Ever wondered what you would do if you got to the airport and realised your passport was expired and you couldn’t get on the plane? Well I can tell you. Yes, I am THAT person. You know the one crying into their phone at the help desk and frantically trying to work out what to do next. I planned my 21st birthday as a 10 day trip to Thailand over my Uni holidays. I don’t having big birthday parties, and thought what better way to turn 21 than with my family and friends in a different country. Everyone talks about that big eventful 21st birthday and I certainly will never forget mine either. I took it upon myself to plan the entire trip from my University dorm room. I booked flights, transfers, tours, hotel accomodation… you name it. What drives me crazy is I can even remember looking at my passport, weeks prior, my airline encouraged me to enter my details weeks before the flights were set to leave, but being a classic lazy uni student I though “eh, I’ll do it later”.
The precise moment I realised my passport was more than 6 months expired… My grandpa was driving us to the airport, we were 10 mins away from the International departure lounge and Mum asked if I had remembered to pack it. My excitement quickly turned to panic and stupidly I remember asking Mum if it mattered that it expired in December 2012 and it was currently September 2013. Regardless, we went to the airport to see if anything could be done. Surely people do this all the time and it can be sorted?
The lady at the check out desk could do nothing, she referred us to the help desk for our airline to see if we could change flights or get a refund and rebook but as I had booked through a budget airline, they couldn’t do anything.
Totally beside myself, I was referred to another service desk within the international terminal. They gave me the number for Australian Passport Office to make an appointment for an emergency renewal. (Australian Passport Information Service on 131232) But being a Saturday morning, they didn’t reopen until Monday. So I said goodbye to my family and friends and trudged my way back home.
Devastated doesn’t even cover it, but determined to get there before I turned 21 on Tuesday, I got my squinty teary eyed self to get new passport photos, filled the application and made an appointment. Surprise, the first spot they could fit me in was Tuesday afternoon. That wasn’t going to work for me, so after a hectic weekend of getting all of my passport info checked, corrected and ready to go I took the early train into the city and found myself waiting for the doors to open first thing Monday morning. I was desperate. I explained my sob story to about 5 different people and was told I would have to wait to see if anyone cancelled their appointment. By about 11am a lady came over and told me I could come through. I handed over my paperwork, paid the extra $$ on top of my passport application and after $277 I was done. All I had to do now was wait and pray that my passport be ready by the next morning, my 21st birthday.
I received a call in the afternoon to be back by 9am to get my passport. I quickly booked myself a direct flight to Phuket forking out $970 with Singapore Airlines to get there before the day was over. I got to the passport office before they even opened the doors. I was first in to pick it up (I could have hugged everyone of them), got a taxi to the airport and was through the gates and on the plane FINALLY. Despite being asked several times by airline staff why I looked so anxious (I was just waiting for something else to go wrong)… I had made it.
Arriving in Phuket and being greeted by my family and friends at the airport was the best feeling ever. What followed was an amazing (but short) stay in Thailand and a massive lesson learnt. I am happy to be THAT person, if it means that no one ever has to go through that experience. Seriously, take all necessary precautions to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
So how did it happen to me? I had a children’s passport that expires after 5 years. Knowing that I had only used it once for a school trip and assuming it was valid for 10 years I never picked up on it. I still cant explain how I didn’t notice the date when gazing excitedly over its pages. But there are some measures I could have taken to prevent this from happening.
- Enter your passport details when purchasing airline tickets
- Child passports expire after only 5 years, so need to be renewed more frequently
- Get someone else to double check your flight dates and details
- Make sure you know where your passport is and keep it somewhere safe before your trip
- Don’t leave your house until you have your passport in your hand
- Check your families passports regularly
- Some countries won’t let you in unless your passport has more than 6months before expiry, so be careful when booking
- Allow enough time for your passport to be renewed to save yourself that priority fee
- My advice: If you get to the point where you need to renew your passport urgently and cant get an appointment, just go into the office and wait for any available appointment. Be desperate and sad and hopefully you can get it sorted ASAP
If my story of naivety prevents at least one person from going through the same experience, then I am happy. Safe and happy travelling! Feel free to ask any questions/ add your own experiences and stories xx