Your passport is, quite literally, a ticket to the world.
Turns out most of us are naturally pretty passport-savvy -- research suggests we're just as good at spotting fake ones as real passport officers (which is also somewhat troubling).
That being said, it's time we all got to know our favorite travel companion a little better. Here are seven things you might not have known about the document.
Fall is the best time to renew your passport.
If you obtained your passport after age 16, it's valid for only 10 years, and that deadline may be sooner than you think: According to the State Department, "Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond the dates of your trip." The best time to renew your passport is early autumn -- that's when applications are at a low before Thanksgiving and holiday rushes, the State Department says. You'll likely get yours processed faster.
You can get an XL passport with extra pages -- for free!
A traditional U.S. passport comes with 28 pages, but you can request a 52-page one for free when you apply for your first passport or renew an old one. You can also add pages to an existing passport, but that will be an $82 fee.
There's a cheaper thing called a passport card.
It's wallet-sized, it and costs $80 less than a regular adult passport. The catch? You can only use it to "re-enter the U.S. from land border-crossings and sea ports-of-entry in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda." Short-haul travelers can rejoice! The rest of us, not so much.
Your passport is one of the most powerful in the world.
If you're from the U.S., your passport affords you free access to 172 other countries. Not many other global citizens can say the same.
If you got your passport after 2007, there's an electronic chip in it.
That chip on the back stores the same personal info printed on your passport's photo page, plus a biometric identifier (aka a digital image of your face). If you have one of these "e-passports," agents can use facial recognition technology to confirm the passport is indeed yours.
You don't have to take your passport photo at the drugstore.
The picture must be square, unaltered and on a white background, but you're allowed to take it at home! The rules do not stipulate that you stand in line for hours at Walgreens.
You may get barred from boarding if your passport doesn't have enough blank pages.
"Some countries require that your passport has two to four blank visa/stamp pages," reads the State Department website. "Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement in not met." Check the requirements for your specific destination before you go.