THE summer holidays are here and people everywhere are preparing to get away for a much needed break.
However, with people waiting up to ten weeks to receive their passports, some are running the risk of missing out.
That is exactly what happened to dad Alex Rainey, who needed to get his child’s first passport before a trip to Spain quickly, or else the holiday would not have happened.
While there are both premium and fast-track options available to speed up the process for a fee, both have a limited capacity and require an appointment at a passport centre.
Anyone trying to book one of those appointments online at the moment will more than likely be told there are none “due to high demand”.
New appointments are released daily, seemingly at random, meaning people trying to get one often have to spend ages in front of their computer hitting refresh.
However, Alex has created a smart way to help beat the queues and get passports sooner than others.
The software engineer designed a website that sends text alerts to people when the premium and fast-track appointments are made available.
This prevents them from having to constantly refresh the website and means they are first in line for the appointments when they go live.
Alex was able to get his child’s first passport in just four days and has opened up the service to the general public to help them do the same.
He said: “I would advise people trying to get an urgent passport appointment to sign up to an alerts service and then be very reactive once they get a text alert.
“Go straight onto the Passport Office website and keep refreshing the page for up to 5 minutes if it says there are no appointments or the website has crashed.
“When I crunch the data from the 2 weeks. I can clearly see patterns when appointments are released.
For instance, online premium appointments are usually released just before 8am. 1 week fast track appointments are released throughout the day and much harder to predict.
“But in most cases the appointments are gone in minutes, and this is why it’s so important to be on the website at the exact right moment.”
Due to costs involved in running his software, Alex does charge a small fee for the service.
For a week of alerts it costs £4.50, or £8 for two weeks.
This expert has set up a similar passport alert service using Twitter to announce when appointments are available.
This woman missed her holiday to Spain because she didn’t get a new passport in time.
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