Tom Kerr writing on air travel…
Air travel is expensive, and increasingly stressful.
Airlines shrink the seats, eliminate perks, and increase delays.
Psychologists are even considering a measurement called the “air travel stress scale” to assist them treating people for stress and anxiety.
You need to take advantage of every opportunity to reduce that stress…and control the cost of flying.
That’s why it’s important for you to make sure your passport is up to date.
Soon you may need it just to board a domestic flight.
Normally when you fly within the U.S. you show the TSA agent your driver’s license and boarding pass and are promptly waved through security. It’s no big deal.
But that could change, in January.
If your state has not issued you a driver’s license that complies with a relatively new federal law, you might be told that you cannot board your flight.
The law is called the REAL ID Act of 2005. Passed in 2005, on the recommendation of the government’s 9/11 Commission, the law established nationwide security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.
The goal was to make it harder for bad guys to make and use fake IDs and counterfeit driver’s licenses.
But – no surprise here – despite having almost 13 long years to implement the changes, many states failed to do so. Strict enforcement is scheduled to start on January 22, 2018.
Recently, more than 20 states begged the feds for an extension of the deadline, saying they weren’t ready yet.
Imagine what would happen if you asked the feds for a little extra time to pay your income taxes, arguing that “a decade just wasn’t enough.”
(To check the current status of your state, visit the Department of Homeland Security REAL ID website.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and federal agencies like the TSA are preparing to stop accepting non-compliant driver’s licenses and IDs on January 22nd.
But there is simply and easy solution.
Just carry a valid U.S. passport when you fly, and use it as your primary form of ID.
If you don’t have a passport, apply for one ASAP. If you do have one, check the expiration date. If it has expired or is set to expire within the next few months you’ll need to renew it right away. TSA won’t accept one that is expired.
To find out how, visit the State Department website’s passport information page.
Keep in mind that you’re still dealing with government bureaucracy…and it can take months to process a passport request.
Now is a good time to apply. Fewer people apply for passports in the fall…so wait times are typically shorter between now and the end of the year. You might get your passport back in as little as four weeks.
But if you wait until millions of Americans are in a passport panic because of the new ID law, you might wind up in the back of a very long line.
Planning ahead can save you lots of aggravation and worry. It may also save you from the potential embarrassment, frustration, and extra travel-related expenses you’ll incur if you are not allowed to board your flight.
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