Passport expiration dates were probably the last thing on people’s minds during the past year-plus of border closures, stay-at-home orders and slashed flight schedules.
That is because of continued delays caused by the pandemic, the Associated Press said last week. The news agency reported a backlog of 1.5 million to 2 million passport requests.
For many U.S. citizens, that means hoped-for summer vacation plans might have to change.
Peter Vlitas, executive vice president of supplier relations at Internova Travel Group, said travel advisers are frequently hearing from desperate clients.
“Every day, we have literally dozens, if not hundreds, of customer saying, ‘Can you help me expedite a passport?’ ” he said. “And the honest answer is ‘no.’”
Instead, travelers without a valid passport are choosing domestic destinations near and far, from Florida to Hawaii and Alaska — and many places in between. But there are other, more far-flung locales to choose from.
Travelers should, of course, check for local covid-19 restrictions; make sure to have the required forms of identification including proof of citizenship; and research every step of the journey to avoid potential border issues in transit.
The U.S. territory in the Caribbean started allowing visitors to return in September 2020, and it started to let up on some lockdown measures earlier this year. Vaccinated travelers need to upload their vaccine card through the travel declaration form portal. Unvaccinated travelers must show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of arrival — and those who want to be vaccinated but haven’t yet gotten the jab can get the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport or when visiting the islands of Vieques and Culebra.
U.S. Virgin Islands
The tourism website for the U.S. Virgin Islands — which include St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John — proclaims: “No passport required for U.S. citizens.” The U.S. territory requires all visitors to use its travel screening portal before traveling as well as turn in proof of a negative coronavirus test within five days of heading to the destination or proof of a positive antibody test within four months of traveling.
The southernmost U.S. territory in the South Pacific boasts affordable places to stay, an abundance of eco-tourism and “no five star hotels here or fancy name retail outlets or even mass tourism.” While the Polynesian destination does not require a passport, it is off-limits for now, with flights suspended. No flights show up on Hawaiian Airlines until the end of August.
The U.S. territory in the Western Pacific, home to a significant military presence, draws visitors from locations including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Hawaii. U.S. citizens arriving through Hawaii do not need a passport. Fully vaccinated visitors, those with proof of a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of arrival, or those who have recovered from the virus within three months of arriving do not need to quarantine upon arrival.
A cruise. Well, at least some cruises.
Cruise ships are starting to venture out again from the United States. On “closed-loop” cruises, which start and end at the same U.S. port and visit locations including Alaska, the Bahamas, Mexico and the Caribbean, travelers don’t need a passport — though cruise lines recommend having one. For those who don’t have a passport, other forms of identification, including a government-issued photo ID for anyone older than 16 and a certified birth certificate, are needed. Some Caribbean islands could require a passport to enter, so passengers should make sure they know what is expected at each stop.