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Need a passport? Get ready to wait

UNDATED-- If you want to cross the U.S. border, you are going to need more than your driver's license and birth certificate.  Now you need a passport.

New travel regulations set by the 9/11 Commission require U.S. citizens to have a passport when flying to Canada, Mexico or Bermuda.  This means passport agencies have been inundated with applications, and even travelers who pay to have their application expedited are waiting up to four weeks.

At least one Lawton travel agency can get a passport for you in about 72 hours, but you're going to pay for it.

Employees at the Comanche County Courthouse have started to noticing long lines forming.  In the last few weeks the clerk's office has seen the number of passport applications increase from 12 a day -- to 35!

"I don't think the passport agency was ready for this rush," said Melissa Jones, first deputy with the clerk's Office.

So what can you do to avoid these lines?

One option is to plan your vacation so you don't cross a border by plane.  For example, you can fly to Florida first, and then take a cruise to Mexico.  This has been a popular option for some summer travelers.  George Johnsen with Adventure Travel says many people have been booking cruises this summer in order to avoid the passport lines.  But you should check with the cruise line first, because even though the law doesn't require it, some cruise lines still want passports.

If you prefer to fly and go the passport route, you'll need to arrive prepared: you will need a picture ID, an original copy of your birth certificate (or a certified copy, not a photocopy), two passport photos, a completed application form, $67 for passport fees, $30 in cash for filing fees, and an extra $60 if you want your passport expedited.

We checked with Adventure Travel and they can rush your passport in as little as 72 hours -- but you are going to pay more than $200 in extra charges for that service.

If you have any other questions, or want to check the status of your passport, you can call the passport hotline at 1-877-487-2778.  But we have been told you should be prepared to wait there too; people are saying they have waited hours to get help because everything is so backed up.

Passport agencies expect things to slow down in the fall.

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