Passports are an essential travel document, but many there are a lot of things that new travelers often don't know about passports.
1. Just because your passport hasn't quite reached your expiration date, doesn't mean you can travel with it. Many countries require that your passport be valid for a certain period of time after you travel, typically 6 months. Even if your passport is still technically not expired, you could be denied entry if you're only a couple of months away from your expiration date. The best way to make sure that you don't have any issues is to always travel with at least six months of validity left from the date that you return from your trip.
2. Children and babies require passports if you're traveling internationally. For domestic flights, children typically do not require ID in order to fly. But, when traveling internationally, every traveler of any age must have a passport.
3. You don't always need a passport to cruise - but you should get one anyways. For US citizens, a passport isn't required for "closed-loop cruises", or cruises that begin and end in the same US port. For these cruises, technically you can cruise with a government-issued photo ID and birth certificate - however, we still highly recommend that you obtain a passport in order to cruise, even when it's not required. Should anything happen during your cruise and you need to fly back to the US, a passport will have you covered - other identification will not. It's much better to be prepared and have documentation that covers all your bases.
4. The typical processing time for a passport is 6-8 weeks, so it's best to apply for your passport well before your trip. But, if you're in a hurry and need a passport quickly, there are options - they'll just cost quite a bit more. In order to avoid rush fees, apply for your passport early.
5. A passport isn't enough in some countries. Depending on where you're traveling, how long you'll be staying there, and the nature of your visit, you may need a visa for your visit in addition to a passport. Be sure to check with your travel agent for additional documentation that you'll need so that you'll be prepared for your trip.