The cost of a passport for one person isn't too bad but can be staggering for a family of four. For first-time adult applicants (folks 16 and older), the passport book fee is $135. If you need it in a hurry, expedited service is an extra $60 plus $12.85 for return overnight delivery of your new passport, for a grand total of $207.85! For minor applicants the fee is $105 for routine service and $177.85 for expedited. So for Mom, Dad and two kids, you're looking at $480 for regular processing and $771.40 for expedited!
Given these figures, cost is certainly one reason why only around a third of Americans are passport holders. If you're dreaming of a tropical vacation but your family is passport-less or the cost of renewing your passports would strain your budget, don't worry. You can still kick back and relax in paradise without coughing up the passport fee to Uncle Sam.
In accordance with United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regulations, American citizens can travel directly between parts of the United States, including its overseas territories, without a passport. Here's a rundown of tropical paradises that are part of the good ole U.S. of A:
1. Puerto Rico
There's plenty to do and see in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States and the smallest island of the Greater Antilles at 100 miles long and 35 miles wide. Here are a few highlights:
- Old San Juan: Amazing history, culture and nightlife converge along the hilly cobblestone streets of this vibrant neighborhood. Not to be missed is La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Fajardo: A popular tourist and boating destination in its own right, Fajardo also has daily ferries to the islands of Vieques and Culebra, where quiet, crowd-free, beautiful beaches reign.
- El Yunque National Forest: The only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System.
- Arecibo Observatory: The largest single-dish radio telescope in the world.
2. United States Virgin Islands (USVI)
Purchased from Denmark in 1917 for $25 million in gold, this unincorporated United States territory known for its picturesque white-sand beaches consists of several dozen small islands and islets and the following three main islands:
- Saint Croix: In addition to beautiful beaches, the island is home to the Cruzan Rum Distillery, Buck Island Reef National Monument, and Point Udall, the easternmost point of the United States.
- Saint Thomas: Duty-free shopping in the capital city Charlotte Amalie, historic Blackbeard's Castle, breathtaking views from Paradise Point and beautiful Magens Bay Beach are just the tip of the iceberg on this 32-square-mile island!
- Saint John: With the Virgin Islands National Park encompassing roughly 60 percent of the island, Saint John is the ultimate escape from the hustle and bustle of Charlotte Amalie. Not to be missed is Trunk Bay Beach, consistently rated as one of the top 10 best beaches worldwide!
The sky's the limit regarding things to do and see in our 50th state and of course, because it is a state, no passport is required for American citizens. Top attractions include:
- USS Arizona Memorial: The 184-foot Memorial at Pearl Harbor spans the sunken battleship which serves as the final resting place for many who made the ultimate sacrifice on December 7, 1941.
- National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific: This memorial to men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces is situated in the Punchbowl Crater which formed 75,000 to 100,000 years ago.
- Diamond Head Crater: This larger-than-life landmark at the east of Waikiki is a Hawaii State Monument.
- Byodo-In Temple in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Oahu: This is a replica of a temple of the same name in Uji, Japan which is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Waikiki Beach: Stay and play on this world famous strip of sand in Honolulu.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Located on the Big Island, Hawaii, this park is home to one of the world's most active volcanoes, Kilauea, which has been erupting since January 3rd, 1983.
Flying to U.S. Territories in the South Pacific costs a fortune, so if you can afford the roundtrip airfare you can afford a passport. Regardless, here’s what you need to know:
Atop the Orote Peninsula on Guam you will find the western counterpart to St. Croix's Point Udall, which is also named Point Udall. The slogan “Where America's Day Begins” is commonly used to refer to Guam because its location west of the International Date Line makes it the first place in America to be graced with the dawn of a new day.
- Entry Requirements: According to the Guam Visitors Bureau website, "Entry requirements for Guam are the same as for any U.S. destination. Although U.S. citizens are required to possess a U.S. passport, on a case-by-case basis, photo ID and proof of citizenship may be accepted." Upon further investigation, Emily Quinata of the Guam Visitors Bureau stated, "No need [for a passport] if you're traveling from the U.S., but proof of citizenship is required—like a birth certificate or driver's license."
5. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Known as America's best-kept secret, this Western Pacific territory consists of 14 islands, only three of which are permanently inhabited: Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
- Entry Requirements: The Marianas Visitors Authority website clearly states that entry requirements are the same as for any U.S. destination.
- Passport applications for minors are subject to special requirements.
- Those owing $2500 or more in child support are ineligible to receive a passport.
- It is always advisable to further verify entry requirements directly with your destination.
This is a guest post by Deidre from Dania Beach, FL
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