If you’ve done it, you know traveling with kids can be a real character builder. Babies don’t really care that you’re in first class or coach if the baby is unhappy for any reason, he or she is going to scream.

Ditto for your ever-honest 4-year-old traveling companion. We were told a story of a child causing a huge panic on a transatlantic flight when he saw the reddish sunset glinting off the wing of the plane out of his window, and announced very loudly the plane was on fire!
His parents said the stink-eye they received from the both the airline staff and the passengers was pretty unnerving for the rest of the flight. Their son slept through the rest of the flight never fully realizing the panic he caused.

Here are some traveling with kids stories you may have missed this week:

Tiniest Passport We Have Ever Seen
beanybaby1Could this be any cuter? As you know you need a passport for even a newborn to travel internationally. So these expectant parents created a tiny passport for their traveler who has not officially arrived yet.  They even got Beany Baby’s passport stamped. (So named because he or she is the size of a bean).
Read the whole story here at Travel and Leisure.

She’s Not Taking the Kids Afterall 
Then there are the parents that just decide traveling with little kids is way too much of a hassle. This Perth stepmother said a “paperwork bungle” prevented her from taking her two children, ages 4 and 6-years old, on a trip to Bali. So she left them at home with the front door unlocked. If you’re wondering how awesome that plan worked out, read the story here.

Excellent Tips for Traveling with Children
This article lays it out for traveling with kids AND having a great time doing it. Best takeaway : pair activities with eating. You absolutely cannot go wrong on that one.

Everyone Loves Safety Tips
And finally, staying safe ensures a great time for everyone. This is a great article about keeping your kids safe when catching rides in cabs and on public transportation. See the article here.



photocopypassportThere’s an urban legend about passports that just won’t die. The story goes that much like paper money, a passport is a federal document that you cannot photocopy without risking a federal felony.

Reality of passport copies
The U.S. Department of State recommends that travelers have a photocopy of their passport information before going to international destinations. It’s a very smart move to put your copy of your information in a completely different place in your luggage than your actual passport. If your passport is lost or stolen, it will expedite the process of getting another passport.

Don’t forget the passport photos
Another smart recommendation made by the State Department is to have two extra passport photos with you when traveling internationally. This will avoid having to get new photos retaken and get you back on schedule with your trip.

Tips for the best photocopies
Many photocopiers are set to dark and with the imaging on the passport pages, it can result in a dark, difficult-to-read photocopy. Lighten the settings until you get a clear copy of your passport’s information pages. An alternate method is the usage of a flatbed scanner. Just scan the passport and print. Use the “fine” setting on your printer to ensure you get the best copy possible.
If you scan the passport, email it to yourself and save in a folder in your mail. That way you’ll have an electronic copy to print out if you don’t have your copies available.

source: U.S. State Department

Passport Renewal Warning - Lines are Long, Here's How to Get Around ThatThe Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was implemented in 2007, so its 10th birthday is fast approaching. If you were among the many millions of people that got a passport, it’s expiring!

The Passport Bureau of Consular Affairs stated they are estimating they will processing 17 million applications this year and that number will increase to 20 million applications in 2017. What does 3 million additional passport applications mean? Longer wait for you unless you expedite your passport.

We have noticed longer lines for passports happening already and the current estimated time if you go through regular channels for your passport is 7 weeks. If you want your passport faster, here is how to do it in six fast steps.

Make sure you meet the following requirements:
– your passport is undamaged
– you were 16 years of age or older when your passport was issued
– your passport was issued in the past 15 years

1. Complete the Department of State’s application online here.
2. Take two passport-type photos. You can get them made at any CVS or Walgreens, or take them yourself, just follow the requirements carefully.
3. Sign the authorization letter for Texas Tower to act on your behalf.
4. Include your current passport (it will be returned to you with your new passport).
5. Need your passport fast? Like within 24-hours fast? Include your flight itinerary or a rush request letter. Here is a sample rush request letter.
6. Fill out and include your Texas Tower order form.

Gather all this information up, include your payment and send to us. You will have your passport renewal done, and we’ll handle the lines so you don’t have to.  Get started renewing your passport here.

Ghana Tourism- FDA Approves Vaccine to Protect Travelers from CholeraThe FDA approved the vaccine, Vaxchora, for the prevention of cholera. The vaccine may be used by adults from 18 to 64 years of age traveling to areas with known cholera outbreaks. Vaxchora is currently the only vaccination for cholera that has an FDA approval.

What is Cholera?
Cholera is a condition caused by ingesting water or food contaminated with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria. The symptoms happen rapidly and while most cholera cases are mild in an individual with a healthy immune system, the disease can be severe or even life-threatening when the resulting  watery diarrhea and vomiting lead to dehydration.  Prompt treatment with antibiotics and fluid replacement are implemented and the bout usually passes within a week.

Up until now, travelers have had to rely on preventative measures such as avoiding contaminated water, foods, and frequent hand washing.

When to Get Vaccinated
In order to be effective, the Vaxchora should be taken (it is an oral dose) at least 10 days before your arrival in a cholera-affected area. The Vaxchora is a live, weakened version of cholera and gives your body time to build up immunity to the stronger version you will likely encounter in Ghana and other affected areas.

Currently, a yellow fever vaccination is required for entry into Ghana. The CDC further recommends vaccinations for Malaria, Typhoid, and Hepatitis A. Dengue Fever is common in Ghana, but there is currently no vaccination for the illness.

If you need additional information about required paperwork for a Ghana visa, check out our page where you can get both tourist and business-class travel visas.

5 Things You Need to Know About Your Passport Right NowRemember when the  Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was launched in 2007? Prior to that, United States citizens didn’t need a passport to visit Canada or Mexico, since then – definitely.

If the WHTI was a catalyst for getting your passport, as it was for many travelers, your expiration date is coming up and here are five things you need to know.

1 – Lines are long and expected to get longer. The Passport Bureau of Consular Affairs stated they are estimating they will processing 17 million applications this year and that number will increase to 20 million applications in 2017.

2-Start the renewal process in the 9th year of your passport. Since most countries will require that your passport has an expiration date that is 6 months beyond the completion of your trip, make sure you never experience a halt to your travels by renewing your passport earlier.

3 – Even if international travel isn’t on your to-do list for the near future, be prepared and have your passport ready to go. You never know when a family member may fall ill overseas or maybe your kid is studying abroad and your presence is  needed. You can’ t plan for an emergency, but you can be ready to handle it if your passport is ready to go.

4- A passport is a great backup plan. If you lose your identification, a valid passport is proof of citizenship and can save you a lot of hassle getting your I.D. reissued.

5 – If you travel frequently and cannot wait to get your new passport back to leave for your trip, there is something you can do. This is one of the best times to use a passport expediting service. You can get your passport back as fast as 24 hours.

Got a passport renewal question? Ask us as on Twitter @TxtPassportVisa or email info@texastower.net .

outsourcingNo matter if you have a fresh new startup or you have a long time established business, you can benefit from outsourcing your travel.

We are based in Houston, Texas, but can handle any passport, visa, birth certificate acquisition, or document service nationwide.

Passport services
Employees traveling to see clients, overseas offices, or for conferences will need passports. Instead of paying someone internally to process the paperwork, we will handle your passport renewals, or replace the passport of your employees as needed. Got an employee who has never had a passport before? No problem. We can also obtain new passports.

Visa services
You haven’t seen a long line until you stood in line at the State Department for a travel visa. Many countries require a travel visa for entry. We will process the paperwork and make any necessary trips to the embassy or consulate for your employee. The travel visa will be ready when they are.

Document translation services
Many countries require certain documents translated as part of the visa issue process. If you need travel documents translated, we can provide that service as required, to or from any language. Additionally, we can certify any documents necessary.

Birth Certificate services
Need a certified copy of a birth certificate? We can obtain one from all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Apostille services
Not all countries require this, but if your employee will be visiting a country that requires apostille documentation, we can assist you in that too.

International driver’s license
If public transportation is unreliable in the country your employee is visiting, consider getting an International Driving Permit for them. No driving test is required, and the employee will be valid to operate any vehicle.

idpsecretsJust kidding, there’s no driving test.
If you want to be in command of your own schedule when you travel, the best way is to get an international driving permit and see your destination country on your own schedule.

Your state issued driver’s license in the United States won’t be recognized as a valid instrument for operating a vehicle in another country. That’s where an International Driving Permit (IDP) comes in.

There is no special test required to obtain an IDP. You will need to be a legally licensed driver in the United States. Most foreign governments will allow you to legally operate a vehicle in their country. The minimum age to get an IDP is 18 years of age. An IDP is good for one year from the issue date.

If you aren’t sure that you’ll be able to use an IDP during your travels, contact our office and we can give you the latest information on the validity of using an IDP in the country or countries you plan on traveling to.

letestBeginning June 1st, 2016, Brazil has made it a whole lot easier for U.S. citizens that are planning to attend the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio August 5th through the 21st, by waiving the requirement for a travel visa to enter. You will still need a passport in good standing.

How long will the visa waiver be in place?
According to Henrique Alves, Brazil’s minister of tourism, the visa waiver program will allow citizens of Australia, Canada, the United States and Japan, all normally required to obtain visas to travel to Brazil, to enter the country without visas between June 1 and Sept. 18, 2016.

Has this been done previously in Brazil?
Yes. In 2014, Brazil experimented with waiving the visa requirement  during the World Cup, and the move resulted in a record one million travelers visiting the country over a 2 month period in the summer.

What is the length of validity for the visa waiver?
The exemption from the visa requirement is valid for 90 days, and this period will count from the first visitor entry into the country.

Does this cover travelers from the United States?
Yes, tourists from Australia, Canada, the U.S. or Japan who want to benefit from the measure should thus enter Brazil from June 1 until Sept. 18, 2016.

 When does the visa waiver end?
Starting on Sept. 19, 2016, the usual visa requirement for the countries mentioned above, currently in force, will again be required.

How will the process of entry work for tourists exempted from obtaining visas?
The procedure will be the same for all other foreigners coming to Brazil. After disembarking the plane, they will have to go through customs and immigration control at seaports and airports. What changes is not the entry procedure, but the facilitation of travel, since tourists will no longer need to go to the Brazilian consulates and embassies to obtain visas.

Does this only apply to tourists visiting Brazil for the Olympics?
No. To travel to Brazil at that time, visitors simply need to have a valid passport and roundtrip tickets.

What is the financial means statute? 
Tourists should be able, if necessary, to prove financial means to remain in the country if called upon by the immigration authorities, as may occur with all visitors who come to Brazil.

Are the airlines aware of this waiver? 
Yes, the Brazilian government created a task force to keep all entities and agencies informed.

How to be Ridiculously Good-Looking in Your Passport Photo“I got my new travel mugshot” said my friend when she renewed her passport.  Admittedly, my own passport isn’t fantastic, and also looks like I am angry about something. Remember Prince’s passport photo? Perfection.

credit: PRINCE ROGERS NELSON::PASSPORT PICTURE 2/11/16 pic.twitter.com/lgdLCXQ9y2
credit: PRINCE ROGERS NELSON::PASSPORT PICTURE 2/11/16 pic.twitter.com/lgdLCXQ9y2

Here are some tips for taking the best passport photo of your life, so you don’t wind up like Stuart Boyd, who found his finished passport photo made him look like Adolf Hitler complete with a toothbrush mustache.

Photo Credit: Gary Louth http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/man-left-looking-like-adolf-11412791
Photo Credit: Gary Louth http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/man-left-looking-like-adolf-11412791

Here are five tips for taking a great passport photo:

1. Make sure your hair is in place. A little mascara and lip color is fine, but keep it as natural as possible. Avoid lip glosses, they don’t photograph well.
2. Don’t take your passport photo when you’re tired.
3. Wear something that will contrast with the plain white background, beige is not your friend. Solid, dark colors work the best.
4. Remember the bright flash has a tendency to wash out skin tones, it’s okay to wear some makeup. Revlon makes a foundation Photoready Perfecting Primer that will halt any green undertones or washout from happening.
5. You can’t smile, just keep a relaxed face and “smile” with your eyes.

Your passport photo going to be with you for several years, Use these tips and get the photo you want to present for your travels.