Two months after the US government instituted new passport regulations for Caribbean and Latin American travel under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), both foreign officials and visitors have rated the initial transition as a success. By requiring passports for air travel between the Caribbean and the United States, the WHTI was enacted to alleviate security concerns regarding United States border security. Many predicted that the initiative would create notable problems for travelers and resorts in early 2007. However, most resorts and travel agencies did not see a decline in American visitors, while tourists were able to make successful arrangements and get around new passport restrictions.
With that said, don’t let the initial smooth transition catch you off guard. Travel experts speculate that the summer months could present more difficulties for both tourists and resorts. Due to the fact that many of the visitors to Grand Cayman during the first months of this year already possessed old passports, the delays and hassles were minimal. However, as family trips to the Cayman Islands and the Caribbean increase during the summer, experts fear that many tourists will overlook the new passport regulations, especially for their children.
If you’ve started planning a family vacation to Grand Cayman, now is the time to add passport applications to the top of your checklist. Since it takes the US Department of State at least 6 weeks (with some current reports at 10 weeks) to process passports, submitting your applications now will give you plenty of time to plan your activities for the summer. Just because there was no rush on new passport applications earlier in the year, it doesn’t mean there won’t be a backlog of applications for the summer travel season.
For those concerned about the added cost of passports for their family, some resorts have developed a unique solution. In an effort to lessen tourists’ concerns about the cost and hassle of passports, hotels and resorts, such as Marriott and Renaissance Mexico and Caribbean Resorts, have introduced discounts for new passport holders. For example, if you arrive at the Grand Cayman Marriott and the island is your first sealed destination, you will receive a $ 100 resort credit. In most cases, discounts like these simply require that your family’s passports be shown to the staff at resort reception. Also, since you probably finalized your passports long before you travel, a loan like this could offer a good financial cushion for your family vacation.
To help you plan the perfect Caribbean family vacation, here is a helpful checklist for the passport application process. Remember, it is recommended to start the passport application process as soon as you know that you are going to travel to Grand Cayman or anywhere else in the Caribbean or Latin America:
o First, obtain proof of US citizenship for all passport applicants. Most travelers use birth certificates, but expired passports can also be used.
o Take a couple of passport photos at a pharmacy, copy shop or any other place.
o Obtain passport applications on the US Department of State website or at any post office or government facility.
o If someone in your family is receiving their first passport, they must visit a passport acceptance center with their passport photos, proof of citizenship, and photo ID for applications to be validated. Passport acceptance facilities include courts, post offices, libraries, and government offices. See the US Department of State website for all locations.
o Submit your paid requests from these approved locations.
o If you’ve planned ahead, you shouldn’t need to rush your passport application through the US Department of State. For $ 60, the Passport Services Office offers expedited shipping, which generally guarantees delivery of passports in within 3 to 4 weeks. Plus, if your family is short on time, various services can get passports in as little as 24 hours for a higher fee.