updated 2/20/2008 6:28:56 PM ET 2008-02-20T23:28:56

Flying to the Caribbean, Mexico or perhaps somewhere more exotic for spring break this year? If so, you'll need to pack more than shades, a swimsuit and sunscreen. You'll have to have a passport.

The State Department is advising students making the annual pilgrimage to sandy foreign shores and bars to apply now for the travel documents, which are required for all passengers traveling in and out of the United States by air. It says a massive backlog that slowed the process to a crawl last year has cleared, but it never hurts to plan ahead.

In its annual guide for spring breakers, the department puts the passport requirement first among numerous pieces of advice for the beachbound, ahead of warnings on drugs and alcohol, sexual assault, robbery and poor road conditions.

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