"" Writer's Wanderings: Passports and Passport Cards

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Passports and Passport Cards

As a child, I remember going to Canada every year with my parents and grandfather for the annual two week vacation. My dad and his father loved fishing in the back lakes and rivers clear up north by the French River. All it took in those days was to look the crossing guard in the eye and repeat your birthplace. Now my grandfather who was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, always had to pull out his naturalization papers. And there was the year when my dad said with a straight face, " My wife was born in Kokomo," and didn't mention Indiana. The guard asked for her papers and she wouldn't speak to my dad the rest of the way north.

All of that has changed over the years and now it is about to change again. Beginning June 1, 2009, travel to Canada--or for that matter anywhere outside the country, will require a passport or a passport card. The passport card is something new that I just recently discovered. It is a wallet-sized document like a driver's license that can be used to travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. The passport card costs less than a passport ($45/adults, $35/kids) but can only be used for land or sea crossings not air travel. It takes just as long to get (4-6 weeks) as a passport and is valid just as long (10 years).

If you never plan on flying to those places, and you travel there quite often, it's probably a good deal--a great deal if you are only cruising to those areas as well. But if you think there's a possibility of air travel outside the country or your cruise is going to take you trans-Atlantic or Pacific, I'd spend the extra $55 and get a passport. Besides, you get to keep all those unique stamps you collect going in and out of different countries.

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