Licenses and Passports and Borders, Oh My.

I’ve been wanting to have our trip plans all figured out before posting another blog entry. Unfortunately, we’re still undecided, but I do have some things to share. It’s all about passports and enhanced licenses.


For most of my life I’ve been able to travel in and out of Canada without a passport. That changed a few years ago, probably as a part of the “war on terror.” Now, a passport or an “enhanced license” is required. An enhance license is a driver’s license with an embedded electronic strip that apparently provides the authorities a way to get at more information about you. The last time we went to Canada, on our Nova Scotia trip in 2011, E had her enhanced license and I had my passport. No problems. Since then, my passport expired and I did not renew it. I did get an enhanced license.


Fast forward to the present. As we have been exploring the various cruise and/or camping possibilities, several of the options have us in Canada. A cruise leaving from Vancouver means that we have to get into Canada. A vacation in Banff has us in Canada. So the question came up, will our enhanced licenses be enough?


The first thing we found out is that an enhanced license will not allow you entry to Canada by air. For that you need a passport. So, forget about cruises leaving from Vancouver, right? Well, not so fast. Maybe we could drive to Toronto, entering Canada on our licenses, and fly from Toronto to Vancouver (or to Calgary). We wouldn’t be entering Canada by air. Seems to me that this would be permitted. So I asked the travel agent. She didn’t know, but said she’d find out. She got back to us, told us that she had checked with several sources, and the answer was, no. We couldn’t fly within Canada without passports. Naturally, I didn’t like that answer, so I continued to do my own research.


On I found an answer I liked. They said you could drive into Canada on an enhanced license, fly within Canada, and return home by car, and you wouldn’t need a passport. Although I liked this answer, I know TripAdvisor is no authority, so I wrote to some government agencies to see what they would say. The Canadian border security agency got back to me. Their answer was that US citizens do not need a passport to board or exit a plane that flies within Canada. But – they said to “check with your airline,” because, evidently some airlines have more stringent requirements of their own!! What!? The airline can supercede the government in terms of their requirements?! Who ever heard of such a thing?


So, the bottom line is, we can’t plan on anything that requires passports. We did start the process to get passports, but it takes 4 to 6 weeks, and we have to make some reservations and decisions now. So, we won’t be planning on flying to Vancouver or to Calgary.


Meanwhile the travel agent has offered us a couple of different alternatives. Her first alternative completely ignored our expressed desire to see Vancouver and Seward. When we rejected that she came up with an itinerary that has us flying to Seattle, taking a bus to Vancouver, a cruise to Seward, a train to Anchorage, and then flying home from Anchorage. It gets us to the places we wanted, but it seems so clunky.


We’re still working on this one.


Now I wonder if the NSA has started following my blog because of all this discussion of passports and borders. There must be at least a couple of “tagged” words in this post. Hmmm. Hi guys! Nothing going on here other than a simple travel discussion. No worries.


One thought on “Licenses and Passports and Borders, Oh My.

  1. We recently obtained new passports (ours had been expired for over 15 years) and it really did not take all that long. If you only have to renew yours, it is much less expensive and does not take too long. I am sorry that we waited so long to get ours. Recently, when Polly and I flew to Biloxi, MS, we had to check in for our charter flight at Air Canada in Sarasota. As we approached the agent, she asked for our passports! What? to fly to Mississippi? Turns out we were at the wrong counter, our group was sent to another counter. But Southwest required passengers flying to Canada to have passports. When we were booking our cruise, we were strongly advised to have valid passports in case of any kind of medical emergency which would require being air-lifted. All in all, it is safer to have a valid passport because you never know what you will run into.

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