I’ve just applied for a new passport. I’m going to miss the old one: it has been a constant companion on my travels, but even though it has plenty of space (I got a big one last time!) and five more years’ validity, it has started playing up at electronic passport gates.
And that’s a deal breaker, because electronic passport gates are a big deal for me. They save months of queueing. Even entering the USA and New Zealand is now much quicker because of these gates, just as it is coming back into the UK through Heathrow. The problem is that the UK passport has a very flimsy photo page, and with so much use, mine is now worn to the point that it’s only working about one in four times. I’m very jealous of my New Zealand friends: their passports have a thick plastic photo page that’s virtually indestructible.
Replacing a passport used to be a pain. You’d have to go to the post office, fill in a form, take some photographs in a booth, and then send your old passport away along with the carefully completed form. This just isn’t feasible for me because I never have long gaps between travel. Last time I renewed my passport I used the one-day service, where you book and appointment and then get a new passport on the same day (you still have to collect and fill in a form, and get pictures taken). It was good, but a little more expensive.
To my great joy, I have discovered that there is an online service (it’s still at Beta stage) where you can apply online, take your own digital photo, and then go and collect your new passport at a specified time (my appointment is Friday). This is brilliant. Well worth the small premium over a regular passport (my passport will cost £177, as opposed to £85 through the normal route – I went for the regular size on this time because with electronic gates, I’m picking up fewer stamps).
I shall be very careful with the new passport, and hopefully it will last the next 10 years. I must remember to get new ETAs for Canada and the USA, and change my details on the two frequent flier alliances I’m with. Other than that, it will be a joy to sail through the electronic gates again. And as an added bonus, I’ll have a European passport as a fond reminder of the pre-Brexit-nonsense days.
As an aside, for now the UK passport is one of the most powerful in the world, allowing visa-free access to 174 countries. Kind of useful for me…