This is what happens when you try to fly internationally with a passport card

you can't fly internationally with a passport card -- and neither can your children.

You can’t fly internationally with a passport card — and neither can your children. Kim Rosser wishes the travel agent she used to book her family’s dream vacation had told her this information. But when the family tried to check in for their flight, Delta Air Lines quickly broke the bad news. Without passports, Rosser’s children weren’t going to be flying to Turks and Caicos that day.

Now Rosser is blaming her travel agent for their ruined vacation and wants reimbursed for their additional expenses. But is that a fair place to put the blame for her children’s lack of passports?

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Every passenger, including babies and kids, needs a passport to fly internationally. But it would appear from our growing files of passport confusion stories that many travelers are still unaware of this requirement. And as summer vacation season is in full swing in homes across the United States, Rosser’s story serves a timely warning: no one can fly internationally using a passport card as identification.

Your children can’t fly internationally with a passport card

Rosser began planning her island vacation last summer. The trip was to be a warm-weather winter break in January of this year.

“I used the professional services of Kristi, through GoGo vacations, to plan this dream trip,” Rosser explained. “She booked our entire trip, including flights. I included all our information regarding passports on the passport forms she provided via email. She said we were good to go.”

The family definitely was not good to go.

The family headed to the Cleveland airport early on the day of their flight to Turks and Caicos. But all of their vacation excitement suddenly came to an abrupt end at the Delta Air Lines check-in counter.

“The Delta Air Lines employee asked for our passports,” Rosser recalled. “I handed over our passports and the kids’ passport cards.”

That was the moment that Rosser learned that you can’t fly internationally with a passport card. The U.S passport card is not valid for international air travel.

“The kids need passports to fly to Turks and Caicos,” the Delta Air Lines agent informed Rosser. The family would not be flying to the island on their scheduled flight. And suddenly the family’s plans for the rest of the day took a decidedly unpleasant turn.

How to get the kids passports quickly

The Delta Air Lines agent recommended that the stunned family go to the nearest office that could process expedited passports for the kids. The Rossers would need to file an emergency application for passports for both children.

Not willing to give up on their dream vacation just yet, Rosser and her husband did some quick research. Then they set out on an ambitious quest to get the children the passports they needed to salvage the trip. The odyssey would take the determined family through 4 states and even into Canada.

We loaded our vehicle and drove to Detroit, Michigan, to the closest passport agency. We had an appointment booked for Monday at 8 a.m. But late Sunday night, we received an automated phone call stating that our appointment was canceled because of the weather in Detroit.

Our next option was to drive to the next closest location in Buffalo, NY. We drove most of the night to arrive in the morning and wait in line at their passport agency. And then we waited for eight hours and finally got our appropriate passports. We then drove back to Cleveland and got a hotel.

Kids need passports too. Why didn't this mom know?
The unexpected giant road trip the family was forced to take to get their children passports: Cleveland: Detroit: Buffalo: Cleveland

Exhausted, but with passports in hand, the family made arrangements to fly to Turks and Caicos the next morning.

Why didn’t our travel agent tell us our children needed passports?

Rosser says that the family finally arrived in Turks and Caicos two days later than scheduled. With the help of her travel agent, Kristi, their stay at Beaches was extended for two days.

“Upon our arrival, our entire family was exhausted and stressed from the past two days. So the trip was very hard to enjoy,” Rosser explained. “Beaches adjusted our stay to two days later than expected. That resulted in the kids missing school and extra work waiting for us at our jobs.”

All in all, Rosser says the passport fiasco and ensuing chaos overshadowed the dream vacation they had looked forward to for so long. And that’s when she decided that it was all the result of her travel agent’s mistake.

I feel this was a direct professional oversight by [Kristi]. We incurred additional expenses of $1,821 from hotels, gasoline, expedited passport charges, change of flight charges, and meals. We traveled hundreds of miles via auto. I cannot put a price tag on the disappointment and stress this caused my family.

But when Rosser contacted the Elliott Advocacy team, she had a figure in mind. She listed $10,000 as the value of her claim.

No passenger can fly internationally with a passport card

My fellow advocate Dwayne Coward took charge of this case. He reviewed the entire paper trail and then had some hard truths for Rosser: You can’t fly internationally with a passport card — ever. And neither can your children.

First, what Rosser provided to our team showed that under her flight confirmation from GoGo was the following statement:

The warning- Your kids need passports just like everyone else

And if Rosser had visited the recommended site, the same Department of State website that we recommend all travelers visit before international journeys, she would have found all the information she needed to avoid this catastrophe. A valid passport is needed to enter Turks and Caicos — a passport card is not valid for entry.

Entry requirements to Turks and Caicos
All U.S. travelers (including kids) need passports for entry to Turks and Caicos

The critical difference between a passport and a passport card

Rosser told Dwayne that she was under the impression that the passport card met the requirement for entry.

The top of the passport card says ‘passport.’ I had no idea of the difference between a passport and a passport card. I would have really appreciated [Kristi] using her professional knowledge and not just asking me if we had passports.

Although Rosser wasn’t aware of it, there is a critical distinction between the two. Only an official passport can be used for international air travel. A passport card is only valid for domestic air travel and international land and limited sea travel. It’s not possible to fly internationally with a passport card.

The top of a passport card reads “United States of America *Passport Card*.

The top of a US Passport Card. Kids need passports, too.

And if Rosser had taken a closer look at her kids’ passport cards, she might have noticed some vital information on the back of each card.

KidThe back of the passport card makes that clear -- you can't fly internationally with a passport card
The back of a U.S. Passport card reads, “Not valid for international air travel

Why do Americans opt for a passport card? It’s cheaper

Likely because the U.S. passport card is dramatically cheaper than the passport book, many Americans opt for the card. But as we’ve seen repeatedly, that’s often a mistake for these would-be travelers:

The travel agent asked for a copy of the family’s passports

After reviewing all the correspondence between Rosser and her travel agent, Dwayne reached out to Kristi. He wanted to hear her side of this mishap.

Kristi quickly responded to Dwayne’s inquiry with a rebuttal of Rosser’s claims that she was responsible for this fiasco.

As an agent, I pride myself on providing clients with all the necessary information before travel.

Unfortunately, I did not personally see the passports in question before traveling, therefore did not know that the children [only had] passport cards.

I have numerous emails from [Rosser] stating that they had passports. She sent me a copy with expiration dates for her and her husband, but nothing for the kids. I have an email that I sent her that I said I never received a copy of her children’s passports. I told her that I really need to check the expiration dates. Her comment – ‘They both have passports and here are their expiration dates.’

Shocked by her customer’s complaint

Kristi went on to explain that Rosser’s recent change of attitude shocked her. She told Dwayne that as recently as two weeks previously, Rosser had been asking her for assistance with a trip insurance claim over this incident. (FYI: This is not an event that a trip insurance policy would likely cover.)

While I would have liked the outcome to be different, I feel that I did my best as a travel agent, given the information Rosser provided me. I went above and beyond from the minute she contacted me, until 3 in the morning when I was still talking with her as they were headed to the airport.

She thanked me numerous times for my assistance. She was extremely thankful and happy during the entire booking process. I am sorry that she is going to these extremes over something that they really should have been aware of.

In the end, this travel agent stands firm that she did all she could for her client. It’s unlikely that there will be anywhere else that Rosser can turn to for reimbursement. It’s essential to keep in mind that, ultimately, it is always the traveler’s responsibility to know and possess all required documentation for their destination. The U.S. State Department is where you can find all of this important information.

And remember, without exception, your kids need the same documents that you need for travel. If you need a passport to go somewhere, your kids need a passport, too.

Do you need a passport card or a passport book?

The passport card: A limited ID

  • Costs $65 for a first-time adult applicant and is good for ten year
  • Costs $50 for an under 16-year-old applicant and is good for five years
  • Can be used for domestic air travel
  • Is valid for land crossings into Canada and Mexico
  • Can be used for entry to ports of call during a cruise throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada and Bermuda.

The passport book: Your passport to the entire world

  • Costs $145 for a first-time adult applicant and is good for ten years.
  • Costs $115 for an under 16-year-old applicant and is good for five years.
  • Is required for international air travel.
  • Can be used for domestic air travel.
  • Can be used for cruises around the world
  • Is valid for land entry to countries worldwide.

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