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Everyday I hear from clients, and I read in the news people who are confused about passports, and other ID requirements. This blog post is not intended to say "If you go here then you need this document" as that would be unfair. Everyone's situation is different. But in general the following guidelines apply.
Flights (from anywhere to anywhere!) Starting in October 2020 you will be required to have either a REAL ID compliant ID or a passport. A Real ID is a state issued drivers license or state ID with a star in the corner (see image below). Every state has a way to get a Real ID, and in most cases they are the same cost as the standard ID. They do require more documents to get however. You will not be able to fly anywhere after October 2020 without a Read ID or a passport.
International travel... requires a passport. There are a few minor exceptions (see below) but assume a passport is required. They also must have 6 months or more left prior to expiration by the end date of your trip to qualify.
Exceptions... certain closed loop cruises can be done with just a birth certificate and an ID. Depending on the cruise line, these are generally not very common. There are strict rules for these cruise to qualify. If you have an emergency you could have serious problems not having a passport. But if everything goes well, you will be fine in these cases.
Passport Cards - these are intended for commuters who live on the border and cross it regularly. I do not recommend them, you cannot fly with a Passport Card.
What happens if I don't have a passport or some other document required? You will be denied going on your trip. Period. This is a matter of US and international law, there is nothing that can change it. If it is required then you MUST have it. No travel insurance will cover these denials, and no refund is typically give by the provider. However, working with a professional can avoid these issues all together. We ask the right questions, and give the right advice to ensure that you know what to expect.
How about Emergencies? For a vacation, there is no such thing as an emergency. The government will make no exceptions for personal travel. What if I lose my passport, etc. while out of the country? You can have an emergency temporary passport created so that you may continue to travel. This is an expensive and time consuming process. You will be stranded in the country where you are until the new document is issued.
What can I do to reduce the risk? Have copies of your passport info page in multiple locations. Place one copy of each passport info page into at least 2 different pieces of luggage. Also, leave copies where you can have a friend or family get them at home. Finally, take a photo of your info page on your phone. If you have the numbers on the info page and can prove you have a passport, the process is much easier in an emergency. You may even be able to travel home on your copy of the passport.
My personal routine... at the first stop sign from my house.. I ask my wife to show me her passport, and I show her mine. This way we know 100% that we left the house with them and they started the journey with us. (the most common thing to happen is to leave the passports at home and not notice until you get to the airport and its too late!)
In the end... speaking with a professional travel agent/adviser can prevent these problems... and since we at TowPath Travel work for you at no cost... why not let us take care of you! We will take great care of you.
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