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.
If you've tried planning any international travel in the last year, it should come as no surprise that passport processing times are a mess right now. The COVID-induced backlog has caused a clog in the system that remains unresolved. As of this writing, the current passport processing time is 10-13 weeks (7-9 for expedited processing), which means your visions of a European vacation anytime in the near future could be thwarted without ample planning.
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 Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas.
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.
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?
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