All the information you need about applying for a passport and traveling safely abroad can be found at the US Department of State’s travel website: http://travel.state.gov Here are the steps you need to take to apply for a new passport or process a passport renewal.
1) Start TODAY – get your passport photos taken. AAA offices and any photo shop will be glad to oblige. Locate your original form Birth Certificate or order it from the city/town hall where you were born (If applying for a passport for the first time). Pick up an application at any post office or download it from the State Department’s travel site: http:/travel.state.gov/passports.
2) Depending on your date of departure, select the best method of application. Routine Service is now taking 10-12 weeks. Expedited Service, which requires an additional fee as well as overnight mailing fees, takes 2-3 weeks.
3) If you are traveling within two weeks (and can prove it by showing airline tickets) contact the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778, Monday through Friday 7am to Midnight. Expect long hold times as they are swamped. This is also true for their email service. Call this number as well if you have applied for a passport, it has not arrived, and you are within 2 weeks of travel.
NOW, if you have more money than time, or want to turn this problem over to someone else to worry about, contact a passport/visa expedite service. For a fee, they will take all your information and secure a passport or visa for you within a day or two in most circumstances. Here’s how it works: The passport processing centers allow expedite agencies to make a certain number of appointments per day for passport applications. With no fumbling and bumbling, applications get processed quickly. Most agencies have offices in multiple cities where passport centers are located, assuring they can submit quite a few applications in a day. The largest player in passport/visa expedite service by far is CIBT.com. As well as having offices worldwide, they have recently acquired several smaller agencies in the US, some of whom specialize in tour company and cruise passenger applications. For other choices, a web search for passport expedite services will result in a long list of available services.
So the moral of this story is start early, or pay more..what else is new!!