Summer is in full swing and it is also peak travel season. While kids are out of school, many people might take this time to visit a European country or go on a cruise to the Caribbean. Traveling to a foreign country can be a great experience and make many memories for your family. Being prepared before you travel will ensure your trip is enjoyable and safe.

As you make plans for a potential international vacation, you should look up what documents you will need to enter the country, whether it is a passport or visa. If you already have a passport, it should be valid for at least six months after you return home and have two or more blank pages, depending on your destination. Otherwise, some countries may not let you enter. Passports issued for children under age 16 are valid for only five years, not 10 years like adult passports. Be sure to check your passport expiration dates carefully and renew early.

If you have never had a passport before, you should apply several months in advance of planned travel for a new passport. You will need to fill out the form applicable to you, collect supporting documents, get your photo, calculate your fees and submit the application.

To get started, you will need fill out one of the passport application forms. There are different forms for whether you are applying for the first time, renewing an adult passport, or changing your name on the passport or correcting an error. Make sure to choose the one that fits your situation. Forms can be downloaded online at or picked up at any passport acceptance facility near you.

Next, you will need the correct supporting documents. The specific documents you need will depend on what form you are using. These include citizenship evidence, like a birth certificate or certificate of naturalization, and government-issued photo identification for adults. For children under 16, they will need proof of relationship. When applying, bring the original as well as a photocopy of the documents.

You will then have to get a 2 inch by 2 inch color passport photo. Many drugstores can take the picture for a fee and some passport acceptance facilities offer this service as well. Be sure to follow the specific photo requirements so your application does not get denied. You will also have to calculate your fees. The amount of fees will depend on the forms, how quickly you need the passport, and the shipping option you choose.

You must apply in person at a passport acceptance facility if you are applying for your first U.S. passport, if you are under age 16, or if your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16, or it was lost, stolen, damaged, or issued more than 15 years ago. Visit to find an acceptance facility near you.

Six to eight weeks is the typical processing time for applications. If you are traveling soon and need a passport in a hurry, you could be eligible to apply in person at the closest passport agency.

My office may be able to assist you with issues that come up during your application process or in an emergency situation. We will do everything we can to assist and while we can usually help the process along, we are not miracle workers. The more advance notice you can give us, the more likely we will be able to help resolve your issue. To prevent a vacation disaster, be prepared for your travel.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701