Everywhere You Can Travel Without a Passport Right Now

No passport? You aren't as trapped within the 50 US states as you might think.

One of the highest and most popular panoramic views on Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Charlotte Amalie Overlook, St. Thomas, USVI | Oliver W. Ottley III/Moment/Getty Images
Charlotte Amalie Overlook, St. Thomas, USVI | Oliver W. Ottley III/Moment/Getty Images

If you've tried planning any international travel or have had to renew a passport recently, you're not alone if it's given you some grief. The pandemic-induced backlog caused a major clog in the system that delayed passport processing times dramatically.

As of this writing, the current passport processing time has finally returned to a more reasonable 6-8 weeks (2-3 for expedited processing), but we wouldn't blame you if you're still feeling squeamish about having to deal with all the paperwork and logistics of getting a passport renewal taken care of. It takes a lot of work to be an ocean-traversing jet-setter, even in the best of conditions!

But fortunately, even if you are unable to get your passport renewed in time for the globe-trotting trip of your dreams, that doesn't necessarily mean your wanderlust must remain confined stateside. There are still opportunities to get away that don't involve any of the 50 states, including a slate of island and cruise options. Here's what to know about passport-free travel right now.

Travel destinations that don't need a passport

As a reminder to those of you who skipped some days of geography class in school, the US has five inhabited territories. Three of them do not require a passport for Americans to visit. These include the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. The US Virgin Islands include St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas.

The Marianas are a warm-weather paradise consisting of 14 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean including the popular Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. Saipan is the largest island of the Marianas and is known for its stunning white sandy beaches, resorts, outdoor activities, and World War II historical sites. Festivals throughout the year celebrate the Indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people and their traditions.

Puerto Rico is, of course, a vibrant island in the Caribbean located between the Dominican Republic and the US Virgin Islands—and it’s only a 2.5-hour flight from Miami. San Juan is the most well-known destination on the island, but Puerto Rico offers much more beyond the capital city. The island is known for its delicious Borinquen cuisine, the only rainforest within the US national park system, bioluminescent bays, and so much more.

The US Virgin Islands are also popular with US tourists, with good reason. Located in the Caribbean between Puerto Rico and Anguilla, the islands offer beautiful beaches that are frequently ranked among the best in the world, all kinds of water and nature activities, and a rich local culture that encompasses the influence of the seven different nations that controlled the islands at various points in time. St. Croix is the largest of the three islands, though it is has been overlooked by tourists in the past.

If you are traveling to any of these destinations as a US citizen, you should treat it as if you were visiting any other domestic destination and carry a government-issued photo ID. Of course, starting on May 7, 2025 as of this writing, that ID will need to meet Real ID guidelines to be used for travel.

Some U.S. territories still require passports

As for the other two territories, passports are required if you want to visit American Samoa or Guam, although the US government states that Americans with a valid photo ID and proof of citizenship may still be accepted "on a case-by-case basis," which sounds a bit wishy-washy to us so you probably still need one.

That said, on Guam's official tourism website, it is stated that "entry requirements for Guam are the same as for any US destination." This means that you are required to present a Real ID or a valid US federal or state-issued photo ID and an original or certified copy of your birth certificate.

The US also has three Freely Associated States, as well, which are Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau, but all three of them also require passports to visit.

Which cruises don't require passports?

Of course, one of the perks of going on a cruise is the ability to visit one or often multiple countries when it comes time for your ship to port. But you need a valid passport to do that. That said, some cruises allow you to visit another country without one.

These cruises are known as "closed-loop" cruises, and they begin and end their itineraries from the same US port and travel exclusively within the Western Hemisphere. You'll still need proof of citizenship and a valid photo ID as defined in detail by US Customs and Border Protection, but passports are not required.

"US citizens on closed-loop cruises will be able to enter or depart the country with proof of citizenship, such as an Enhanced Driver's License (EDL), a government-issued birth certificate (issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where he or she was born) or passport, and if 16 or older, a government issued driver's license, picture ID, denoting photo, name, and date of birth," the CBP website states.

It is important to which kind of documents are not considered valid for closed-loop cruises. They include: Baptismal papers, hospital certificates, voter registration cards, and Social Security cards. Make sure to have an EDL, government-issued birth certificate, or passport as proof of citizenship. You'll also need a government-issued driver's license or picture ID denoting photo, name, and date of birth.

Among the destinations outside the contiguous US that can be accessed through closed-loop cruises as of this writing are Alaska, Bermuda, Canada, Hawaii, Mexico, and most Caribbean islands.

Many major cruise lines offer at least some closed-loop itineraries, including Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Viking Cruises. When browsing for a cruise through the line of your choice, you'll want to limit your search to the available closed-loop itineraries.

That said, bringing a valid passport with you on a cruise is still encouraged, even if it isn't explicitly required. You never know what could happen on a trip, and a passport will always give you more options in the event of something not going according to plan. And before you book your cruise and bank on not needing a passport, you'll also want to confirm with the cruise line that you hold the documents required to take part in the itinerary you've selected.

If all else fails...

Of course, there's still plenty to explore in the good ole United States, as well. If you need to feel inspired, we've gone ahead and ranked all 50 states by their beauty for you and also identified the least-visited states that still deserve a spot on your bucket list.

Looking for more travel tips?

Whether you need help sneaking weed onto a plane, finding an airport where you can sign up for PreCheck without an appointment, or making sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to when your flight is canceled, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for up-to-date travel hacks and all the travel news you need to help you plan your next big adventure.

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Joe Erbentraut is the Editorial Director of News at Thrillist. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin's School of Journalism and his writing and editing has also been featured in Fodor’s, the Village Voice, HuffPost, and Chicagoist. Joe is obsessed with soup, specifically when it involves lentils. Follow Joe on Twitter.
Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree in Journalism from NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She's worked in digital media for eight years, and before working at Thrillist, she wrote for Mic, The Cut, The Fader, Vice, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.