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Originally published Monday, March 18, 2013 at 1:06 PM

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Travel Q &A: Newly gray hair and a shaved mustache don’t require a new passport

Passport tips, travel-purse advice and a trip to Pearl Harbor are topics in today’s column.

Detroit Free Press

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Q: My passport is good until 2015, but my photo looks nothing like me from the photo taken in 2005. My hair is now gray, my big black mustache is gone, and I’m much thinner in the face. Will I have trouble at customs on my trip to Jamaica?

—Altered Image

A: The only way to change a passport photo is to get a new passport.

But you are probably fine with the one you’ve got.

State Department rules advise getting a new passport only if you are completely unrecognizable in your current photo.

That includes having “undergone significant facial surgery or trauma; added or removed numerous large facial piercings or tattoos; gained or lost a significant amount of weight, or made a gender transition.”

A change of hair color or shaved-off mustache? Don’t bother.

In addition, there is no need to apply for a new passport for children under age 16 just because their appearance has changed “due to the normal aging process,” the rules say.

If you absolutely despise your photo, well, that’s another story. By all means, spend the cash and get a new passport (

Q: Do you have a recommendation for a travel purse? I’m going to Italy.

— Safekeeping

A: No need to go out and buy a specially designed travel purse. Look for a handbag that fits these criteria: lightweight, a strong strap, can fold flat in case you have to pack it in a suitcase, is fairly nondescript, is big enough to hold your camera and guidebook, zips closed, and does not scream “travel purse” to advertise to crooks on the street that you are a hapless tourist.

If I am on a trip and see a woman wearing a purse with the strap worn across her body, I think, aha! That lady must have something valuable and lots of money in that purse! Robbers, come on over!

Also, try out the purse before your trip to make sure it’s you.

Q: I’m trying to help my parents with a trip to Hawaii. My problem is I know nothing about Hawaii. My parents’ main wish is to see Pearl Harbor. I am not sure where they would fly into and how to get to Pearl Harbor. Last predicament, my father tends to be frugal.

— Daughter Wants to Help

A: Pearl Harbor is in Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, on the island of Oahu and is an easy day visit from any resort hotel near Waikiki. It is only a couple miles from the Honolulu Airport. However, lodging prices and occupancy rates in Hawaii are way up this year (average Oahu room rate is $196 per night, according to February data from industry watcher STR), so it’s not a frugal destination.

At any rate, you sound overwhelmed. Find a local travel agent who can help your parents and make them feel confident about their trip. Most agents know a lot about Hawaii because they send so many tourists there, plus they are more likely than you are to know about deals or packages that would suit your parents.

If your folks are miffed that you won’t plan their trip for them, explain that you would rather they love you as a daughter than hate you as a travel agent.

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