You Need a Passport If You Plan International Travels

We love to travel, and 2020 was supposed to be a big travel year for us. Like the rest of you, that hasn't happened. 

We're still dreaming about travel, reading about new destinations, and making (tentative) plans for the future. We hope all of you are well and staying safe... and that you find some inspiration here for YOUR future travels.

With vaccines arriving, let's hope we can be traveling again in 2021!

If you're going to travel you need a passport...

I mean, come on, you need one just for bragging rights.

Bear with me as I start at the beginning of planning for an international trip.

If you're a citizen of the world where they are commonplace, you'll be wondering "Who doesn't know THAT?"

Well, many Americans for one thing.

The United States is a large diverse country.  There's plenty to see and do here.

And... There's a large percentage of Americans that don't have one.

I'm not sure there is an official count on this, but one estimate is that 75% of Americans don't own one.

For Novice Travelers... Let's Get Basic

To quote the United States Department of State...

"It is a document issued by a country to a citizen of that country, allowing that person to travel abroad and re-enter the home country."

Whew! Is that government speak or what.

Every country issues their own. Citizens of all countries need passports to travel out of their country and into another. There are exceptions, more on that later.

What Does It Look Like?

Passports let you travel the world

It generally comes as a small booklet. For U.S. citizens it is 5" x 3.5"

At the front there are the official identification pages that contain your name and your photo. (You send the photo, they apply it digitally.)

That first page also lists your birth date, where you were born, when and where the document was issued, when it expires and your passport number.

You must sign it when you receive it for it to be valid.

In the United States, they are valid for ten years for adults. For children age 15 and under they are valid for five years.

The pages that follow are empty waiting to be used for exit and entry stamps. Those empty pages are also used for formal visas if they are required.

A Few Exceptions

We said earlier that every country issues their own documents, and citizens of all countries need them to travel out of their country and into another unless...

And here is an example of the exceptions...

Citizens in the European Union do not need their passports to pass from one country into another within the E.U.

U.S. Citizens and others often do not need to show theirs, either, to pass between countries in the E.U., but you need one to GET INTO the one of the European Union counties in the first place.

There are other other exceptions even for U.S, citizens leaving the country, but that could take a whole new page, so the best advice on exceptions is to check with the U.S. Department of State page.

US Citizens Need One For Canada and Mexico

If you are a U.S. citizen you will need one now more than ever. You've always needed one to fly to Europe or Asia or beyond.

It used to be that to get into Canada or Mexico or to most of the Islands of the Caribbean all you needed was your birth certificate and proof of identity like your drivers license.

September 11, 2001 changed all that. Now you need this most official document to fly across those borders as well.

To cross the borders into Canada and Mexico by land or by sea (that is driving or cruising) you currently need a passport, a passport card or a WHTI-compliant document. Or you need a government-issued Photo ID, such as a driver's license, along with proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate. More of those exceptions we talked about.

Don't you love "government speak"? WHTI stands for Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. There is a whole list of rules about what a WHTI-compliant document is. If you think you qualify for one of these, you'd better check the rules at the U.S. Department of State and be sure.

What Is A Passport Card?

Starting in July of 2008, the U.S. government began issuing these new travel cards.. These wallet-size are convenient and less expensive, but they can not be used for international air travel. Click on the above link for our explanation of what they are.

Do Children Need Passports?

YES, Children traveling with you need them. Even infants.

And no... it will not help you if it is expired! Each traveler's documentation must be current to be valid. Depending on the rules of the country you're traveling to, they might have to be valid for 3 to 6 months after you return from your trip.

You Are Responsible For Documentation

It is up to you to make sure you have the proper documentation. You should not take the word of the airline you're traveling with or the TSA or a travel agent. They can all give you advice, but if any of them is misinformed, it's your trip that will be delayed or ruined.

While I'm trying to give you the best advice I can, it's confusing and you should really check with the U.S. Department of State.

The very best advice I can give you is this... If you're going to travel anywhere outside of the borders of the United States, just get a passport.

Sorry for shouting. Maybe you knew most of this. It's just good to understand everything when you're planning your first big international trip.

So now that you know what this magical (as far as we're concerned) document is and why you should have one, you can move on to getting one and planning your itinerary!

Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it! Judy and Mark

Curious about what else we've written about?  Search our site for a destination or travel tip.

But... We'd love to have you share this page or comment on it…
Thanks, Judy and Mark

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Did it help with your travel planning and preparation? Eager to leave on that next vacation? Please leave your tips or comments in the box below.

Timely Tips

The New Year is here...
And we're ready to put 2020 behind us.
What are your resolutions? To lose weight? To Exercise more?
We're hoping for an end to this virus and the travel restrictions so...
Why not a FUN resolution!
Resolve to TRAVEL!
It's a good time to plan your travels...

We have lists to help....
Custom Tour Planning List

Destination stories....
Europe Travel Tips
Africa Dream List
See America

Travel Planning
International Travel Planning Tips
Guidebooks can help you plan

Don't Forget Valentine's Day
Romantic Weekends

What About Your Passport?
Time to get one... or renew...

Answers about Passports and Visas

Dreaming of Warm Weather or Snow?

Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lake, Iceland

Packing for a Tropical Vacation
Cold Weather Packing List

…Or just make a resolution to explore more pages here and get ideas for travel destinations and how to get there.

NOW is the time to start planning for a great trip this year.


Search MouseToursTravels
Travel questions or destination info?
Find our answers faster..


We want you to feel comfortable out in the world and on our pages - so surf away in your own language...

Updated Tips & New Travel Stories

  1. 2020 Travels - What Travels?

    Our 2020 travels were slim. COVID kept us home too. One trip to the Three Guyanas, but dreaming of travel next year.

    Read More

  2. Discovering The Three Guyanas

    Love discovering less touristed regions? The three Guyanas are tucked up in the north east corner of South America that doesn’t get much attention.

    Read More

  3. 2019 Travels - Africa, Asia, Europe and USA

    On our 2019 travels, it was independent travel, a custom tour and a group tour. All work beautifully... just depends on where you’re going and what you want.

    Read More

Two Ways To Like Us!

Like Our Site Top Left
Like Our Fanpage Below
Thank You!

Navigate Our Site

Document Information
Passports and Visas

What Is A Passport
Passports - How To Get One

What Do Passports Cost?
Acceptable Identification Document
Collecting Passport Stamps

What Is A Visa?
All About Visas
Getting A Visa
Visa Requirements

Other Documents
U. S. Passport Card

U. S. Travel Authorization

Ready For A New Adventure?

We escape by traveling…
But there are more ways to escape. 
Work on something you LOVE…
With A Website
SBI Teaches You Everything

First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life