anonymous tourists showing us passports on street on sunny day
Travel Lifestyle

Passports 101

So, you’ve done it! You’ve thought and thought for years about it and now you’ve decided to take the plunge and make the commitment! Hooray for you! You are going to get your passport! It will open you up to a literal world of experiences and you won’t regret it. TGC is here to walk you through the whole process with a couple of facts, a couple tools, and, as always, a couple of stories. So, sit back with a glass of wine or a cup of tea, let’s get to traveling!

anonymous tourists showing us passports on street on sunny day
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Did you know?

  • Only 25% of Americans make the effort to apply for a passport so you are in quite an elite group of travelers now.
  • Passports really expire 90 days before the date in the book. Be prepared to reapply early!
  • Passports are held by the bursar on cruises. He or she has the responsibility of getting your passport stamped and legal in every port.
  •  The Real ID Act which looks to take hold in October 2021 requires you to have your personal documents updated and reviewed by your state. Once done, you get a star on your driver’s license. If you are looking to travel and haven’t done this yet, know that your brand new passport will work just as well (even when flying domestically).

The Basics

Everybody who gets a passport has to start with that same first step: applying to The State Department! For most, applying is pretty straight forward. Simply use the online application, gather your documents, get photos taken, and make an appointment at your local post office. The cost is about $165.00 in a check made payable to The State Department. A few weeks later, you will have your fancy new passport in your hands.

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Birth Certificates

There is one part of the application process that scares me. One of the things you have to send along with your application is your official first copy of your birth certificate. To set you at ease, be sure to look in on how the USPS has been faring and opt for an upgraded method of delivery if the post office machine seems to be lagging at all.

My best friend applied for an expedited passport in order to enjoy some time at Niagara Falls. She would up missing all of her Canadian time because her birth certificate was not accepted by the State Department! It turned out that the birth certificate she had been using for decades turned out to be an unofficial copy from an area notorious for giving the State Department fits. Finally, she got her passport 4 months after she had first applied.

Your Passport Choices

A standard passport has plenty of pages to gather stamps around the world is works perfectly fine. There are a few other options including a double thick book and a passport card. I’d leave those to the business travelers!

person putting a passport on bag
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Global Entry?

First, evaluate whether you need global entry or TSA precheck, keep a few things in mind. As technology develops, lines in smaller airports are usually less than 20 minutes. Use this app to check in on the airports you are going to use to see if TSA precheck is really needed. Global Entry includes the TSA pre-check service. Global Entry is basically the passport version of the Fastpass.

I once raced my mother through ATL customs. She was on Global Entry and I was using Mobile Passport (the link is below). We both emerged from the process at the same time. The only difference? My option was free. All in all, it could be money better spent in other areas of your trip.

Passport Safety

One option to keep you connected is the STEP program. By registering with the Bureau of Consular Affairs, you can keep up to date on any advisories related to your destination and have a direct connection to the government if you are in need of help. It can be handy especially in more “exotic” locations.

Don’t put your passport in the pocket of your airplane seat! In fact, I was once in Dubai connecting to a flight to Greece. Sure enough, just as I took my last step off the plane, I realized that my passport was back in the seat pocket of seat 34D! Unfortunately, it was too late to backtrack and I had to wait for everyone to disembark then hope that a nice flight attendant would be kind enough to go check. I almost missed my connection! Lesson learned! Never-ever put that passport down when you are gathering your things!

Never hand over your passport! I was crossing the border between Zambia and Botswana. So, our driver had gotten us right to the Zambezi River and then turned around and asked for our passports. A sticky situation! While not wanting to offend, I also didn’t want to hand over my official identification to a complete stranger. What to do? I politely asked what he wanted to do. It turned out that he simply wanted to cut the line by going to the back door of the passport office. I asked if I could walk with him. He was delighted! Issue avoided. Lesson learned! Look for the polite way out.

Check out these fun passport resources!

person s holds brown gift box
Travel Lifestyle

The 2020 Gift Guide!

Oh 2020! You’ve been quite unkind to the travelers of the world! Cancelled plans and wanderlust are putting us all on edge as we put our travel insurance to the test. Hopefully, this holiday season will find us all celebrating with our loved ones. Whether in person or socially distanced, we hope that you get to enjoy the last of this life changing year. In the spirit of supporting everyone’s travel dreams, we are happy to share some of our fave holiday picks for the traveler on your shopping list! Enjoy!!

Click here to listen in to our gift guide on our podcast! Babcia and Yia Yia have tons a great picks and lots of fun chatting about all things travel!

For the eco-conscious traveler…

Ethique Beauty Bars Say goodbye to liquids in your luggage with these solid bars that take the place of your soap, shampoo, conditioner, and more. There’s a scent and formula for everyone’s needs and, I promise, you’ll never use the liquid (and the plastics they come in) again!

True Earth Laundry Tabs This eco friendly detergent comes in dry to the touch soap tabs that are lightweight and liquid free. Simply grab a few and pop them in your suitcase and you can hand wash or machine wash as you wish.

Re-useable shopping bags Our number one used travel accessory! We are true believers that a re-useable bag saves plenty of plastic bags and, with it’s small size, you’ll be using it traveling and out and about. There are plenty of options on Amazon and Etsy. So, browse to find that matches the person you are shopping for.

Mulberry Mongoose Jewelry If you have a jewelry addict on your list, take a moment and look into this incredible company that ticks all the boxes. By taking hardware from illegal poaching traps and making jewelry, Mulberry Mongoose is win, win, win, win.

For the traveler that needs to get packing…

Samantha Brown Luggage Travel sweetheart, Samantha Brown, launched her luggage line a few years ago and now that the line has had some experience, the investment pays off. Great bags with plenty of styles for everyone!

Himwari Anti Theft Backpack For the travel that’s not a fan of a backpack, this anti-theft version has a little style, a ton of room, and plenty of safety features to meet any traveler’s needs.

Delsey under the seat carry on bag Never lift a bag into the overhead compartment again. Do I need to say any more?! This bag fits my purse, a quick change of clothes, all my plane accessories and my electronics. You can’t go wrong!

Luggage Tags Get them monogrammed, themed, for a group, or for that solo traveler you on your list. You can source super cute tags from Etsy, Amazon and more. Browse around to match the tastes of any traveler!

RFID Passport Wallet Get it all into one safe place so that you can keep track of all of your important documents. RFID keeps those nasty hackers away from your personal information to make any traveler feel more comfortable while they are out and about.

Gonex Compression Cubes Solve the messy, overstuffed suitcase problem once and for all! Whether sharing a suitcase or trying to stay organized on your own, compression cubes are the modern must!

Shifu Globe A perfect gift for the budding travelers in your life, this globe is very interactive and works with a very cool app. Teacher approved!

For the traveler who likes to collect

Travel Ornaments So many travelers didn’t get to get out there this year so boost their spirits with a little ornament to inspire their future adventures. Look for ornaments on pretty much any site and match it to the interests (or destinations) that they love.

Polish Pottery Collectors the world over love this famous pottery and it could be the perfect gift for someone who “has everything”. The charming patterns are endless and come in everything you can imagine from ornaments and tea bag rests to bowls and platters. Browse, find, enjoy.

Travel scratch off artwork Perfect for the wandering nomad in your life who is in the midst of discovering this great bog world. The more you travel the more your artwork changes. There’s a style for everyone so look around to find the perfect fit!

For The Comfort Loving Traveler…

Bombas We love these socks that give back!

Rothys We love these shoes that help to save our waters!

More Of Me To Love bra liners Listen, when you know, you know. Put them in your own stocking as a gift for yourself!!!

For the traveling bookworm…

For The love of Europe Rick Steves is back and reading to share the stories that got him addicted to travel in the first place. This book is a great way to pass the time until your passport works again!

Blue Mind Discover the power of water and how it fits into your travel world. An amazing way to look at this vital resource and what it does for absolutely everything!

Travel Listography Reminisce, dream, repeat. This no pressure journal organizes your memories without asking for too much in return.

Maps: The Travel Book by Lonely Planet. Perfect for pre school and elementary aged kids this look and explore book opens up the world to young learners.

Percy Jackson Going to Greece? Get a handle on the world’s first soap opera: Mythology. Help kids get a handle on who is who and who doesn’t like who in this innovative modern classic that is perfect for elementary and middle schoolers.

The Book Thief Dive into the middle of WWII and learn how the war affected society’s most impressionable residents: kids. A perfect middle school read. 

The Zookeeper’s Wife Life in Warsaw during the war was incredibly difficult no matter who you were. Dive in to this real life story to better understand how the tragic events of the war impacted everyone including the residents of the zoo. A perfect read for mature high schoolers and adults alike.

Rich People Problems Kevin Kwan, who brought us Crazy Rich Asians, makes sure you know the human side of life affects everyone including the super rich Youngs of Singapore.

Angels and Demons Dan Brown first introduces us to his symbologist hero in this precursor to the DaVinci Code. The setting is Rome and there is trouble at the Vatican. Settle in for a thougthful adventure that keeps you guessing right until the end!

Journals Organized writing frames for kids can be just the boost any reluctant writer may need to fall in love with journaling. Why not start them off with their own adventures?

For more great book picks for kids, check out our 10 books in 10 Minutes series.

Travelers who love subscriptions and gift cards…

Little Passports Allow kids the chance to explore month after month with this innovative, and teacher approved, subscription box.

Universal Yums Perfect for older kids and young adults alike, enjoy the sweet and savory treats from a new destination each month.

Wanderful For the traveling woman in your life. This superb membership connects women from all over the world with diverse, noteworthy, and current travel trends.

Shutterfly After any experience, the photo albums on Shutterfly are a great place to store all those adventure memories.

Oil Changes Know a roadtripper? Give them a boost with an oil change or a gas card so that they can take care of their wheels along the way!

happy friends on camper van roof
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For travelers who like to indulge…

Leonidas Chocolates from Belgium

For the traveller who will stay at home a t little longer…

field of texas bluebonnet
Travel Lifestyle, Travel Think Tank

Why Is Travel An Addiction?

Over the years psychologists, anthropologists and other very fancy people have weighed in to answer the question: why do people travel? They’ve sited studies and research from their very fancy places of work and even fancier scientifically sound universities who spout out data about serotonin levels and charts about which countries give the best vacation time to their employees. There are tons of articles and papers that analyze the reason why some people are addicted to travel and others could care less. It’s all very fascinating! But, I think that sometimes the simplest answers are the best. I travel because it makes me happy.

Travel comes in all shapes and sizes these days. From digital nomads (we’ll get into that later) to resort junkies, we travel addicts have found our wanderlust being quenched in many different ways. So, what made people start to travel anyway? Where did the idea of modern travel even come from?

architecture building dark dusk
Listen to the whole conversation on our podcast! Click here to listen!
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Addicted To Modern Travel

Well, the most popular school of thought was that the Victorians got bored and set off to see the great art and antiquities of the Continent through a term called The Grand Tour. In fact, it is The Grand Tour, created way back in the early 1600’s by a priest named Richard Lassels, that gives us the name “tourist”.

A lot of controversy has come up when referring to someone who is a travel addict as a tourist. Some take great offense as they see a tourist as someone who merely skims the surface while travelers tend to have more of a deep dive approach to travel. Me? I’m on the fence. I see the point being made but I wonder if it’s necessary. Maybe the more important question is whether you are a vacationer or a traveler. For the record, vacationers go somewhere to relax and veg while travelers (or tourists) go to seek new experience.

As travel has evolved over time, there have been large groups that have found their own travel mojo by approaching their travel experiences from different angles. Maybe you fit into one of these categories.

The Bucket Listers

We simply can’t talk about travel addiction without talking about the buck list junkies. Typically uber organized, bucket listers work their way through a series of experiences that they prioritize. Often getting a bad rap as look and go travelers, bucket listers tend to know what they want. Bucket listing your way through the world can be a great experience as long as the list doesn’t become the biggest priority rather than the tool it should be.

photo of lake during daytime
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Addicted To The List

Let’s circle back to the most popular traveler of them all- the bucket lister. Many people don’t consider themselves bucket listers, but they are. It’s true, basically every traveler has a list, even if it’s to not make the next reservation, every kind of traveler listed above has a strategy that can essentially be called a bucket list.

It is only human nature to check things off a list. To plan. To be a logistics manger. In fact, many leading fancy people who study others say that travelers get just as much out of planning their trips as they do executing those plans.

I’m not sure how I feel about that exactly. I mean, I like when I get my confirmation e-mail saying everything is all set, but I don’t think I necessarily enjoy jockeying between different travel apps to find the best price. However, I am very good at it. On the other hand, I do like tracking down new opportunities for my next trip. Then again, I get bored easily. I really meant what I said I wasn’t sure how I feel.

The Typical Travel Addicts Start With The Package Traveler

By simply booking a tour through a well known company, package travelers are happy to scratch the surface of a couple of big named cities and take the tour while leaving the logistics to someone else.

The Road Tripper

Pack up the car or the RV and hit the road for sites unseen and enjoy all that the open road has to offer. Road Trippers spend a ton of time exploring nooks and crannies and meeting up with fellow road junkies through a huge network.

The Gap Year Backpacker

Free of worries with a minimal budget, backpackers trek from hostel to hostel and get the most out of their bare bones trips while they shape their definition of global literacy. Backpacking across Europe used to be a right of passage in some circles and while there is still a steady stream of people making there way into those youth hostels, many opt for the experience on other continents these days.

The Alternative Routes

While the majority of travelers fall into one of the categories above, there are some amazing travelers who look through a very different lens.

The Slow Traveler

Time in one place to take a deep dive into a culture or community is the top priority here. Slow travelers look for the connections and want to unpack the benefits and challenges that locals deal with. The benefits of slow travel come from immersing oneself into new circumstances and seeing where that leads you. Unfortunately, for most, time constraints tend to create huge barriers for the experience.

The World Schooler

Homeschooling has a very cool cousin and that cousin is getting more and more popular. World schooling is becoming quite a trendy way to experience all the benefits of homeschooling and take them on the road. Parents who choose this way of life tend to have tons of work flexibility and dedicate this time to not only classical education topics but also to soft skills that create worldly humans.

The Digital Nomad

For the ultimate travel experience, digital nomads craft their careers into portable jobs that compliment their travel addiction. It’s like winning the trifecta when DNs find a career, a companion, and a course that allow them to wander around the world experiencing as much as they can.

While some DNs have a home base, many live a minimalist lifestyle and prioritize their commitment to travel. Some people take years to arrange the perfect exit strategy from society norms. They often sell off everything they own, take on side hustles, and save like maniacs to get themselves started.

What Do Addicts Do To Make Travel Work For Them?

In the end, we addicts are addicted to the people and experiences that we find while we travel. So what do we do to make travel work for us? A few things come to mind.

  • Learn a little. Travelers learn a few words and get a hold on the cursory history of their next destination.
  • Do stuff. Travelers favor doing over just looking at things from a distance.
  • Eat slow food! Travelers avoid major chains and frequent mom and pop shops.
  • Balance. Travelers make it a priority to balance great icons and hidden gems.
  • Think responsibly. Contrary to popular belief, travelers are some of the first to think about hot topics like waste, and carbon footprints.
  • Communicate. Travelers use international words like photo instead of picture and toilet instead of restroom.
  • Enjoy downtime. Travelers enjoy talking, well, travel. They enjoy watching and listening to travel. They play games with their kids to enjoy even more travel. to expand their horizons or quench their thirst until the next trip.

What’s On Your List? 

For more ideas, especially if you are a first time traveler, check out these resources: