Traveling this holiday season? Get your passport now

Family passports
Family passports
Craig James via Flickr.

Your holiday plans are ready, but is your passport? If you're looking to renew it soon or need to apply for one, now is the time to do it, officials say.

"We usually tend to experience a spike of last-minute customers applying for their passports right before Thanksgiving [and] right before Christmas," Howard Josephs, customer service manager of the Los Angeles Passport Agency, told KPCC. Right now "it's our slow season when not very many people are applying for passports."

Josephs suggests holiday travelers handle their passport issues this month or next. For those looking to travel next year, things get busier in January, he said. It gets even worse in the spring and summer. "That's when everyone applies for their passport," he said. If you get one now, it would take about 4-6 weeks to receive a passport in the mail — during busier times it can take up to 10 weeks. 

To make sure you are set to travel, the passport office is specially opening its doors on a weekend rather than its standard Monday through Friday hours — Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. — to take applications. It's at the West L.A. Federal Building.

Avoid common pitfalls

Not sure you should get one now? Josephs said that many times people think they don't need a renewal or are not aware of the passport guidelines in other countries. 

"We're trying to raise awareness about the best times of the year to apply for your passport," Josephs said. "And also to help the traveling public to avoid some unnecessary expense by waiting until the last minute and then having to expedite their passport."

He explained some of the other "common pitfalls" many people face last-minute: 

What you need to bring

When you go to get a passport or to renew your passport, remember to bring the following:

Applying earlier is smart

"It's always smart to apply for your passport early,"Josephs said, because you avoid unnecessary fees and avoid lines. "Get it done, get it out of the way."