I just got back from my second trip to the local US passport office (and finally have my passport in hand) and I am going to write what did and did not work for me so that others may benefit. Waiting up until 2 days until departure was stressful for me and my family .My desire is to help others avoid what I went through.I want to say one thing about this experience. It taught me that playing by the rules and following directions and doing what you are told to do (by representatives of our government in this case) may be the worse thing you can do. As you will read below, I did everything I was supposed to do. I did everything the State Department web site and the customer service representatives told me to do and in the end, when I arrived at the passport office I found out it had gotten me no closer to actually getting my passport than if I had done nothing at all. Keep my story in mind as YOU are told what to do and remember that rules are meant to be broken.
#1: Do not necessarily rely on information given to you by anyone-in my case I made 3 trips to local post offices for answers on what to include and none of the advice I received turned out to be correct. US passport Customer service reps may also be unreliable. I was told by one that the system was down and would not be working for 4 days.
#2: Immediately begin checking via email for yout "status" and print out confirmation when it finally comes up. Add your email address for contact purposes when you do the status check and keep track of all emails : both emails sent to you and by you.
#3:Do not wait until you are within 14 days from departure to make your automated appointment with the passport office. If you wait until that point you may find, as I did, that no appointments are available until well after your departure date. I did wait and the only appointment I was able to make was 4 days after my departure. So, go online and get that phone # and call at least 3 weeks prior so you can get a date several days prior to departure.(You may need to go back so give yourself wiggle room-it looks like it takes one visit to get passport applications to the surface so they can be finalized and a second visit to actually pick the finished document up)
Also-and this may not be true : a customer service rep. told me the appointment system is updated between 4a.m & 6a.m. each day. If you are unable to get an appointment in time it may help to call back early the next day. The reason I suspect this advice maybe untrue is I tried it and never found an earlier appointment.
#4: Writing local elected officials: I wrote local politicians for help. I began with emails as that seemed quickest and I was desperate. I was told you have to call or show up in person. It seems that emails get lost so talking directly to someone is best.It turns out that this effort ended up not helping me and it is not to be relied upon. Try your local council person, senator and so on-it maybe good to do simply so that elected officials know that scope of the problem and so that you can feel as if you have done everything you could to advocate for yourself. I personally think the high demand problem is going to go on for several months beyond the expected date and folks need to get the word out.But-I can not stress enough that you should NOT rely on them for help. You may find yourself without your passport if you do.
#5: WILLCALL: I have no idea what this magic word means but: after I had done everything the passport web sight requires-I called for my status, I emailed for it, and finally, at 72 hrs. to departure, we called and were told there was nothing we could do ... we asked to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor put us on the "WILLCALL" list and made an appointment for us that day. This is what worked for us. I hope it helps others.
#6: we did not rely on the US mail system.If you need your passport within the next 72 hrs. and can pick up your passport in person I would suggest you go. There is just too much that can happen -and the truth is there is no way you can accurately track things or control things once your passport enters the US postal system.
#7:As the new restrictions currently in place to help ease passport demand for those traveling to Mexico, Canada,Bermuda & the Caribbean require a drivers license and printed proof of one's passport application-I am more than a bit surprised that this has not resulted in lawsuits. Anyone who is disabled and therefore unable to drive and get a license is, in effect, discriminated against by this new requirement. As all other photo I.D. (learners pernit, non-drivers I.D. and so on)is state issued and therefore not valid-only people with drivers licenses are able to travel to Mexico , Caribbean, Bermuda and Canada if they have applied for but not yet gotten their passport. That leaves a huge segment of Americans unable to travel... I speak as someone who works with people with disabilities and who believes each of us should have the same rights and opportunities as Americans.