If you are like me, with Big Dreams No Money, and live somewhere in the Northeast or Midwest USA… you’ll understand what precipitated this post! It’s BEYOND freezing outside! According to several weather experts, this is to be the coldest winter seen in the US in decades. Sad to say, Winter Storm Hercules (he he! I get a chuckle out of the creativity of these names!) is just the beginning folks!
So, right about now, we’re all having the same dream. We imagine ourselves lazily sipping a fruity drink on some sunny tropical beach, our toes digging in the warm sand… ahhh…..
But what’s a girl to do when she’s got an expired passport?
Passport fees are ridiculously high. The fees for first time applicants are:
Adults: $110 + $25 Execution Fee.
Minors Under Age 16: $80 + $25 Execution Fee.
If you are renewing, you’ll don’t have to pay the $25 Execution Fee – the application fee is identical.
If you need it in a hurry, you’ll have to pay an additional fee to expedite (which means that you’ll get it in about 3 weeks). This will set you back an additional $60 fee and $12.95 overnight delivery fee. Folks, that’s a whooping total of $207.95 per adult! ($177.95 for minors under 16 years of age.) Assuming, you are a family of 4 like us, we’re talking $771.70 to just obtain passports! Ugh. My vacation budget is seriously dwindling. Or is it?
Let’s find a beachy vacation destination that doesn’t require a US Passport!
1. Key West.
Who says you can’t find an island paradise in the continental US? Just off the coast of Florida, Key West is the southernmost city and unlike anywhere else.
2. Miami, Florida.
Plush hotels, trendy nightlife, art deco architecture, sophisticated shopping – a vacation here won’t feel like you are in the US! MIami boasts an international airport and the world’s busiest cruise port. Deep sea fishing, golf, tennis, major league football, basketball, hockey and baseball, boat shows, auto racing – you won’t have enough time to experience it all!
3. Gulf Coast of Florida.
There are so many amazing beaches: Siesta Key, Sanibel & Captiva Islands, Marco Island… the list is endless. The beaches are white sand, with excellent shelling in this “Shelling Capital of the World.” The gulf coast is laid back, completely different from the east coast destinations like Miami and West Palm Beach.
4. Hawaiian Islands.
Of course, if you want to be on an exotic island far, far away, your first thought should be of Hawaii and the islands of Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, and Maui.
What? Not good enough? You want to actually LEAVE the 50 US States? Then, consider these destinations that don’t require a Passport!
1) Puerto Rico!
The island of Puerto Rico has long been a favorite of travelers from the USA. Inexpensive, direct airfare from many major airlines makes this an economical option. Add to that, rich culture, gorgeous Caribbean beaches, tropical rainforest El Yunque, great food, nightlife, shopping, and saving money is no hardship!
Additionally, you can take a ferry 8 miles east of Puerto Rico to its Isla de Vieques, consistently a winner for best island in the Caribbean. You can kayak in the bay and spend a day exploring its many unspoiled beaches.
A third option is Culebra, another island-municipality of Puerto Rico, which offers some of the Caribbean’s most serene beaches. Seriously, we’re talking, crystal blue waters and super soft, white sand. I was lucky enough to be on this beach 10 years ago, and I still dream of it.
2) US Virgin Islands.
A Caribbean vacation isn’t out of reach without a passport if you stick to the US Virgin Islands: Saint John, Saint Croix, and Saint Thomas. Since they’re US territories, a driver’s license or birth certificate will suffice.
The U.S. Virgin Islands lie mere minutes away from Puerto Rico by plane. Made up of three main islands—St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John—plus a scattering of smaller isles, the U.S.V.I. is a popular destination for Americans. Each island has its own unique appeal. St. John, with its national parkland and legendary diving, will charm true escapists. St. Thomas is a shopper’s dream, and Danish-flavored and diverse St. Croix is a favorite of luxury-seeking honeymooners. (There are ferries available to the British Virgin Islands, but you’ll need a passport for those.)
3) Northern Mariana Islands.
An excellent option for a tropical vacation without a passport is Saipan, one of 14 lush Northern Mariana Islands. The Micronesian paradise has been called “America’s Best-Kept Secret.” Governed by the Spanish in the 16th century, the Japanese during WWII, since 1944 and the Battle of Saipan, it’s been controlled by the US. Today, much of the economy relies on tourism from northern neighbors Japan and Korea, and the United States. History buffs will find much to see in Saipan, the largest island of the Marianas, which is home to several war memorials and museums. Adrenaline junkies can dive the Grotto, a limestone cavern whose 70-foot-deep waters are home to sea turtles and reef sharks, or take a boat to the nearby lagoon surrounding Managaha Island. While the Mariana Islands are relatively remote, several major hotel operators, including Hyatt, run four- and five-star properties on Saipan.
While it’s known for its military base, Guam is also one of the leading tourist destinations in the Western Pacific. It’s a tropical paradise, complete with beach clubs, luxurious hotels and award winning golf courses. Tumon’s beaches are known for great snorkeling, and Guam’s diving is world famous – with up to 150 visibility. There is much to see here including Two Lovers Point, a cliff-side lookout, an amazing view 400 feet above the Philippine Sea. Flying to Guam is pricey, but you’ll save when it comes to lodging… you’ll pay about $200 a night for gorgeous resorts in Tumon and nearby Tamuning.
5. American Samoa.
Do you love Hawaii but are itching for a new experience? You can also experience the heart of Polynesia and Samoan culture in the 5 volcanic islands that make up the territory of American Samoa. This is truly an off the beaten path destination. There are only a handful of hotels on Tutuila and the neighboring islands. This is what Hawaii was 50+ years ago: mostly untouched by commercial USA. Lava coastlines, coral rich waters and serene, uncrowded beaches. The native Samoan culture is still undeniably authentic here. While visiting the small village of Alega, the chef at Tisa’s Barefoot Bar will grill your fresh caught lobster for you while you sip on a drink. You can get here by flying into Pago Pago.
So, even without US Passports, we ARE getting out of this bitter cold… Where will you go?