Can You Book An International Flight Without A Passport?

When you get the itch to explore new places and immerse yourself in new cultures, it's often hard to ignore. In these scenarios, a passport is your direct ticket to incredible experiences abroad. In 2021, the U.S. government issued over 15 million passports to Americans looking to travel across borders, according to Statista. Some adventurers inevitably have a passport ready to go at all times. Others might not be so prepared for the spontaneous trips ahead. So, what happens when you come across an amazing opportunity to travel abroad, but your passport has expired or you've never had one in the first place?

The good news is that you don't necessarily have to miss out on the international trip of a lifetime just because you don't immediately have a passport in hand. It's entirely possible to book that international flight without one as long as you have a plan in place. Knowing how to obtain a passport swiftly after booking your international flight is typically enough to get you where you're going with the proper documentation in place before boarding.

Start an application as soon as possible

It's good to know you don't have to have a passport readily available to book that international flight you've been excited about. Many travelers are understandably eager to reserve their place onboard as quickly as possible. However, if you're determined to book before you have all the necessary travel documentation in place, starting a passport application right away is essential.

Unfortunately, when it comes to passport applications, there's no way to guarantee everything is going to come through within the timeframe you'd prefer or need. It's a good idea to be very clear about your airline's cancellation policy before booking. This can help you avoid losing a significant amount of money if things go awry with your attempt to get your passport on time. The same goes for booking non-refundable excursions too far ahead without a passport in place.

When it comes time to fly internationally, your passport needs to be in your hand and valid for the proper amount of time. Depending on your destination, the validity timeline of your passport can vary. Even if you have a passport that's valid, the specific expiration dates could make you ineligible to fly internationally if you don't renew it before your trip. For example, the U.S. Department of State points out that American citizens traveling through Europe's Schengen area (which includes 27 countries, per the Schengen Agreement treaty) must hold passports valid for 90 days beyond the departure date.

Be prepared to wait on processing

There are varying processes, timeframes, and costs in place when you're applying for a passport for the first time versus renewing an existing document. Always be sure to take your time and follow the application steps exactly. Even a small mistake can cause a significant delay in processing and inevitably derail your future flight plans.

The application process goes beyond simply filling out a form and mailing it in. Typically, a first-time passport application needs to be submitted at a designated passport acceptance facility. These facilities often take applications exclusively on an appointment basis. Passport application forms ask for plenty of detailed information and require applicants to attach a specialized passport photo too. All of this takes time and should be anticipated to stay on schedule for your upcoming trip.

Giving yourself a significant window of time for application processing before your international travel is always highly recommended. Current routine passport processing times range from 10 to 13 weeks with expedited services averaging seven to nine weeks according to the U.S. State Department. These estimates don't include mailing times which add further to possible delays when it comes to having a passport in your hand and ready to go by the time you travel.

Ultimately, you're free to book that exciting international trip without a passport. Just be aware of how long it might take to get a passport before you fly. With enough planning, an amazing adventure ahead is yours to enjoy.