16 Surprising Places Americans Can Travel Without a Passport

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The author taking a selfie on a cruise ship deck
Surprise! You don’t need a passport on a closed-loop Carnival cruise to the Southern Caribbean. Photo credit: Maria Smith

So you want to get away but your passport has expired and the new one won’t arrive in time. Or you want to bring the whole family, but your youngest has no passport. Not having a valid passport doesn’t mean you have to stay home! There are a stunning variety of exotic places Americans can visit passport-free in the United States and territories. They offer the same diverse culture, tropical wonders and natural gems you would need a passport to see elsewhere in the world.

Rules are constantly changing, so be sure to check the country you want to visit for the most updated regulations. Also, check what is required to get back into the United States!

Places to Travel Without a Passport

San Juan Resorts include beautiful beaches.
Puerto Rico has beautiful beaches. Photo credit: Bethany Kandel

1. San Juan, Puerto Rico

You do not need a passport to dance the salsa and practice your Spanish in Puerto Rico. This tropical Caribbean island just 1,000 miles from southeast Florida is a USA territory. If you are a US citizen or a legal permanent resident, you can visit with only a valid ID or birth certificate.

Come to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to visit some of the best beaches, check out the gorgeous hiking trails, and kayak to Mosquito Bay to be astonished by the glowing water.

For an urban experience filled with food, drink, music and dance, don’t skip Old San Juan.

Here are our favorite hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

2. US Virgin Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John

The US Virgin Islands has been a US territory since 1917, which means Americans can travel to this archipelago, including three of the largest islands –  St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John – without a passport. These English-speaking islands boast unique Caribbean culture and history and are very tourist-friendly.

USVI is a celebrity hotspot known for white-sand beaches, brilliant coral reefs, clear turquoise waters, and rolling verdant hills. During your getaway,  there are plenty of fun things to do, including visiting the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, snorkeling in the Trunk Bay and enjoying the natural beauty of Buck Island Reef National Park, one of the only underwater national monuments in the USA.

3. Guam

This tropical island is a US territory located in the North Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, so US citizens without a valid passport may be able to enter with only a valid ID. Guam is among the most populous of those in the Mariana Islands area. Though it can be challenging to get here, it is an ideal place for a laid-back vacation.

The island is home to some of the best beaches in the world, including Ypao Beach Park, and offers terrific scuba diving. Be sure to look for sea turtles dotting this tropical paradise’s uncrowded, pristine beaches. Additionally, it has exotic wildlife and a rich cultural heritage and history.

Known for its military bases, tourists in Guam can check out sunken warships, which are relics from World War I and World War II.

Photo, Fairmont Chateau Frontenac at sunset
The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac is an iconic hotel dominating the Old Quebec City skyline. Photo credit: Eric Jay Toll

4. Quebec City, Canada

This charming Canadian city is another place you can visit without a passport, so long as you arrive by land, not air.

SheBuysTravel Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a beach vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we’re traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.

Soak up the rich culture, fantastic gastronomy and awe-inspiring scenery of this French-speaking area. The narrow cobblestone streets, stone buildings, and ancient wall fortifications feel more like Europe than someplace driveable from the US east coast.

Americans ages 16 and older entering Canada by land or sea need to show an Enhanced Driver’s License (scroll to the end of this post for details on an EDL, including how to get one and where you can use it). You cannot fly to Canada with an EDL as your only form of ID. However, kids under 16 can enter Canada with a birth certificate or any other form of citizenship evidence.

5. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Another US territory and one of the most far-flung places you may be able to travel without a passport, tourists flock to this exotic getaway for its crystal clear waters, beautiful beaches and a diverse, rich history. The year-round tropical weather is perfect for visitors to enjoy world-class snorkeling, hiking and golfing.

The 14 volcanic islands of the Northern Mariana archipelago are located in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. Getting there isn’t easy. The flight time, on average, is an eye-popping 31 hours and 40 minutes. Like other US territories, Americans still need a valid ID card or a birth certificate to enter and exit.

There are limited flights to Northern Mariana. Most connect through Guam, Taiwan, South Korea or Japan – American citizens will need a US passport if they connect in a foreign country or territory. Check with your airline to find out whether you’ll need a passport for your trip.

The most visited and largest islands in the archipelago are Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Tourists flock to the stunning beaches and the natural beauty of Mount Tapochau, Banzai Cliff, and many historical sights.

Wonder of the Seas docks in Labadee, Haiti
The Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas. Photo credit: Melody Pittman

6. Caribbean Cruise

You do not need a passport if you are going on a closed-loop cruise. That means the ship departs and returns to the same port and travels in the Western Hemisphere. A valid photo ID is sufficient.

However, check with your cruise line to find out whether the ship will stop in foreign ports that require a passport. And note that the US State Department recommends cruisers have a passport “in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port.”

A Caribbean cruise is a fantastic way to see different places while maintaining all the comforts of home. and the amenities of a large-scale resort. It is easy, fun for the whole family, includes many onboard activities, and lets you get the most adventure for your time and money.

exterior of the Atlantis resort in Nassau, Bahamas
The Atlantis resort in Nassau, Bahamas offers plenty for families to do on a beach vacation. Photo credit: Kimberly Miles

7. Nassau, The Bahamas

There are many reasons to visit the Bahamas, including the Caribbean climate, delicious fresh seafood, pristine beaches, vibrant culture and, of course, the world-class Atlantis Paradise Island Resort. The country’s 700 islands and cays are home to national parks, hiking trails and some of the best scuba diving spots in the world.

U.S. citizens are generally required to have a valid U.S. passport and proof of anticipated departure when traveling to The Bahamas. However, if you are traveling to The Bahamas on a closed-loop cruise, you can use another Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document that proves citizenship (a birth certificate with raised seal and signature) and a government-issued ID with a photo such as a driver’s license.

However, all major cruise lines strongly recommend that guests sailing to the Bahamas from the USA have a passport valid for at least six (6) months beyond the end of the cruise.

8. Vieques, Puerto Rico

United States citizens and permanent residents don’t need a US passport to travel anywhere in Puerto Rico, including the small island of Vieques, off the eastern coast. It is a short ferry ride from the Puerto Rican mainland to Vieques and other small Caribbean islands such as Culebra.

Vieques is known for its Bioluminescent Bay (sometimes called Mosquito Bay), where marine-based microorganisms make the water appear to glow. It boasts secluded beaches, world-class snorkeling and the most fantastic sight of wild horses roaming the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. The Fuerte de Vieques, a Spanish fort and museum dating back to the 1800s, is another site to visit.

9. Tijuana, Mexico

While you need a passport to fly into Mexico, you can enter with an enhanced driver’s license or passport card when arriving by land or sea. Children under 16 can travel to Mexico without a passport if arriving by land. They only need their birth certificates.

Since Tijuana borders San Diego, it is easy to drive or walk through the border crossing, making it the most used border crossing in the world.

Regardless of age, U.S. citizens flying to Mexico must have a valid passport in line with international air travel regulations.

Tijuana offers many activities and amenities, including nightlife, art, and history. Check out the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, built in 1902, and the traditional bullring, Plaza de Toros de Tijuana. There is also great shopping, handmade crafts and the ability to buy an authentic bottle of Mexican tequila. It is a terrific place to practice your Spanish and embrace a different culture.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Read the US State Department’s travel warnings before heading to Tijuana.

beach view from kauai marriott
Beaches like this beautiful one in Kauai are a great choice for a couples getaway. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

10. Kauai, Hawaii

Thousands of miles away from the US mainland, Hawaii is a US state (so you can visit passport-free), but it also is a unique and exotic island haven. The weather is beach-perfect all year round, and it’s a great spot to see the majestic Humpback whales during their annual migration or to see the cut spinner dolphins, stingrays, sea lions, manta rays and reef fish all year round.

Kauai is called “the Garden Isle” because of the tropical rainforest covering most of the island. The Sleeping Giant mountain ridge is an excellent hiking destination, with the dramatic cliffs overlooking the Na Pali Coast a lovely backdrop for romance.

This island is quieter and less crowded than the bigger islands, providing more opportunities to fully immerse in the Polynesian culture.

11. Maui, Hawaii

On the Hawaiian island of Maui, visitors can check out Haleakala National Park, which includes volcanic Haleakala, the island’s highest peak, and the beautiful pools and waterfalls of Ohe’o Gulch.

All six Hawaiian islands are popular among honeymooners and couples of all ages, though Maui may be the preferred destination for families outside of Oahu.

Yacht off the coast of Miami
Miami is a water-lover’s paradise! Photo credit: Maria Smith

12. Miami, Florida

This city at the southeastern tip of Florida is on the US mainland, but you may not believe you are in the US when walking down its streets. You are just as likely to hear people speaking in rapid Spanish, Creole or French as in English. And no US passport is required!

The city of Miami and neighboring Miami Beach are known for beautiful, sun-filled weather year-round, which is perfect for lounging on South Beach, shopping in Lincoln Road’s trendy boutiques, or exploring the colorful street art scene.

Miami is a paradise for food lovers with fresh seafood and Haitian and Cuban specialties. Miami should be at the top of the list for anyone looking for a fun, exciting, and culturally-rich vacation destination with an exciting nightlife scene.

13. Anchorage, Alaska

If you don’t want a tropical vacation but are looking for a unique, nature-focused destination, Alaska is the spot. Tourists flock here in the summer via the many cruise ships that travel through this glacier region. Since it is one of the U.S. states, Americans can travel here without a passport.

While you can visit Alaska any time of the year, Alaska one of the world’s wildest landscapes so it requires more preparation than other U.S. states due to nature’s sheer power and presence here.

Alaska is one of the last unspoiled places on Earth. It is prime for adventure and exploration with epic snow-covered mountain peaks, dramatic cliffs overlooking fjords and impressive amounts of wildlife. Alaska is home to hundreds of species of animals, but most visitors are looking for the “Big 5”: bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, and wolves. Humpback whales migrate here.

Cruise ship moored in San Diego Harbor
The San Diego harbor is beautiful. Photo credit: Maria Smith

14. San Diego, California

California is always a good destination; you can do almost anything here. It is one of the few places in the world where you can ski and surf on the same day! As a U.S. state, Americans do not need a passport to visit.

San Diego is the southernmost city in California, sharing a border with Mexico and one of the country’s best family-friendly vacation destinations. It offers the best of the west coast, including 70 miles of beautiful, uncrowded beaches. Tourists should be sure to Visit Balboa Park, stroll through Old Town, or spend the day at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Tourists in New York City
New York City is one of the most exciting places to travel without a passport. Photo credit: Maria Smith

15. New York City, New York

If the hustle and bustle of one of the biggest cities in the world is your idea of an exciting vacation, New York City should top your list. No passport is needed to get here, and it is super easy to access via plane, train and automobile.

There are so many fabulous things to do in the Big Apple that it can be tough to pare down all the fun when planning an NYC getaway. See a play on Broadway, shop along 5th Avenue, stroll the High Line or meander through Central Park. There’s no shortage of activities for visitors of all ages. While this city can be expensive, there are plenty of free things to do in NYC for a more affordable vacation.

16. Key West, Florida

Key West, the southernmost point in the United States. It is actually closer to Cuba than it is to the mainland of Florida. Since it is part of Florida, Americans can freely travel here without a passport.

For one of the most scenic drives in the US, take the 113-mile-long Overseas Highway to Key West from Miami. With 42 bridges, the longest of which is 7 miles long, the journey may be as extraordinary as the destination.

Visitors come to the boisterous town of Key West for its nightlife, stunning beaches, incredible sunsets and free-spirited, inclusive vibe. All are welcome in this small pastel-colored town.

Scuba diving is a main draw here as the only living barrier reef in the continental United States is in Key West.

Enhanced Driver’s License vs. US Passport

An Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) is a proof of identity and US citizenship issued by a state. It can be used to enter the US, Canada, Mexico and some Caribbean countries by land and sea without a passport (but not by air – if you fly there, you will need a passport to clear customs).

A US passport is required for those entering a country outside of the US by air, but if you live in a state where you can get an EDL, it may be a faster, more affordable option for quick trips across the border.

There are currently only five states that issue EDLs, all of which border Canada:  

  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • Washington

An EDL costs about $30 more than a typical driver’s license, making it significantly cheaper than getting a passport. It may take slightly longer to receive an EDL, but still likely less time than it takes to get a passport.

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