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4 Best Places to Travel Without a Passport That Feel a World Away

Unfortunately for American travelers looking to go abroad, passport renewals and first-time applications are still experiencing serious delays. Current processing times—which have stretched as long as 13 weeks for routine applications and up to nine weeks for expedited service—are not expected to get back to normal any time this year, the State Department told CNN.

So, if your passport is currently caught up in the bureaucratic tangle, international travel could be off the table until 2024. But that doesn’t mean you have to stash away your suitcase—there are plenty of destinations that don’t require a US passport and still offer a much-needed escape from the daily routine.

It’s always important to verify with your airline what travel documents are required before booking tickets and certainly before showing up at the airport. Entry requirements can vary for US territories especially, and it can get confusing. American Samoa, for instance, is a US territory that does require a passport—even for visiting US citizens—while other territories listed below do not.

Here are our favorite four destinations that don’t require a passport, but still feel a world away.

Puerto Rico

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The US territory of Puerto Rico doesn’t require passports from US travelers. All you need is a valid government-issued ID like a driver’s license. And with a head-spinning array of both urban pursuits and outdoorsy endeavors, this tropical paradise located about 1,000 miles southeast of Florida beckons no matter what’s on the itinerary (or how long your passport will be held up in processing). San Juan has long drawn a young crowd for its lively nightlife, especially in the Isla Verde area, where beach bars, casinos, and hip hotels set the vibe (a new municipal code that limits the sale of alcohol past certain times doesn’t apply to hotels and their guests). History buffs, meanwhile, will love exploring the island’s capital via colorful Spanish-colonial architecture and imposing, ancient fortresses like La Fortaleza and El Morro.

For nature-based itineraries, the island of Vieques off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast is a must-visit. Hop in a kayak to catch a glimpse of the enchanting, blue-green glow of the aptly named Bioluminescent Bay (which claims to have the brightest bioluminescence in the world), sunbathe on Vieques’s pristine beaches, or simply marvel at the wild horses that roam around the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, which preserves much of the island’s landscapes.

US Virgin Islands

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Like Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands do not require a passport from American citizens visiting from the US or Puerto Rico. However, you still must show proof of US citizenship, like a raised-seal birth certificate, along with a valid government-issued ID like a driver’s license.

The USVI—which are made up of the main islands of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas, along with a sprinkling of some 50 other islets and cays east of Puerto Rico—offers plenty of reasons to escape the mainland for a spell, from spectacular beaches to excellent wildlife experiences to world-class festivals. Fun fact: Two-thirds of St. John is designated as the Virgin Islands National Park, which offers activities like snorkeling among sea turtles and other marine life. And there’s no better destination to get your Carnival fix, as USVI boasts three celebrations every year: St. Thomas in April-May, St. John in June-July, and St. Croix in December-January.

In St. Croix, visitors who love hotels with history can bed down at the King Christian Hotel, a waterfront landmark in downtown Christiansted for almost 300 years that overlooks the historic Fort Christiansvaern. Following a renovation in 2022, the boutique property unveiled 46 fully remodeled rooms and suites and offers multiple on-site dining options. The pool area also has been refurbished.

Key West

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Pier on the port of Key West, Florida at sunset.

Cuba is famously just 90 miles away from the southernmost point in the United States—but Key West will deliver a similarly chill, sand-in-your-toes escape, only without the passport, paperwork, and intricate planning required. Fall and all the way through winter is an ideal time for a visit to the hub of the Florida Keys archipelago when summer crowds have thinned and you just might be able to belly up to Sloppy Joe’s for a cocktail in Ernest Hemingway’s beloved watering hole. (But be aware that hurricane season lasts through November.)

The massive, $15 million renovation of one of the destination’s most famous accommodations, the Southernmost Beach Resort, is a reason alone to book a trip. Unveiled last year, the overhaul spans the exterior, breezeways, and 243 guest rooms of the sprawling resort, which stretches across six acres. The resort’s four historic guesthouses, which offer an adults-only lodging option, are currently undergoing renovation, which is scheduled for completion this fall.

Alaska

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If you’ve always had your eye on this outdoors playground, now is an ideal time to finally book that trip. The Land of the Midnight Sun is a bucket-list destination brimming with a head-spinning array of natural wonders, from 20,310-foot Denali, North America’s highest peak, to unbeatable fishing and wildlife viewing. Visitors can also get a jump-start on seeing the Northern Lights, as the remarkable phenomenon is visible in some parts of the state (the farther north, the better) as early as late August.

Along with Hawaii, Alaska is the only US state not bordered by another state: Instead, it shares a border with Canada. Visitors hoping to get a taste of the neighbor to the north can head to Hyder, the easternmost point in Alaska. This tiny outpost, which is about 10 minutes from the British Columbia border, offers as authentic a taste of Canada as you can get outside its borders. Businesses (except the post office) price their goods in Canadian dollars, clocks are set to BC time, and the nearest police are Mounties.

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