The biggest thing is timing. Check your passport. Is it up to date? Make sure it doesn’t expire within six months of your travel dates. All passports must be valid for six months after any international trip. You must have a passport or passport card for most travel out of country. Note that it takes up to six weeks to get a passport unless you request and pay for expedited processing.
But, and this is a big “but,” there is a higher than normal number of applications expected since we are approaching the ten year point of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. WHTI was enacted in 2007. This is when the government made passports mandatory for all travel outside the U.S.,including Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean. So the government is expecting a wave of applicants as those passports expire. Remember that your passport must be valid for six months after your travel date so many will need to reapply in early 2016. In anticipation of this surge of applications, the government says it could take 10-12 weeks for processing. I think it might be longer since they are expected 16 million renewals in 2016 and 20 million in 2017.
Another important issue is page inserts. Travelers can no longer receive page inserts overseas. So you’re in trouble even if your passport isn’t expiring if you don’t have enough blank pages. Frequent travelers should request a 52-page passport book to avoid any possible problems.
FYI: The slowest renewal months are September – December so just do it!
Check out http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html/ for more info and applications.