STARKSBORO Congratulations! Youve just won a fabulous vacation to the sunny Bahamas for you and your family! Ok, so all you have to do is book the plane tickets and go, right? Well, not so fast if you dont happen to have a valid passport at your fingertips, you wont be allowed even one step into the country, never mind on to the sandy white beach. U.S. State Department regulations now require travelers who fly to and from the United States to have a passport to enter or leave the country. Even sea and land crossings to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean will now also require either the new passport card or a government issued photo ID, such as a drivers license, plus proof of citizenship, such as an original birth certificate. Getting a passport used to be a hassle, often involving a trip to a parking-challenged downtown area where you would present your credentials along with an approved photo that youd had taken at an equally inconveniently located photo shop that specialized in passport photos. But in todays post-911 world, with new security requirements, the state department has taken pity of the hapless would-be traveler and increased the number of authorized passport locations. In the Vermont-New Hampshire district, the number of locations has risen from 20 to 117 locations, 61 of which are in Vermont. One of the new, speedy locations to check out is surprisingly enough located at the U.S. Post Office on Route 116 in the village of Starksboro. Starksboro Postmaster David Daniels said since theyve become a passport outlet, theyve done a brisk business. Commuters find it an easily accessible location, without the lines that can hold up customers at larger, busier post offices. Currently, passports are being processed within four weeks, according to the U.S. Department of States web site. If you didnt think youd ever need a passport but then suddenly find that you are desperately in need of one, and quickly (a trip to the Bahamas, perhaps?),, expedited passports can be had in three weeks for an additional cost of $60 each. Although you can take your own digital photo for your passport, Todd Skulnik, district communications director for the U.S. Postal Service, recommends spending the extra $15 for a photo taken on-site at the passport location. The State Department is very particular about size and quality, and will return unsatisfactory photos, delaying the processing time. Skulnik also recommends downloading the application from the USPS web site in advance and having the paperwork completed when you arrive in order to save time. When you apply, you will need to bring the unsigned application, proof of citizenship in the form of a birth certificate issued by the city, county of state, or a previous passport that is not damaged, altered or mutilated. It is very important to note that the application must not be signed until you are in the presence of the postal employee who processes your application or you will have to fill out a whole new application. For complete instructions about passport applications, see the USPS web site: www.usps.com/passport. Bon voyage!