Ever since we got back from Ireland in March 2005 we've been discussing our next trip to Europe. A couple months ago we decided that trip should be this summer and purchased a couple airline tickets for July. Now, we're about a month out and getting caught up in the details of everything we (haven't) planned.
After debating four or five cities in three or four countries(1) we decided to split the trip between London and Rome. Our original thought was to do this trip on the cheap, doing all the crazy "euro-stuff" that our friends had done as students and younger travelers but we didn't get the chance to do in Ireland. We had ambitions of hostel stays and overnight train travel with short trips to many cities. It turns out we're not really doing any of that - really just a couple days in London a flight to Rome for a few days, then a return trip to London for a day or two between our departure for home. We haven't planned exactly how many days we'll stay on any leg of the trip nor have we booked the inter-Europe flights or even a single hotel room. At least we do have some ideas.
Our biggest concern is our passports. We originally received our passports in late 2004 for our Europe travel. However, when we came back my passport accidental went through the wash. I attempted to call the federal passport information phone number to see if I can continue to use it or not. After listening to about 10 minutes of droll information I was informed by the message that their is absolutely no way to speak to someone in person due to high call volume and was promptly hung up on. They did tell me that if I sent an e-mail I would get an answer back in three or four days. I sent in the message and described the situation of my laundered passport: dented and wrinkled, backpage pulling apart from the back cover but photograph, text, holograms, even Heathrow, Dublin and Chicago stamps, still visible.
I received a reply advising me not to travel with my poor passport. Fair enough, off to the post office lest I get stuck en route and shipped to Guantanamo Bay for an undetermined amount of time while they figure out the validity of my citizenship. Hope, also in need of a new passport having changed last names since our first overseas trip, accompanied me. Between the two of us we turned in several pages of information on ourselves and our parents, both of our existing passports, our marriage license, $350 for two new passports, "expediting fees", and postage. All the while the unfriendly old woman assigned to guide us through the process was telling me that I should be able to travel fine with my passport (which was reassuring)(2) and this whole exercise was ridiculous.
The State Department's website says that expedited passport applications should be processed and returned within two to three weeks. We allowed for five so I'm assuming that we'll be okay. However, the night we applied we watched a story on the news where a couple that had planned to honeymoon in Jamaica applied twelve weeks ago and had yet to hear anything back(3). Hopefully they didn't "expedite" or we're in trouble.
(1)And, getting the advice of several friends and neighbors who had been to said destinations. (2)I love it when federal agencies are on the same page. (3) It looks like they'll be okay.