This blog post was updated on September 27, 2017.
Here’s a dilemma. You’re a fan of traveling, but for one reason or another, you don’t have your passport. Maybe you lost it and can’t afford to replace it, OR, maybe you’re one of 62% of Americans who don’t have one (we know, that’s a lot, right?). But fear not, even without the little blue book, you can still take a trip or two, to many exotic locations.
Stick to Within the United States
Yeah, yeah. It’s an obvious suggestion, but it’s still true. There are plenty of exotic spots to journey to within the 50 states. All you need is your driver’s license (or equivalent state ID) to hop on a plane to see the tropical paradises of Hawaii and Key West, the desert wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, or the breathtaking vistas of the Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska. No passport? No problem!
Drive to Mexico
It’s not as easy as it used to be to cross back and forth at the U.S. borders, but there are still ways to do it WITHOUT a passport. If you live in Michigan, New York, Vermont, or Washington you can get an Enhanced Driver’s License. It costs about $30 more than a regular driver’s license, but that’s because it proves you’re an American citizen, and allows you to travel pretty much anywhere in the hemisphere, passport-free. If you want to head to Canada and check out the scenes in Vancouver or Montreal, you can get a NEXUS card for $50, which is part of the Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler Programs, and essentially pre-screens you so you don’t need a passport. If beachy Mexican destinations like Monterrey, or Puerto Peñasco are calling your name, you can get a SENTRI card, which is the Trusted Traveler Program card for the Mexican border (and costs about $122). The big thing to remember with the SENTRI card is that you won’t be able to fly to or from your destination, so get your Mexico road trip playlist ready!
Visit a U.S. Territory
Pretty much the closest thing you’ll get to being able to travel to a foreign land sans passport. By definition, a United States territory is land under control of the American government, just like a state. So unless you plan on taking a layover in a foreign country on the way to, or from a U.S. territory, you can leave your passport at home. So get ready to relax on the beaches of the Northern Mariana Islands, snorkel off the coast of Guam, hike the rain-forest in American Samoa, enjoy the nightlife of Puerto Rico, or sip some rum in the U.S. Virgin Islands—all without a passport.
Take a Closed-Loop Cruise
The secret gem of passport-free traveling. A closed-loop cruise is exactly what it sounds like—a cruise that begins and ends at the same place. And if that place happens to be within the United States and the ship doesn’t leave the hemisphere, then you DON’T need a passport. What you do need is a government issued ID, like a driver’s license, and a certified birth certificate to prove you’re a U.S. citizen. That means you can take a leisurely and relaxing boat ride to Mexico, Canada, South America, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, or Bermuda, and never even apply for a passport.
Experienced at traveling to exotic destinations without your passport and have some tips or tricks for us? Leave them in the comments section below.