A topic like travel documentation is certainly not as glamorous as browsing beautiful beach scenes, comparing all-inclusive resorts with luxury cruise ships, or working with your travel consultant to schedule private guided tours in port. It is, however, one of the more important aspects of your travel planning experience. The last thing anyone wants is to arrive at the airport, ready to take a dream vacation, only to be turned away at the gate. Ignoring the subject will only put your significant vacation investment at risk. Read on to learn how to avoid possible travel obstacles before they occur.
Domestic travel includes any destination in the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii and all U.S. Territories. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR’s) who travel directly between parts of the United States, which includes Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands – St. John, St. Croix & St. Thomas, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), without touching at a foreign port or place, are not required to present a valid U.S. Passport or U.S. Green Card. However, it is recommended that travelers bring a government issued photo ID and copy of birth certificate. It also is recommended that you carry proof of your LPR status as all times in the event you are asked to prove your status. This may be in the form of a green card or passport.
These guidelines also apply to cruise ships leaving from and returning to the same U.S. port. For instance, if you are a U.S. citizen and you embark on the Carnival Sunshine from Port Canaveral in Orlando, FL and sail for 7 days to the Eastern Caribbean, you may travel with only your government issued photo ID and birth certificate as documentation. This applies even if you are visiting ports that are not U.S. territories (like the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, etc).
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you choose this method of documentation and you arrive in port and, for any reason, miss your ship’s sailing out of port, you will be stuck in a foreign country without a passport (i.e. without a way to easily return home). The cruise lines are not lenient on this rule. They will leave you in a port if you don’t arrive back at the ship on time. For this reason, Dream Destinations Unlimited strongly encourages all cruise travelers to obtain their passport for any cruise in which foreign ports will be visited. This recommendation is in addition to our standard agency recommendation that every traveler obtain comprehensive travel insurance coverage.
For travel outside the United States, a valid U.S. Passport is required. Many countries require that your passport be valid for at least 6 months past the date of your visit. If you have an international trip in the future, it is always good practice to double check your passport expiration date well in advance, and update as needed.
Passports can be obtained by applying at a U.S. Passport Office (in most U.S. Post Offices). Processing time ranges from 4-6 weeks. Expedited service is available, but this can be expensive. Plan well in advance!
NOTE: Planning in advance is key because a passport approval is not a given. For instance, if a person currently owes $2,500 or more in child support payments (even if the person is currently paying arrears to the state and making on-time payments of regular child support), your passport request will be denied. There are ways to set up payment plans and work with the various state and county offices to remedy this, so you can have your passport request reinstated before you travel, but this takes time. Also, some states require a $0 balance before your name is removed from the passport denial list. When in doubt, leave a LOT of room in the calendar before your vacation to handle these details.
BREAKING NEWS: A new bill that has passed both houses of Congress is likely to include a provision that will prevent “serious debtors” of the IRS from getting or renewing passports starting in January. If you owe the IRS more than $50,000, you’d better renew your passport right now. H.R.22 is in conference, Forbes reported yesterday, “so something could change. But it is expected to pass.” If it does, new section 7345 of the tax code, “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies,” will allow the State Department to block Americans with “seriously delinquent” tax debts from obtaining or renewing a passport.
Some foreign countries (most recently, the European Union nations) require a travel visa for visitors. In many cases, this visa must be acquired prior to travel. The U.S. Department of State has a helpful website with a traveler’s checklist, where you can select your destination country and learn about visa and immunization requirements, as well as any other pertinent travel information, such as personal health, safety, and official travel alerts and warnings.
At Dream Destinations Unlimited, we are committed to helping you with all aspects of your vacation plan. We are happy to counsel, guide and assist you in the process of fully preparing for your upcoming vacation. Feel free to contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your next adventure!