Why now is the best time to renew or apply for a passport © Provided by The Points Guy

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We know you have your sights set on some pretty cool travel destinations this year, and we know you’re excited to get going. But before you start packing your bags and arranging your dinner reservations, do yourself a favor and make sure all your ducks are in a row.

After all, is there anything worse than realizing your passport is about to expire — or worse, already expired — just days before a trip?

No one likes scrambling to get a passport renewed at the last minute, and spending a full day in line at the closest passport center is one way to really put a damper on your vacation.

The good news, though, is that now may be the best time to renew your old passport, or apply for a new one. Why, you ask? Because, according to the State Department, demand is much lower than usual.

“If you’re a frequent [flyer] who doesn’t like waiting for your new passport, consider applying this winter to minimize downtime,” the State Department explained on Twitter. “Longer demand [equals] faster processing times,” they added.

Processing wait times usually last between six and eight weeks, according to the State Department’s website. And expedited processing may still take between two and three weeks. Going to a passport agency may cut the wait down to eight days, although some restrictions apply. And, of course, you can always sweat it out for a same-day renewal if you have imminent travel plans.

While we’re on the subject, you’ll also want to make sure you’re not making any of these common passport mistakes that could leave you stranded at the border. Of course, you need valid travel documents any time you leave the country. But it’s also a good idea to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the programs that can make your journey a bit easier.

For example, a Clear membership can save you a ton of time — and spare you a lot of stress — at the airport. With it, you’ll be on your way to the lounge before you can blink. The normal rate for Clear membership is $179 per year. TPG readers, however, can use the promo code TPG149 to get a discounted membership for $149 for the first year, or can use the promo code TPG2M to get a two-month free trial membership. If you’re a Delta SkyMiles member or an elite, you can also get special pricing (read: discounts).

If you travel internationally frequently, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have a Global Entry membership in your back pocket. With it, you can clear U.S. Customs in minutes (and wave to all the people stuck on those enormous lines in the process). Better yet, depending on which credit card you have, you might be able to get it for free. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum Card® from American Express and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, just to name a few, all offer this benefit.

Have you applied for or renewed a passport this winter and received your passport faster than expected? Sound off in the comments below and let us know!

Featured image courtesy of Tetra Images/Getty Images.

WATCH: This is the most powerful passport in the world for 2020 (provided by Travel + Leisure)

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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