Monday, October 11, 2010

Travel Question: Do I Need A Passport? (U.S. Citizens)

This is by far the most frequent question I receive from clients and potential travelers. So here is my answer...YES! Please, if you do not have a passport already, make plans to get one soon. Look at it as a travel necessity as you would luggage or a camera or anything else that would always be on your packing list.

Now before you go off and cite the U.S. State Department's official answer to the question and claim I am off-base, hear me out. If you plan on visiting Canada or Mexico from the United States by car, you need a passport (or the passport card). If you plan on flying to ANY Country outside of the U.S. including Canada and Mexico, you need a passport.

But...if you are going on a cruise and the cruise leaves from a U.S. port and returns to a U.S. port, then your cruise is considered to be a "closed loop" cruise. In this case, you are not required to have a passport or the passport card even if your cruise visits foreign ports during the cruise. The key is that it has to leave from a U.S. port and return to a U.S. port. As of the time of this article, you only need a State issued driver's license AND a copy of your State-issued birth certificate.

So again, before you go off and decide now that you do not need a passport because you only plan on taking a cruise, let me throw you some curves that might make you reconsider. First, the U.S. does not control other Country's requirements when it comes to entry documentation. You may go on your cruise and get to a port only to find out you cannot enter that Country because they require you to carry a passport. But here is the one scenario that I hope will make you rethink and hopefully go ahead with getting your passport; Assume you go on a cruise and go to a port such as Jamaica. While you are in port, you go on an excursion and, during that excursion, you break a bone and are transported to the nearest hospital. Now imagine sitting there and looking at your watch and realizing that your ship left port an hour ago. So you start thinking about flying home from Jamaica, but soon also realize you will need a passport to fly back into the U.S., but you had decided to save the money and NOT get your passport. Now what ya gonna do?  Now we all hope that this would never ever happen, but the question is...what if it does?

The above scenario is not far fetched and I wish more travelers understood the pros of getting their passports instead of only looking at the one negative which is always the cost. Look at it as an investment (I know that is bit of a stretch). The passport for an adult is good for 10 years and the sooner you buy it, the cheaper it will be since passport prices are constantly going up, not down.

I HIGHLY recommend for you to visit this LINK where you can get the latest and greatest passport info and costs for adults and children. If you are pondering a vacation of a lifetime that will take you outside the U.S. borders, don't put the passport decision process off, make it a part of your advance planning and get it checked off your to-do list and let the real fun part of the planning process begin.


Anonymous said...

So what DO you do if you find yourself in that situation. Who do you contact? said...

You would contact the US Embassy or Consulate office in the Country you are in. Most cruise lines also have a contact in each port of call that you can contact for assistance. They would be able to walk you through the process of how to get repatriated back into the U.S. which may require the processing of a passport application.

It is a scenario I wish more would consider before deciding to save money by not obtaining a passport