I'm hoping to travel to Mexico next month, but my passport expired last March.
Finally got around to applying for renewal this past Monday. It was kind of a pain, though aspects of it were kinda neat.
I filled in the form on the web page, and it generated a printable document with all the form fields filled in. I printed that out and took it to the closest FedEx/Kinko's office, where I got a terrible passport photo taken (it looked okay in the tiny preview, but awful when printed out, but I figured it doesn't have to look good); then I affixed various things to various other things, and wrote various checks, and so on.
The information on the passport-renewal web pages is somewhat contradictory and somewhat incomplete; for example, one page says that for expedited service they recommend overnighting both ways, another page says they require overnighting both ways (I think it really just means they don't promise to return the new passport within the specified time period if you don't overnight it both ways), and nowhere does it say how to go about paying for the return overnight or how much it costs. I ended up calling them to ask about that last; they said to include two checks (one for the standard fee plus the expediting fee, another for the return-overnight-mail fee), and that the return overnight fee was $16.25 (the standard USPS express-mail overnight-delivery fee for a large envelope).
I stood in line (still at FedEx) to mail the thing for a ridiculously long time--there were only two people ahead of me, both already being helped when I arrived in line, but it took something like half an hour before either of them were done. The FedEx guy behind the counter who worked with me clearly didn't know what he was doing; but he eventually figured everything out, and took my envelope and put it on the counter behind him, and told me I was all set. And I said, "Um, what about that?" and pointed to the mailling label that he had printed out and then set aside. And he said, "Oh." And picked up the label and stuck it on my envelope. He didn't even look embarrassed.
Then I went to the post office for an unrelated thing (for which it seemed to make more sense to use USPS than FedEx), and discovered that my local post office will do passport photos and mail in the forms and such, and you can pay right there instead of mailing a check. It looked like they tacked on an extra $20 or so, but I think I still would've gone with them instead of FedEx had I realized. I've had fairly good experiences with FedEx (much much better than with UPS), but the USPS has been very good to me. (Also, the ten-person line at USPS took about ten minutes, and the people behind the counter at USPS knew what they were doing and were friendly and helpful.)
Anyway. I logged on to the passport-renewal tracking site on Wednesday or Thursday, and was distressed to see that my passport application was listed as having requested standard service. But before I could call them to complain the next day, it was updated to say I'd requested expedited service. The website says to expect a three-week wait, so I settled in to wait.
And just now my doorbell rang, and it was a postal carrier, and he handed me an overnight-mail envelope containing my new passport.
That's five days, minus about four hours, from the time I handed my application to the FedEx people until the time the new passport arrived at my door. Less than a quarter of the time that they said to expect it to take.
I'm very impressed and pleased. Nice going, government workers!