Passports are the most important form of identification used when you are traveling outside the borders of the United States. Chances are if you have traveled outside the US you have a passport, but if it's been 10 years or more, you may need to renew that passport so you can keep it up to date.
Of course, if you are traveling to Canada or Mexico by land or sea, you may not need your passport at all. These countries only require your driver's license and a copy of your birth certificate when coming from the US - but if you are entering by air, you will still need a passport here as well.
Luckily, getting your passport renewed is a much easier process than applying for a brand new passport. You no longer have to be present for renewal; although any of the 9,000 passport acceptance facilities located throughout the United States would be happy to help you renew your passport.
Instead of renewing your passport in person, you can now choose the easier way of renewing your passport through the mail. You can download the forms you need off of the Internet through the government's website, so you don't even need to leave the comfort of your home to start the process.
There are some rules to renewing your passport through the mail. You must have been at least 16 years old when your passport was issued, and your passport may not be more than 15 years old (it's ok if it has expired). You can have held a minor passport and still renew as an adult.
If you are renewing through the mail you have to make sure that your existing passport is not ruined, or destroyed beyond any and all recognition, because authenticity of the passport must be verified. If it is too mangled, you will need to apply for a new passport in person instead of through the mail.
Name changes on passports can not be processed through the mail. For instance, if you held a passport in your maiden name and got married and want to renew your passport - you will need to apply for a new passport in person at a passport acceptance facility. Other name changes follow these rules.
Sending in your passport renewal info is easy. You just need to enclose your application for renewal, your old passport and your passport photos. Those will be two identical 2"x 2" photos taken with a passport photo camera. You'll also enclose your renewal fee for the passport.
Wait times are long for passport renewals, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time before your trip when sending in your renewal forms. The wait is just as long as for new applicants, and is indicated on the government website. Be careful, as you don't want to hold up your vacation.