We love to travel.
Even with three kids, we enjoy being able to take them on trips that introduce them to other countries, cultures, and ways of life.
Our kids are still young so most of our travel is within the United States. Our nation is vast and full of amazing things to see, so that's hardly a limitation.
There are, however, instances where we want to travel internationally. We have friends who live in England, we have family still in Taiwan, and so that means we'll need passports to visit them.
Last summer, we did take an international trip over the summer and so we made sure the kids had passports (really it was just #3 that needed it).
As it turns out, my passport expired last fall so I needed a new passport too. Most countries require you to have a passport that is valid for six months after you're scheduled to leave. They don't want you to be stuck there. 🙂
So, that means getting a new passport, new photo, and going through all those hoops.
That provided a good opportunity for me to research where the best place to get a passport photo. The cost of a passport renewal costs $110, there's no escaping that fee, but I was going to try to get the photos cheap.
Here are the best ways to get a cheap passport photo:
Print Them Yourself
There's nothing special about a “passport photo.” It's just a photo that conforms to the rules of the State Department.
The rules are pretty simple:
- A color photo that was taken within the last 6 months that has no filters, no eyeglasses, with a plain white or off-white background.
- The photo must be 2″ by 2″ where the head size is 1 – 1⅜” from the chin to the top of the head
- The photo must be on matte or glossy photo paper with no holes, creases, or smudges
- As for your expression, make it a neutral facial expression or a natural smile with both eyes open.
- As for your clothes, just regular clothes with nothing else. No uniforms or camo, no hat, no headphones, and no jewelry if they hide your face. You can get a religious exemption for hat/head coverings.
If you go to a place that offers passport photos, they know the rules and make the process easy. Since the head size has to be certain dimensions of the photo, photo stores will make sure the rules are followed but you can take them yourself. You can use any photo as long as you can get it on a white or off-white background. Print it out on photo paper (glossy) and you're set.
If your printer doesn't have good enough quality, you can take the photo and send it to a photo printer to get it printed.
If that's too many steps, the next best option is to get them taken and printed at the store. It's not expensive and there are a lot of stores that offer passport photos near me (and probably you too):
Print it at a Store
When I say “print them at a store,” I mean for you to go there, get your photo taken, and they print out the photo for use in a passport application.
The best deals will be at a membership warehouse but you will need to be a member to get it:
- Costco: $4.99 for four photos (details) – this is what I ended up doing on a recent visit
Sam's Clubno longer offers this as of November 2019.
- BJs: They do not offer passport photos but you can print photos there.
This list includes all the places that do not require a membership to get the photos.
In some cases, they only print a photo you've already taken (indicated as “printed only”). Otherwise, they will take your photo and print it for the price shown.
Here are the places, ordered from cheapest to most expensive:
- Wal-Mart: $7.44 (printing only, details)
- UPS Store $11.99 (details)
- Target: $12.99 (printing only, details)
- FedEx $14.95 (details)
- Walgreens: $14.99 (details)
- CVS: $14.99 (details, but sometimes they have a $2 off coupon so Google for it)
- AAA Varies by membership level but Plus-level get 1 set free, Premier-level get 4 free sets, Basic members pay $8 per set and non-members pay $15 (details)
- Post Office: $15.00 (details)
While we're on the subject of saving money on getting a passport, some places will charge you a fee to process the passport application. One nice benefit is that they will check your application to make sure it's correct, which can save you a lot of headaches, but the fees are not cheap.
The most widely available place that will do this is your local Post Office. They do this for a $35 fee, which is on top of any fee you pay to the State Department for the passport itself.