Alaska passport requirements often cause confusion for U.S. travelers. You might assume that a passport isn’t required to enter Alaska since it is considered domestic travel within the U.S., but that’s not always true. While Alaska passport requirements state that a passport isn’t required for arrival by plane, a passport is generally necessary when visiting via car, and you may also need one when visiting by cruise ship.
Alaska Passport Requirements
There is a difference in which documents are needed for Alaska passport requirements based on the type of travel to the state. For instance, when arriving by plane, you generally do not need to have a valid passport. There’s one exception: Starting on October 1, 2020, everyone will need a REAL ID for air travel, and not all states currently issue driver’s licenses that comply with these requirements. If yours doesn’t, you may need to carry a passport instead. For more information, see Everything Travelers Need to Know About the REAL ID Act.
If you are traveling by car, and therefore have to cross into Canada to reach Alaska, you’ll need a valid passport book, a passport card, or an enhanced driver’s license to get through border security.
Do you need a passport for an Alaska cruise? The answer is maybe. If you’re taking a closed-loop cruise that departs from and returns to the same U.S. port (such as Seattle), you do not need a passport, even if your itinerary includes calls in Canada; instead, an enhanced driver’s license or a birth certificate and regular driver’s license will suffice. If your cruise departs from and ends in two different cities, then you’ll need a passport.
Keep in mind that you might want to bring a passport even on a closed-loop Alaska cruise in case an emergency strikes and you need to fly home from a Canadian city; driver’s licenses and birth certificates are not accepted for international air travel.
How to Get a Passport for Travel to Alaska
Apply for a passport as soon as your travel is confirmed. The cost will be greater if applying for a passport within two weeks of travel time (in which case you will need an expedited application). You can learn more about passport requirements and documents needed to obtain a U.S. passport here.
Other Alaska Travel Requirements
So, Do I Need a Passport to Visit Alaska?
In summary: It depends on how you get there. Alaska passport requirements state that you don’t need a passport when traveling from the mainland to Alaska by air since it is considered domestic travel (unless you don’t have a REAL ID driver’s license), but a passport may be required when arriving by car or cruise ship.
Protect Your Passport
On travel days, only take your passport out during inspection. Otherwise, keep it stowed away in a dedicated section of your bag (if you keep it in the same place every time, you won’t ever scramble to locate it). Once you arrive at your destination, find a way to stow it securely. In-room safes or safe deposit boxes at the hotel front desk are generally good options, but if neither is available, you’ll need to decide how to keep your passport secure. You might consider keeping it in an under-clothing money belt that you wear, or leaving it in the hotel or vacation rental but locking it in your suitcase with a TSA-approved lock.