Unique Travel Destinations That Don't Require a US Passport

Last updated May 27th, 2021

US citizens looking for exotic places to go to without the hassle of renewing their passport or standing in a customs line at the airport still have many worthwhile destinations they can choose from.

Read on to find out where you can enjoy an exotic or overseas getaway if you don't have a US passport according to US Customs and Border Protection.

How to Travel Without a US Passport

In order to understand how to visit all the different places you can travel to without the bureaucracy of obtaining a US passport, we must first go over a few basic concepts:

  • Passport card: A wallet-sized US passport that can be used to re-enter the United States at land border-crossings as well as ports of entry by sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda
  • Passport book: A government-issued identification booklet that can be used for international travel where visa waivers, visas, or travel authorizations are required

If you do not have a passport book, nor time to have one issued before your holidays —passport books take several weeks to be issued—, you may still be able to obtain a passport card.

However, if you cannot obtain a passport card either, you still have several wonderful destinations at your disposition. In order to visit those, you will need one of the following government-issued forms of identification:

Where Can US Citizens Travel Without a Passport?

When it comes to traveling without a US passport book, you have multiple options depending on whether you travel with a passport card, birth certificate or Enhanced Driver’s License:

  • All 50 US states, including Hawaii and Alaska
  • Bermuda
  • Jamaica
  • The Bahamas
  • Mexico
  • Canada

Additionally, American citizens also have the possibility to visit the following US Territories without a passport

  • Puerto Rico
  • US Virgin Islands: Saint Thomas, Saint John, and Saint Croix
  • American Samoa
  • Guam
  • Swains Island
  • The Northern Mariana Islands

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), “Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) who travel directly between parts of the United States” (...) without touching at a foreign port or place, are not required to present a valid U.S. Passport or U.S. Green Card.” Source: https://help.cbp.gov/s/article/Article-980?language=en_US

Another option US citizens without a passport have at their disposal is going on vacation on “closed-loop” cruises. This specific type of cruise offers trips on ships that return to the same port they departed from on US soil. In general, closed-loop cruises that begin and end in the United States do not require passengers to have a passport in order to reenter the United States, you can get on board with your birth certificate.

Instead, passengers can return to the country by presenting a government-issued identification document such as an enhanced driver’s license, or a certified copy of their US birth certificate at border control.

Please note that cruises that include destinations outside of the US and its territories, may stop at countries that require passengers to present a valid passport to enter. If this is your case and you do not have a passport, you could end up staying on the ship whilst others tour the city.

Therefore, it is advisable to make sure you are choosing a cruise that does not require a passport to board nor at any of the stopover locations prior to booking your cruise tickets.

Travel Around the United States Without a Passport

US Citizens can travel to any of the 50 states without a passport, either by flying or driving through the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia or by flying or sailing to Hawaii or Alaska.

Please note that since it is separated from the lower 48 states by Canada, traveling to Alaska without a passport can only be done by direct flight. Going there by land, however, does require presenting a US passport at the Canadian border unless you are otherwise qualified with WHTI document to enter their country.

Visit the United States Territories Without a Passport

The United States currently controls 14 US territories, of which 5 are inhabited and can be visited without a passport:.

The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are both located in the Caribbean, and the other 3 —American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands— are located in the Pacific Ocean.

  • Puerto Rico offers visitors pristine beaches to relax or explore by kayak and a wonderful climate year-round. Other spots you won’t want to miss is Puerto Rico are the UNESCO World Heritage site Castillo San Felipe del Morro and ziplining in the rainforest.
  • The United States Virgin Islands are a short flight away from Puerto Rico. Made up of 3 main islands and a number of smaller isles, they are known for their legendary diving, shopping centers, and tropical landscapes.
  • The Northern Mariana Islands are Micronesian islands located in the western Pacific Ocean. They are a dream destination for adventure seekers and those interested in marine life.
  • Guam is another Micronesian island set in the Western Pacific. Guam is a tourist destination for Japanese and US nationals known for great snorkeling, deep-sea diving, and its pristine landscapes.
  • American Samoa is a collection of 5 volcanic islands and 2 atolls. It is located between Fiji and the Cook Islands. An ideal destination for those looking to go off the beaten path. Known for their coral-filled waters, lava-sculpted coastlines, and untouched beaches, it is also a great place to enjoy local cuisine and seafood.

Traveling to Canada and Mexico Without a Passport

Minors from the US under 16 are allowed to travel to both Mexico and Canada without passports by land. Make sure to carry a certified copy of their birth certificates for each child under 16 who doesn't have a passport, since they will be required to produce it in order to be allowed back into the United States.

Flying to either of these countries, though, will require carrying a valid US passport. US adult citizens are required to present a current passport when traveling from the United States into either Canada or Mexico, except citizens in possession of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) approved documents:

  • The Trusted Traveler Programs card (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry, or FAST)
  • An Enhanced Driver's License

No matter which of these amazing travel destinations ends up on your bucket list, make sure to order a certified copy of your birth certificate and have your EDL at hand. Both of these documents will allow you to travel without a US passport.