Two months before her trip to Mexico, Alexa Frankovitch realized she needed to renew her passport. She sent in her application and waited and waited some more. As her travel date crept closer, her anxiety grew.
"We were leaving mid-July and I realized I think around the 4th of July, I haven't heard anything about it, I haven't seen any progress," said Frankovitch.
Pre-pandemic, the U.S. Department of State's processing time for passports was 6 to 8 weeks. Now, it's about 18 weeks -- about four months.
Because of COVID-19, some passport application acceptance facilities have a limited amount of in-person appointments. When you add mail delays to the mix, and an increase in travel demand this summer, you have a backlog causing long wait times.
"Travel came back and everyone decided "Oh my goodness, I need to get my passport renewed," said Willis Orlando, a flight expert with Scott's Cheap Flights.
Orlando, explains if you waited until the last minute, you'll have to pay to cut down on the processing time.
You can shave off six weeks of your wait time if you pay the U.S. Department of State $60 to have your passport expedited. He says you can also pay for overnight shipping.
"Pay an extra $17 or $18 for one to two day delivery on the return. There's still no guarantee it won't sit in a pile for 2 to 3 weeks waiting to come back to you, but once it's in the mail, you're going to cut back on any shipping delays," Orlando said.
Frankovitch paid those extra amounts and also found a public Facebook group called "US Passport and Visa Services" particularly helpful. One tip she learned here is you can contact your local senator to see if he or she can reach out to the department of state on your behalf.
Frankovitch got her passport two days before her flight.
The U.S. Department of State's website says,
"We continue to work to reduce processing times for both routine and expedited service while protecting the health and safety of our staff and customers. We will re-evaluate the processing times on a rolling basis and will adjust them downward as resources allow."
"It's not their fault and I didn't want to ever blame them but it is a frustrating process in the moment," she said.
If all else fails, Scott's Cheap Tickets suggests reaching out to your airline to see if you can push back your travel dates. If you're not flying basic economy, there's a good chance you won't have to pay a change fee.
U.S. Passports are good for ten years for this 16 and older and five years for those under age 16. Always check your passport for the expiration date since many countries require it to be valid even three to six months beyond your travel date.
Read the Frequently Asked Questions about U.S. Passports here.