Heads up! Passports delayed

Think you have plenty of time to get or renew your passport for that next vacation? Think again.

Last week, USA TODAY published an article about current delays in processing passports. The article, which cites increased regular and expedited processing times, is based on the most updated U.S. Department of State estimates.

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These delays are due in large part to the sharp increase in applications following new passport requirements for travelers returning from Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Estimated times are 12 weeks for regular service and two to three weeks for the more expensive expedited service.

Keep in mind that if you plan to travel on a soon-to-expire passport, some countries may not allow you to enter. I learned this the hard way when I tried to take a last-minute trip to Italy last spring on a passport that was set to expire within three months of my travel date.

When I found out that I wouldn't be able to use my current passport, I sprang into action and called the National Passport Information Center, figuring that I would be able to get a super-fast, in-person renewal for people due to travel within two weeks. But to renew in person, you have to be able to get an appointment, and they were booked up right until the day I was supposed to leave.

So I didn't go to Italy, but did learn to never leave passport renewal to the last minute. That lesson is even more important now with the increased volume and longer delays facing travelers.

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