Gerri Willis Commentary:
Top Tips by Gerri Willis Column archive

New passport rules

Traveling rules have tightened up, making it even harder to get a passport now.

By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Beginning today, there are going to be some changes if you're planning on flying to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. We'll tell you what you need to know.

1: Get the details

If you're a US citizen flying into the country from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, you'll need a passport. This rule was in effect earlier this year, but there was so much demand, the government was just inundated.

If you're under 16 and traveling with a parent or guardian you will need to prove that you've at least applied for a passport.

If you're driving across these borders or taking a cruise, you won't need passports...yet! That's coming next year.

2: Start the process

If you're traveling this winter, you'll want to get your application in now but, if you're traveling earlier, like Thanksgiving, you'll want to expedite the passport process.

A good rule of thumb here is that if you're traveling in 120 days or less, you'll want to get an expedited passport, says Terry Trippler of Cheapseats.com.

According to the State Department, getting a regular passport can take six to eight weeks while an expedited passport can take 3 weeks.

Of course you'll be paying for the convenience. An expedited passport costs about $157 for an adult, compared with the regular price of $97.

3: Know where to go

Your first step should be the State Department Web site at www.travel.state.gov. If you're getting a passport for the first time, you'll have to go to a passport acceptance facility in person.

To find out where one is located, type in your Zip code on the Web site. You'll be given a list of places where you can pick up an application. Generally these places will include post offices, public libraries and some municipal offices. Just indicate that you want an Expedited Passport.

Now, if you're really desperate, you may be able to get your passport in a couple of hours to a few days. For that, check out government passport agencies in your area. Go to travel.state.gov and just type in passport agencies.

If you can get an appointment, you may be able to walk in and walk out with a passport, according to Tripper.

And if you choose to scout out online passport services, be sure you're dealing with a legitimate company. The last thing you want is to deal with a con artist.

4: Get the status

You can always check the status of your passport online. Go to the State Department's Web site and click on status check.

If you're going to be needing your passport soon, you should check the status now. The State Department indicates it'll take 7-10 days to get tracking information.  Top of page

Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send e-mails to toptips@cnn.com or click here - each week, we'll answer questions on CNN, Headline News and CNNMoney.com.

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.