For any frequent international traveler, a valid passport is their ticket to freedom and roaming the globe.

The travel junkie will know the expiration date as if it’s been tattooed on their brain. Still, it can be used so frequently that the pages fill up with stamps before the expiry date occurs. This can raise suspicions when going through immigration in certain countries and leave you with insufficient blank pages required by the destination country. I was questioned ad nauseam going into Bali as I was living in Thailand then and frequently visiting the countries of 'The Golden Triangle'—Laos, Myanmar, and China. Apparently, I was a prime suspect for being a drug mule because of my stamps! The passports of globetrotters may become a bit worn and ragged, which can also be unacceptable—not being in a purposeful cover because it's a nuisance to keep pulling it out, stained from being squished into the bottom of a backpack along with a half-eaten banana, or water-stained from when you took a dunking crossing a stream.

For infrequent travelers, their pristine passports are usually shoved at the back of a drawer in their trendy passport covers and only brought out to see the light of day when the annual holidays come around. There are few stamps, and the immaculate condition leads the passport owner not to think about an expiry date.

1. Before going to the airport in your home country, sort out any passport issues, including having to renew your passport, or for some, it may be getting your first passport. If you don't want to miss out on that planned escape, read the tips below to avoid being stranded at the airport with nowhere to go—but back home.

2. Timing – you left it too late!

The trip is planned and booked, but when you check the expiration date of your passport, you aren't going anywhere until it has been renewed. Most passport renewals can take anywhere between 10 days and 6 weeks, depending on your home country's immigration department. Some have an express service, but it will probably cost you double the normal fee.

3. Be pedantic when filling out the application form.

From your name to your correct address and place of birth, ensure there are no spelling errors. If you are applying for a renewal and you've had a sex change since your last passport, check what gender box you should be ticking. The spelling of your name should be exactly the same as what is printed on your airline ticket and visa. If you have legally changed your name, your passport should be in your new name, and it's a good idea to have authentic proof of the name change, such as a marriage certificate.

4. Don’t Smile for the Camera

Photographs are often the main reason your application will be delayed. Read the government's website carefully regarding passport photographs, as they differ from country to country in terms of size, quality, head coverings, squinty eyes, and how recent the photograph is. Remember, passport photographs are not for your 'look at me' social pages; yes, we all look like convicts or someone who has just lost their dog.

6 Passport Tips to Jump Borders - The Wise Traveller - Passport with Stamps

5. Passport Scams

Beware in this age of tech-savvy scammers and identity thieves that you are dealing with your country's official government website or visit an official passport agency, such as a registered Post Office in some countries, to apply and pay for a new or a renewal of your passport. Scammer websites charge exorbitant fees for passport applications—always check the amount of the correct fees on an official government website. If you receive a telephone call relating to your passport, hang up and call the authorized government body to confirm that the call originated from them before giving any information. You will have to cancel your passport if your identity is stolen.

6. What do immigration officers consider when letting you cross that line after you provide your passport and a finger scan?

  • The expiry date of your passport is crucial, with many countries insisting on a validity period of 6 months from the date you depart.
  • A certain number of unused pages, such as 2 to 4 blank pages, can be required.
  • The authenticity of the document.
  • If the overall condition of your passport isn't up to par, authorities may think it's fraudulent or has been tampered with.
  • Where have you been via the stamps in your passport? Where are you going in their country? Do you have a visa? Do you have a booked onward flight? The list goes on about your identity, criminal history, or, if you have been blacklisted from a country, even your media profile may be considered—basically everything except your daily bowel movements.

Random tips:

  • Your passport is your identity – don’t let it out of your sight. Keep it in your hotel safe, and only carry a copy with you when out and about.
  • Either enter your own personal contact details on the back cover of your passport if there is a dedicated space for it, if not, write your address etc on a separate piece of paper and slip it into your passport holder.
  • Do put it in a wallet to give it some form of protection.
  • Always carry extra passport photographs in case you need to replace your passport at your country’s embassy while on an international jaunt.

Gail Palethorpe, a self proclaimed Australian gypsy, is a freelance writer, photographer and eternal traveller. Check out her website Gail Palethorpe Photography and her Shutterstock profile.