Where You Can Travel Without a Passport (Beyond the 50 United States)
If U.S. passport wait times and bureaucracy have you cringing at the thought of obtaining a new passport or renewing an expired one, here are some enticing destinations you can travel to without.
Americans looking to renew or obtain a new U.S. passport have been met with myriad challenges in recent years, not the least of which has been long delays. And while passport processing times are finally coming down a bit (now an estimated eight to 11 weeks, as opposed to 10 to 13 weeks earlier this year), it’s still not ideal for those hoping to go on an international beach vacay, like, yesterday.
Luckily for travelers caught in administrative limbo (or for people who don’t care to get a passport), there are numerous destinations American travelers can visit with just a government-issued I.D. and proof of citizenship. Of course that includes the wealth of beautiful, nature-filled outdoor landscapes (including dozens of national parks) and culture-packed city hubs Americans can travel to right here in the United States.
Beyond the 50 United States, these are all the places American citizens can visit without a passport.
Blending Polynesian and American influences, these five islands in the South Pacific (located roughly 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii) are rimmed by white sand beaches and reefs teeming with marine life. And while American Samoa sees fewer than 23,000 visitors each year, any American citizen can legally travel there. Because American Samoa has been a U.S. territory since 1900, American travelers don’t need a passport to visit—they just need a Real I.D. You’ll also need an onward or return ticket to be let into the country, per the U.S. Department of State.
Micronesia’s most populous island has all the trappings of paradise: golden sand beaches, swaying palms, cascading waterfalls, and a laid-back culture. And even though it’s more than 6,000 miles southwest of Los Angeles, U.S. citizens are considered domestic travelers in Guam, so no passport is required if you connect through Honolulu (the other options are flying through Tokyo and Seoul, which would require a passport). You will, however, need a government-issued I.D. and proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
Northern Mariana Islands
The Northern Mariana Islands, a remote archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean just northeast of Guam, are another spot for American sun-seekers to experience tropical landscapes and crystal-clear water sans passport. However, like Guam, you’ll need to choose a flight path that doesn’t have layovers in countries where passports are required, like Japan; your best option is to fly through Honolulu and Guam. Travelers only need a photo I.D. and a birth certificate to visit.
With wildly diverse terrain, colorful historic towns, and a thriving nightlife scene, Puerto Rico makes a compelling case for leaving the mainland for a while. Because Puerto Ricans were given U.S. citizenship under the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917, the island is considered part of the U.S. for immigration and travel purposes, even if it isn’t a state. U.S. citizens are not required to have a passport to visit Puerto Rico—they just need a valid government-issued I.D., such as a driver’s license or state I.D. card.
U.S. Virgin Islands
If you’re keen on a holiday that involves gazing at shimmering turquoise water and listening to the rhythmic shush of waves breaking on the beach, you might consider another Caribbean gem: the U.S. Virgin Islands, a U.S. territory since 1917 consisting of three main islands (St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix). All you need (beyond a plane ticket or cruise booking) is a valid government-issued I.D. and a birth certificate, and soon you’ll be sipping cocktails on pristine beaches, snorkeling with riotously colorful fish, and dancing to steel drums.
International closed-loop cruises that don’t require a passport
Another loophole for passport-less travelers who would like to experience an international locale are “closed-loop” cruises. A closed-loop cruise is a sailing that starts and ends at the same U.S. port and only visits select countries in the Western Hemisphere. On these cruises, passengers aren’t required to have a passport. The countries include:
- The Bahamas
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- Turks and Caicos
Travelers are still required to have proof of citizenship, however. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, that can include an Enhanced Driver’s License (currently available only to residents of Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington); a government-issued birth certificate; or an official Certificate of Naturalization. Passengers who are 16 years and older also need to supply their photo I.D. (such as a driver’s license).
It’s worth noting, however, that if the cruise stops in even a single country or territory where passports are required (such as Barbados, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Bart’s, or Trinidad and Tobago), you’ll need a passport for the entire journey. And it’s recommended that passengers bring a passport on these cruises, even if it’s not technically required, in the event that they need to leave the cruise early and fly to or from an international destination.