I can make international travel plans until I’m blue in the face, but until Baby J gets her passport, we are stuck in the good old U.S.A.

I admit, I was hesitant to spend the money on a passport for a toddler, because it means at some point in the future I will have to keep her hands out of a foreign public toilet, and fly on a plane with a creature who will surely inflict her hyper-friendliness and incessant “hi”-saying on other passengers.

Common sense did not prevail, however, and we applied for our 18-month-old’s passport last week. I’ve detailed our process here, otherwise known as how to get a passport for a baby (or any minor, really).

Try to get a good photo, then eventually settle for an OK one that meets the requirements. We walked over to the UPS Store in the village to get Baby J’s passport photos. The employee wanted her to stand in one place with her back against a white wall. She did this for approximately 5 seconds, enough for one picture. After that, she refused to follow directions and did not want to pose for any other shots. There were a few of her crying, which probably would have closely resembled her after waiting in a security line in an airport.

We chose the first one, in which she has red eyes and a half-smile, illegal under the “neutral expression” requirement. We hoped they would not be so picky with a child. I’ve seen people bring babies in for photos, and they take a big white piece of paper and lay the baby’s head on it. One family at the post office was taking their 2-month-old to Asia, and they had spent so long there trying to get a good shot that the baby was screaming in her car seat as they finished the paperwork. This endless waiting (combined with the slowness of government workers) surely is good preparation for future family fliers.

Make sure you have proof your child exists. We had assumed that Baby J’s birth certificate would be automatically mailed to us after her birth, complete with adorable newborn footprints. This was not the case, and when she was around 6 months old we had to send in a request for it to the records office. Sadly, it was without footprints—but it did have the official seal required to present as identification for her passport.

They take the actual birth certificate to send to the passport agency, so you may want to make a copy before you hand it over. The forms also ask for a social security number, but from what I hear this is not necessary for a newborn who hasn’t been issued one yet.

Both parents, appear in person and bring your IDs and checkbook. It’s the law that mom and dad must show up to the application appointment (ours was at our local post office). James took a break from his computer at home to walk with us there. When we arrived, the passport lady had gone on a break right during our appointment time. I let Baby J loose in the post office, thinking that they might hustle a bit in fear of a little toddler destruction. Not so. In the end, when she showed up at the counter, we were still polite as to avoid her “going postal.”

We showed her our driver licenses, wrote an $80 check to the passport facility and paid $25 by credit card to the post office. Apparently the passport agency only takes checks or money orders. She stamped a few fancy stamps on our forms and gave us the website to check the application status in 7-10 days. We should get her passport in 4-6 weeks, and all that’s left is to decide where to go! Rather, all that’s left is to buy some stupid contraption to roll her car seat through an airport, find a cheap, reasonable flight and dream about packing light.

Photo by jaaron