13 Practical Gifts for Traveling Families

Thrifty Travel Mama | Inexpensive, Practical Gifts for Traveling FamiliesOkay, okay, I’m hopping on the holiday gift wish list bandwagon… but, I’m kicking and screaming the whole way.

Confession: Gifts are just not my thing.  I love to give and be generous, but I’m better at offering my time… or cupcakes.

When it’s my turn to pick out a present, step one is usually to panic.

Step two is to accept help, usually in the form of gift guides scattered around the Internet.  But, most of the guides for men and kiddos (I’m the only female under this roof) are technology-laden.

We don’t need any more electronics, and my five year-old is just not getting a Kindle.  Or his own iPad… mini, gigantic, telepathic, whatever.  Ain’t gonna happen.

And, if I do manage to find a few items I like, I start hyperventilating when I see the price and end up suggesting to the intended recipients that we do handmade gifts, consumable gifts, or no gifts at all.  (aaaaaand we’re back to cupcakes!)

However, I don’t like being a Scrooge, so this year I’m putting out my own list, a mix tape of gifts for traveling families. 

Practical.  Affordable.  Fun.  Suitable for male recipients.  Enjoy!

Oh, and before I begin, you should know that at this time I do NOT use affiliate links.  I have not been compensated in any way by any of the companies below. 

  1. Streamlight Septor LED Headlamp Fun for kids and adults alike, headlamps can be used for your next after-dark adventure whether it takes place in the mountains or under the covers on the pages of your favorite book.  I like the extra strap on this headlamp, but other models with just one strap are less expensive.

  2. Handmade Silver Travel Necklace with Globe Charm Show off your wanderlust with this pretty, pretty necklace.  Choose from four chain lengths and four font options.

  3. Nibbles Apple iPad Charger Holder.  Keeps unruly cords in check both at home and on the go.  And, it’s hilarious.  Also available for iPhone chargers.

  4. Deutsche Bahn German Railway Map T-Shirt Not just for expats, this tee is travel nerd fashion at its finest.  Good thing they have men’s and women’s sizes!  Be sure to check out the other art, science, and travel t-shirt designs in babbletees Etsy shop.

  5. Scribble It! 30 Postcards My boys are constantly asking if we can mail the drawing of the day to a friend across the world.  I’d love to reduce the bulk (and save on postage!) by using these postcards which they can color and then send.  Plenty of margin space for doodling and personal messages.  The hardest part will be convincing the boys not to send all the cards at once!

  6. Airplane Mode Pouch Unisex packing organizer, pencil case, camera holder, catch-all clutch, etc.  Just one Fab’s fabulous travel accessories.

  7. Curious George Magnetic Tin Play Set What toddler doesn’t love Curious George?  Leave the stuffed animal at home, and take this traveling tin with you.  Features three scenes and loads of magnets sure to delight and entertain your favorite pre-schooler.

  8. Men’s Grunge Airplane T-Shirt Order one for the pilot, mountain man, or armchair traveler in your life.  By the way, OhSudzGifts also has clothing sporting bicycles, Chucks, compasses, and the Eiffel Tower.  Yeah!

  9. NYC Metro Cuff Not recommended as a suitable tool for navigating the New York subway, but fashionable and fun anyway.  NYC not your thing?  Designhype offers cuffs with San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago, Brooklyn, London, Paris, Berlin and Milan maps in several finishes.

  10. Sticky Mosaics® Vehicles Set.  Finally!  Fun crafts for boys that are easy enough for kindergarteners to tackle.  Take this kit on your next holiday or bust it out when cabin fever sets in, oh say about mid-January.  Also available in girly and grown-up kid versions.

  11. Pirate Passport Cover.  With five passports to juggle (thank God none of us have dual citizenship..), we’re always fumbling with the stack at check-in.  From cars to camo to cupcakes, Pokey Passports has you covered with dozens of designs that are sure to please every member of your traveling family.

  12. iTunes Gift Cards.  Personalize an impersonal gift card with a list of recommended or favorite apps.  My boys love Smart Fish: Frequent Flyer, Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure, Toca Kitchen Monsters and Hair Salon, and Minion Rush.

  13. Skip Hop Zoo Neck Rest Stash this adorable travel pillow in the car for naps or shove it in a backpack so you (er, I mean your child) can snooze in style.

If you love this list but your extended family could max out a cruise ship, don’t miss the following suggestions from other family travel bloggers:

But, what if you’re like me and homemade is more your style?  Everything Etsy has an excellent list of 25 DIY Gifts for Travel Lovers.  (I might need to make some of these for myself!)

Which of these gifts would your kid(s) love?  Which one are you secretly adding to your own wish list? Signature-Marigold

Thrifty Travel Mama – 2012 – A Year in Review

Whew!  2012 has been a wild ride, full of experiences and surprises.  “Year in Review” posts are all the rage in the blogosphere, so despite my inclinations to do the opposite, I’m jumping on the bandwagon.

In January, I went fully frugal.  I shared my source for Free DIY Passport Photos.  I pointed you to the European Backpacker Index, a tool for researching expenses in European cities.  Oh, and I saved you from having to run to the store at the last minute by showing you how to make your own brown sugar.

February brought me a birthday, and Doc Sci took me to Milan (sans kids) to celebrate.  We ogled da Vinci’s Last Supper and the views from the roof of the Duomo.  We got caught in Carnival madness, and stuffed our faces with risotto, bread, pizza, and (of course) gelato.

I went crazy in March trying to make our awful concrete student housing apartment more homey on a very small budget.  I spiced up the kitchen, bathroom, and front entry.  I constructed a ginormous cork board wall in the living room and plastered it with photos.  I somehow also found the time to completely finish Rosetta Stone German and post a final review.

In April, our little family went home to the US for 3 weeks, stopping in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.  We soaked up the sun, and made kid-friendly activities a priority.  Among the boys’ favorite was our trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Back in Germany, May was part work and part play.  Doc Sci and I both took week-long intensive German courses.  We also managed a date night to the movies, complete with popcorn and assigned seats.

Doc Sci let us tag along with him to Berlin in June.  He attended a brainiac conference while the boys and I played at Legoland.   And speaking of brains, I got mine to work long enough to pass my German driver’s license exam.

In July, I switched to extreme nesting mode.  I stocked the freezer with a gazillion meals, and organized our life into one happy turquoise notebook.

I took a six-week break starting in August to bring our third and final little traveler into the world.  His birth story is the kind nightmares are made of.

We ventured out to Frankfurt in September to get the little guy his passport when he was only two weeks old.  And good thing, too.  Later that month, Big Foot found himself coasting through five countries on four planes, five trains, and two buses, in the span of three days.  No sweat for a seven week-old.

In October, I posted reviews of flying Delta Airlines and easyJet with a baby.  I should’ve shown you these fashionable Oktoberfest pull-ups, but I was too busy scoring freebies for babies and mamas in Germany.

November was an exciting month for us.  We bought a car!  Doc Sci wrote a fabulous guest post detailing the adventure.

We took our car on a little road trip to France in December.  It was all the travel we could muster in between the zillions of Pinterest projects that filled my days and nights before Christmas.

Every year has its highs and lows, surprises both good and bad, and 2012 was no different.  It’s just how life goes, and I’m thankful to live it with my awesome-amazing-how-could-I-describe-you-in-just-one-word husband and three blessed boys who make me laugh every day.  Here’s to 2013!

Getting an American Passport in Germany

Attempting Big Foot’s first passport photo!

It was my very first time.

I’d never been to an embassy or consulate before.  Though I’ve lived in two different countries outside of the US and traveled to many others, I never before had a need to appear in person at such a place, American or otherwise.  But that all changed the day we applied for Big Foot’s passport.

Seventeen days old and the kid not only goes on his first train ride but visits the US Consulate in Frankfurt as well.  It’s like his parents are travelers or something.  Sheesh.

In preparing for the trip, I’d been warned over and over in emails and on websites that the security measures were high and the list of restricted items was long.  Among the things forbidden, I found predictable goods like cell phones, cameras, and electronics.  However, I was surprised to discover that baby food in a plastic container was a-ok but baby food in a glass jar was prohibited.  Baby food?  Seriously?  Oh the lengths people will go to hurt others.

Since we traveled to Frankfurt only for the day and had no alternative, we made sure to stash our cell phones and camera in a luggage locker at the Hauptbahnhof before heading over to the Consulate.

In front of the forbidding building, we waited in the visitor line until a very polite security guard escorted us to the front of the pack.  He explained to everyone else that babies went first and asked the other visitors not to be bitter or complain (!).

After everyone’s passports were checked at the main gate(children included), we were given a number and instructions to proceed through security.  The process was very similar to airport security minus the hurrying and high stress.  We were allowed to take our pram inside, but every possible item on it or in it had to be removed and x-rayed.

As we walked to the main building, I noticed all the bars on the windows and the impossibly heavy front door.  Doc Sci whispered to me, “It must be b-o-m-b proof!”  And good thing considering what happened recently in Libya.  Yikes.

The inside reminded me of, well, an American government building.  It was rather freakish, really.  I wanted to ask someone if the awful carpet and uncomfortable chairs had been imported.

When our number was called, we presented a mountain of paperwork: applications, documents, evidence of our citizenship and residency, etc.  Luckily, we had all our ducks in a row, including the correct German birth certificate.

The woman processing our application chuckled at Big Foot’s picture.  Though I also found it funny because I’m his mama and of course I think he’s hilarious already, it’s nothing like this awkward baby passport photo.  (Need passport photos?  Check out this post for how you can get them mostly or totally free!)

The whole shebang – questions, signatures, and an oath – only lasted about ten minutes.  After using our American credit card to charge the fees in dollars (!), we were on our way.

Two and a half weeks later, we received Big Foot’s shiny spankin’ new passport.  That must be some kind of record.  Or perhaps it’s just faster to get a passport overseas where the demand is much less than mainland USA.

It might seem ridiculous to get a passport for such a wee one even if his parents do plan to schlep him all over the globe.  But since we live in Germany, even Big Foot needs a visa to legally reside here.  In a moment of clarity not typical for sleep deprived parents, we had decided to be proactive and go through the process as soon as possible.  And good thing, for little did we know just how soon it would be needed…

Big Foot’s Birth Certificates

Having a baby in another country is certainly an adventure.  After the birth, however, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things… like paperwork!   Red tape!  Bureaucracy!

Since little Big Foot was born in Germany, he’s entitled to a German birth certificate.  And good thing, because that document is needed for a host of other necessary items like a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a US passport, a German visa, German health insurance, etc.

We applied for the German birth certificate at the hospital where he was born.  True to German nature, that office hours are ridiculously restrictive.  Think one hour on a Monday and one hour on a Thursday.  That’s it.  Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but it sure seemed like it.  And trying to fit those office hours into a newborn’s schedule was a real barrel of laughs.

At the office, both Doc Sci and I had to show our passports and birth certificates as well as our marriage certificate.  When I pulled out copies, the woman informed me that the city absolutely had to have originals.  This proved to be quite a problem for us since our originals were resting comfortably in a safe on the other side of the Atlantic.

Round and round we went with the government.  We begged.  We pleaded.  We took a translator with us that, ahem, embellished our predicament.  In the end, we were granted the birth certificate for Big Foot but only after we forked over $60 to have our original marriage certificate overnighted from the US.  Evidently, marriage certificate forgery is big business and the city official insisted on seeing the real thing.

In the meantime, I made an appointment with the US Consulate in Frankfurt to apply for Big Foot’s passport.  When looking over the required documents, I realized there are two types of birth certificates in Germany.  The kind we had just fought for was only the short version, and we’d need the long one.


Fortunately, the process for the three-page birth certificate was much easier.  I could order and pay for it online.  When the government official had a question, she emailed me directly – and even answered my reply promptly.  I think that’s the first time I’ve ever been impressed with government service, German or otherwise.

(In case you’re wondering, the German birth certificates are nothing special.  No fancy paper, no gold, no silver, no color at all.  Just plain Jane computer printouts.)

Since Big Foot was not born in the US, he cannot have an American birth certificate.  Instead, we requested a Consular Report of Birth Abroad at the same time we turned in our application for his first passport.  (I’ll post separately about our experience applying for Big Foot’s passport at the US Consulate.)

The Report of Birth Abroad is a beautiful document complete with a raised golden seal and a holographic strip.  It’s much prettier than all of the other family members’ certificates.  And it better be.   That one piece of paper set us back a hundred bucks!

US Consular Report of Birth Abroad.

As for citizenship, he isn’t automatically eligible for German citizenship even though he was born here because neither of his parents (that’s us!) is German.  He can apply for it, but he must choose at the age of 18 which country will be most deserving of his tax dollars, er, I mean whether he would like to be a German citizen or an American citizen.

Regardless, we are very glad that Big Foot is now official in two countries.  Hooray!

Household Notebook

I finished my Household Notebook – yay!

Well, “finished” as in as complete as any project done by a perfectionist could possibly be.  I’m doing my best to let it be what it was intended – a tool that our family USES – and not merely a piece of art that adorns my desk.

So, what exactly is a Household or Family Notebook? 

Our family’s Household Notebook – turquoise!

I suppose it’s not the same for everyone; but, for us it’s a collection of documents to manage our family “business” better.  It will help me be even more organized, and it should provide valuable information for Doc Sci or anyone else who might need to take over daily affairs for some reason.  It should also provide quick access to vital information during an emergency situation.

I started out researching what other people had in their notebooks (using Pinterest and Google, of course).  I made a huge list of ideas, and then I narrowed that list down to 15 categories.  In those 15 categories, I wrote down items that were appropriate to the category and would be referenced or used frequently.  I then searched for existing templates that I could use as a springboard to design my own documents.

When poking around online, I noticed some people had four binders instead of one.  Other people used their binders exclusively to pay bills and didn’t include anything else like meal planning or personal health records.  I didn’t want my notebook to be a replacement for a file cabinet – but, I also didn’t I want my desk to be overwhelmed with a library of resources.

Ultimately, a Household Notebook needs to be something useful for that particular household.

So, what’s in my notebook?


My 15 categories and a few examples of the documents in each are as follows…

  • Contact Info
    • Emergency phone numbers
    • German & American contact numbers
    • “In case of emergency” document
  • Planning
    • 2012 and 2013 at a glance
    • Important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, etc)
    • Yearly calendaring list (everything from dentist appointments to dryer cleanings)
    • German and American holidays including daylight savings schedules (they’re different for the two countries)
    • Doc Sci’s work schedule and my weekly schedule
    • Party planning checklists
  • Home Management
    • Deep cleaning checklist
    • Storage unit contents – Germany and USA
    • Stain removal guide
    • Garment care symbols
  • Meals
    • Grocery lists for regular grocery stores
    • List of items only available at specialty shops
    • Meal planning sheets
    • A list of staple meals
    • A list of meals to try (and space to write the verdict)
    • Restaurants to try (and space to write the verdict)
    • Seasonal produce guide for menu planning
    • Stockpile inventory
  • Family
    • Children’s current sizes and measurements
    • Chart with American and European sizes, including shoes
    • Children’s daily schedule and routine
    • Babysitter notes for nights out
    • Birthday party ideas
    • Chore chart ideas
  • Health
    • Medical history for each family member
    • Physician phone numbers
    • CPR instructions
  • School
    • School contact info and phone list
    • Home school weekly planning sheet
    • Home school year overview
  • Money & Finance
    • Family budget
    • Wallet contents including card numbers & contact numbers
    • Password log
    • Yearly schedule of the best time to buy household items
    • Auto insurance coverage details
  • Travel
    • Ideas for local family outings (not overnight)
    • Vacation destination idea list (overnight)
    • Packing lists
    • Before-we-leave checklist
    • Frequent flier mile information for all family members
  • Expat Living
    • Copies of passports
    • Resources for renewing visas
  • Projects
    • Generic to do list
    • Generic project work sheet
    • Generic week at a glance schedule for completing a project
  • Holidays
    • Thanksgiving guest list, meal planner, and grocery list
    • Thanksgiving week planner
    • Christmas card labels
    • Gift gift lists
    • Christmas cookie swap party planner
    • Christmas guest list, meal planner, and grocery list
    • Blank copy of December 2012
  • Blog
    • Ideas page for future posts
    • Yearly calendar for planning
  • Activities
    • Local public pool schedules
    • Local sport club classes for kids
    • Ideas for activities during summer and holidays
  • Lists
    • Items I frequently (and currently need to) request from the US
    • List of topics to research
    • Household items to fix
    • Generic sheet for thoughts on a particular topic

Using the documents I found online, I created my own set of documents in Illustrator that fit our family’s situation (living abroad, don’t own a home, etc.).  I also had to make sure all the pages matched and looked pretty!

My funky European two-ring binder.

After designing all the documents, I organized them into folders on my computer hard drive that matched the categories above.  That way, when I need to print out new menu planning sheets, I can just open the “Meals” folder on my computer the same as I could flip to the “Meals” tab in the notebook.

The only tabs I could find that would reach beyond the page protects had to be cut by hand. Not great for someone who can’t snip a straight line to save her life!

I wanted to print out the documents at a lab so they’d look nicer.  Unfortunately, I don’t know of any existing print labs in my city, so I had to settle for our HP Deskjet. Surprisingly, Illustrator did a great job with color, and what I saw on the screen was how it looked on paper.  Sweet!

Some reference documents went in page protectors, and some were just hole-punched and placed in the corresponding category tab.

Page protectors are very cheap here – both in terms of quality and money.

I bought a plastic envelope to put in the back of the notebook to hold takeout menus and other small scraps of paper that didn’t fit anywhere else.  Unfortunately, it was too big, so I’ll have to check a few other stores for smaller pouches.

My too-big plastic envelope.

I have a few finishing touches to put on the notebook (for starters, filling in the budget and phone numbers by hand).  After that, I’m looking forward to how this notebook will help streamline my “mama” job and make life easier for Doc Sci when I’m out of it for a few weeks.  I think my Household Notebook will be a great tool for our family in the years to come.

p.s. – I’ve made a Pinterest board with links to all the documents I used for ideas.  You can view the board and links here.

How about you?  Do you have a household notebook? Why or why not?

Getting My German Driver’s License: Part 1

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - Drivers LicenseI am so very excited to announce that Doc Sci and I have decided to make Germany a bit more of our home – we’re applying for German drivers licenses!

And while I am stoked to have the opportunity to legally operate a car here.. I’m actually quite terrified to do so.


Because I’m that American: the one that can’t parallel park, doesn’t have any real experience with a manual transmission, likes wide lanes, has never parked on a sidewalk, etc.

But, I’ll get used to it, right?

Ah, well, the first step to getting comfortable with German driving rules and etiquette is actually being allowed to legally drive.  So, we’re starting there.

Unfortunately, a “here’s how an American gets a German drivers license” official document does not exist.  I did a lot of internet research and combed the Toytown forums for advice.

The first and most important thing is to determine the reciprocity agreement your home state (the state that has issued your driver’s license) has with Germany.  For a list, see here.

Florida only has partial reciprocity, so I must take a written (theoretical) test.  Luckily, this is available in English, and I’ll be using an online study guide with actual English-version test questions.

If I was from a state that had NO reciprocity agreement, I would be required to take a practical test as well.  Germans learn to drive at driving school (Fahrschule), not at home with mom and pop.  Fahrschule costs thousands of euros, but if you don’t do it, you won’t pass the test.  If I found myself in this situation, I wouldn’t bother getting a license.  It could cost me as much to obtain a license as it would to purchase a cheap used car!

But, I’m willing to try my hand at the written test (particularly since I can take it in English).  So, based on what I found in the forums, I determined I needed the following documents.

Passport and residency visa.  If you’re here in Germany for less than 6 months, your US driver’s license is valid.  If you’ll be staying for more than 6 months but less than 1 year, you can apply to extend the validity for an additional 6 months.  After that, US licenses must be converted to German licenses.  Or, you can just take the train instead!

Valid US driver’s license.  I’ve seen some comments here and there in the forums mentioning that licenses must have been issued at least one year ago.  This is to prevent residents from going around the reciprocity agreements (see above).  Mine says it was issued in 2008, even though this is a renewal date, not when I first received my license.

Official translation of your US driver’s license.  My neighbor paid 35 euros for the translation of her license, but the price has now jumped to 55 euros.  It’s a complete rip-off, but you must have a translation with an official stamp.  No asking your German friend to “translate” for you!

Passport photo.  I was told this had to be “biometric,” but I just used one of my free passport photos with no problem.  I have not seen any specifications as to how recent the photo must be, so I used an older one that doesn’t show my pregnancy face.  Note: a German driver’s license is issued for LIFE so make sure to like the photo  you submit!

Eye test.  Any Optiker or Augenarzt can give you this test.  Bring your passport and about 7 euro.  If you fail the test, it’s possible the equipment is old and fuzzy.  Try another place before freaking out at how expensive glasses in Deutschland are.  Don’t ask me how I have this advice.  Just go with it.

Proof of First Aid Class attendance.  This one is a toss-up and might depend on which German state you live in and who collects your paperwork.  German drivers are normally required to take a first aid class that teaches life saving techniques.  I hoped and prayed that I would not have to take this class!  It’s only offered once per month, on a Saturday, and it’s 6 hours of instruction… in German.  If you have to do this, it costs about 20 euro.  I was not asked for proof of attendance, and I hope it’s the last I hear of this requirement.

Application. I found this online, and filled it out in advance.  It’s shockingly short – only one page.  For the pleasure of applying, I had to pay 35 euro.

I took all my required papers to the local driver’s license office (Führerscheinstelle).  The woman was refreshingly polite and understanding of my limited German skills.  She took all of my paperwork, and asked me to fill out a declaration.  What exactly I was declaring, I’m still not sure.  My understanding is that I was affirming the authenticity of my license (that I didn’t manufacture it myself or buy it on the street), but it could also be stating that my license is still legal and valid.

Luckily, I was prepared to not receive a new license immediately.  For Americans, this is quite strange.  But, she reminded me of my required written test, and asked me to call her in 2-3 weeks.  If all my paperwork is in order, I’ll be approved to take the test.  Only then can I make an appointment with the testing agency.  After I pass, I must take proof back to her, and then my license will be issued.

So, here’s to 2-3 weeks of studying German driving laws!  Stay tuned for an update on the test and all the subsequent hoops I must hop, skip, and jump through in order to be legal on the streets in Germany.

To read about the test, click here. And for the final installment of the driver’s license saga, click here.

Free DIY Passport Photos

Thrifty Travel Mama - Free DIY Passport PhotosDo you know I never, ever, EVER pay full price for passport photos anymore?  In fact, I haven’t since we needed photos to apply for T-Rex’s first passport at 15 months.

Personally, I have always dreaded the passport photo experience.  Walking into some random drugstore or Kinkos, and crossing my fingers that (1) the employee knows how to use the camera – seriously – and (2) my photos will come out somewhat decently without some lame smile or my eyes closed.

And that’s for (mostly) grown-up me.

What about for kids?  Even if all goes well with the employee and the equipment, there’s absolutely no guarantee that my little kiddos are going to cooperate.  At almost 10 dollars for TWO photos that may or may not be acceptable, I started the hunt for another solution.

Voila!  I found ePassportPhoto.com.  And, I LOVE it.

It’s incredibly easy, but I’ll walk it through with you.  Just in case.

The first feature you’ll notice on the home page is the ability to select your country.  I’ve always chosen the US, even for my German visa photos.  I haven’t had a problem yet (though, that’s not to say I never will).

After selecting your country, click “Get My Passport Photos.”  The next screen gives you instructions on how to take your photos in order to get the best result.

And this, here, is the genius of the DIY passport photo… You can take as many as you want – or as many as you need which is usually the case with children.  Fix your hair, practice your smile, change your outfit.  It’s your camera, your time, your space.

If you can, take your photos in the morning when there’s lots of natural light to be found.  I pick a white wall, turn off the flash, open all the blinds, and tell my boys that if they stay perfectly still and let Mama take some seriously boring photos of them, they can have a gummy bear (yep, one – I’m incredibly generous).

Doc Sci and I then alternate taking each other’s photo.  I almost always take three of each person (more of the kids if they don’t cooperate).

Download the pictures to your computer, and save them in whatever program suits your fancy.  Pick the best one (edit it if you’d like, but don’t change the background or add disguises like I did), and upload it to ePassportPhoto, using the “Browse” button.  Then, click “Next.”

When your photo finishes uploading, you’ll then be prompted to click and drag a box around the subject’s face.  If you don’t get it right, just use the “Clear” button and try again.  Pay attention to the instructions in the “Ensure Compliance” box.

After you’re satisfied, click “Next.”

The following screen is the only part of the website I don’t like.  It’s confusing, and it pressures you a bit to spend money.  I said these were free, and I want you to know that IS possible.

However, if you feel more comfortable ordering a service from ePassportPhoto.com, know that it is STILL cheaper than going to a drugstore and you got to take your photos in the comfort of your own home, on your own time.

Have I ever paid for a pro to look at my picture?  Yes, once.  I thought it was a waste.  I’m pretty sure the “expert” was the Walgreens guy in the photo lab where I printed my picture.  Plus, you do not get your photos instantly, and often I need them right now.

If you want to print them yourself, click the small, grey link at the bottom of the page, “No thanks.”

The final page is where the free option comes in.  I always choose the first button, “Download the passport photo sheet image.”  If you print your photos at home, click away until your printer starts humming, and you’re done!

I download the image, save it, and then transfer it to a flash drive.  I take the flash drive to my local photo printing shop, and pay 27 cents for one sheet of four passport photos.  Mine aren’t totally free, but just over a buck for the whole family is good enough for me!

Have you used ePassportPhoto or another service?  What did you like/not like about it?Signature-Marigold