It has been quite some time since I actually applied for my passport, however, when I helped my mother renew hers last year, it took about 3 weeks to process via their standard process. I was very impressed to say the least. Also, a friend of mine had a similar experience when he and his family applied for their passports for the first time last year, quick to process.
If you go to http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html, it states 4-6 weeks for routine processing. Based on this and previous experience I went on the assumption that it would probably take maybe 4 weeks to get my sons' passports. I thought to myself, no need to expedite, our trip is 8 weeks out.
Well, let’s just say, don’t assume history will repeat itself. It was 2 weeks prior to my vacation and still no passports. I called the passport center and asked to expedite, the response was "we’ll put in a request but not guaranteed". About a 1 week and ½ before my trip, checked online and passports were still processing but in final stages. I called the passport center again and was given a tracking number. I checked online immediately, they had shipped and were en route. I was tracking the movement of these highly valuable documents every day until it finally arrived at the local post office and was out for delivery. That day, I called my mother at home and asked her to stay close to the door and window and keep a look out for the mail man. I kept calling every so often to see if they had delivered yet. When she told me that the passports had arrived, I breathed with much relief but I was not going to celebrate until I had them in my hands. I jetted home that afternoon with much anxiety to open the mail. I got home, opened my priority packages and it was like I had won the lottery, the passports were in my hand! I could finally be excited about going on our vacation in approximately 1 week.
Moral of the story, when you apply for your passport, plan on the longer expected time they give you and build in about a week to allow for it to arrive via mail. In my case, 6 weeks to process plus one week to ship via mail, totaling 7 weeks from the time I applied to the time I received it. Better yet, why wait until you have a trip or vacation planned, a passport is a convenient necessity that you should have before you even start planning.
Paudy Carolina - Travel Advisor / Owner at One Trip To Paradise