agent with Altour, reminded us of this essential travel tip just the other day. “A friend called me last night from the airport almost hysterical because she couldn’t get on the flight,” Terry said. “And just now I was on the phone with friends who traveled to France for a month; their daughter was not allowed on the flight back home because her passport was expiring in three months.” In both of the above cases, Terry had not been the one to book the airline tickets; if she had been, the travelers would have certainly been reminded to renew their passports.
Since the acceptable time window can vary widely from country to country, bookmark the passport section of the State Department’s website, where passport-validity rules are listed by destination. Your passport must be good for six months past your departure date if you want to visit China, Russia, and the U.A.E., for example, but if you’re spending time in the U.K. your passport only needs to be valid during the time you’re there. And then there are the 26 Schengen Borders Agreement countries: If you’re entering any one of these member states (which include Austria, Italy and Norway; see the whole list here) for short-term tourism or a business trip, then your passport must be valid for three months past your departure date. But once you enter one Schengen country, you won’t have to show your passport again when you cross the border into another.
If you’ve just checked your passport and realized that time is running out, the State Department site also has information on how to renew—it usually takes four to six weeks but can be rushed in three weeks, and in some cases eight days. My younger son’s passport expires next May, we’re flying to Europe this November, and you can bet I’m renewing it right now.