These days, the sheer effort of getting safely through airport security with all our belongings intact then lugging our bags across ever-expanding airports has a way of making us look like our passport photos. And most travelers would rather never see their passport photos, much less carry extra copies around.
So why do so many travel sites recommend taking along a few extra copies of your passport photos and what are some clever ways you can use those extra photos?
Despite all the hoopla, there are a few valid reasons to have extra recent passport photos on hand:
- The first and most important reason you might want to carry extra passport photos is so that you have them on hand if your passport is stolen and you have to get a replacement quickly. The problem with this scenario is that the photos must be recent. Specifically, they must have been taken within the last six months and reflect your current appearance in order to be valid.
- In some countries, standard passport-sized photos are required to obtain a visa and this is where an extra passport photo will come in handy. You can find out which countries require U.S. citizens to have a visa by checking the country-specific information available from the U.S. State Department website. See the entry and exit requirements for U.S. citizens.
- Some countries, such as Botswana and Zambia, require a photo for national park multi-day passes.
- Adoptive parents are asked to bring extra copies of their passport photos for the paperwork they must fill out for foreign country adoptions.
- We’ve also read that some countries require a photo when you purchase a local SIM card for your mobile phone.
If you do happen to have a few extra passport photos on hand, here are a few clever uses for them:
- They’re great for police reports. If your kid’s photos is recent, for example, having the extra passport photos could be handy for a police report if they are lost or kidnapped on your trip. This is also true if your kid is lost on a cruise ship and the staff is looking for them.
- They’re excellent for luggage identification. Slide a passport photo into your luggage tag over your home address and you’ve got a definitive way to prove it’s your luggage.
- They’re a great way to know when it’s time to end your trip. After all, Erma Bombeck once wrote “When you look like your passport photo, it’s time to go home.”
If you have extra passport photos as hard copies, store them in a small zippered plastic bag to keep them from being destroyed by moisture and other debris that inevitably ends up in your bags.
Of course, many travel experts recommend having a digital copy of recent passport photo as a backup. Again, you won’t be able to use that photo for a replacement passport unless it’s less than six months old, but it might come in handy for other uses.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.