While more Americans are now in possession of a passport than ever before, the numbers of those using their passport to travel abroad has not increased quite so dramatically. Americans may well be continuing to visit their neighbors to the north and south in Canada and Mexico (for which travelers now need to carry a valid American passport to visit), but the numbers of Americans traveling abroad to areas such as Europe or Asia has fallen.
The percentage of Americans now in possession of a valid passport is a refreshingly high 38%, which although impressive considering it was just 3% in 1974, is still far behind the rates found in other western countries. Canada, for example, has a passport holder rate of 60%, while in the UK at least 75% of the population has a valid passport. So, why aren’t Americans traveling abroad in as many numbers?
While countries such as the UK and Canada should be congratulated for their high passport rates, there is a marked difference between those countries and the United States. There is certainly much to see in both of them, but even the most patriotic of Canadians and Britons would admit that it’s necessary to leave the country in order to see a little sun. Canada may the second biggest country in terms of landmass, but much of that landmass is uninhabitable, and very, very cold. So, if it is sun, sea, and sand they want, they have to travel abroad. The same goes for those vacation-loving Brits, who may have a fascinating (albeit small) country to explore at home, but certainly don’t benefit from reliably warm and sunny weather.
Need To Travel?
The US meanwhile, has plenty to explore within its borders, and has practically every type of climate available. Whether it’s the tropics, desert heat, winter wonderland, or cool, coastal breezes, the US has it.
This diversity of climate, as well as of landscapes, cities, and culture means that for many Americans, the need to travel abroad simply isn’t there. There are so many different places to visit and explore without a passport, that even the most wanderlust stricken American could feel travel sated without ever leaving the country.
With 50 states, 59 national parks, over 164,000 miles of highway, and countless cities, the US has more than enough to be getting on with. In terms of cities, you can’t get more different than Boston and LA, or New Orleans and Seattle, and yet they all call the same country home.
LA for example, offers up laid back coastal vibes in Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu, while the downtown area is being increasingly revitalized and energized through independent shops and restaurants, as well as art projects. You can also travel further, using LA as a base, either to Joshua Tree National Park, Yosemite, or up the coast on famous Route 1 to Big Sur and beyond.
America is also a much cheaper option for travelers hoping to get away without breaking the bank – which travel abroad can often do. Not only are domestic flights much cheaper than jetting off to Paris, or Phnom Penh, but there are also plenty of ways to cut costs while traveling from sea to shining sea. There are of course, plenty of budget options available when it comes to hotels in the US, but short term apartment and house rentals are also a great way to save money (they are often a lot better value for money in comparison to hotels of a similar price point, and also allow travelers to cook their own meals). There are plenty of Vacation apartments in L.A, for example, as well as in other larger cities such as New York, Boston, and Chicago.
Cities such as Seattle, Portland and Denver are surrounded by natural beauty, with mountains within easy reach of the city, and in the case of Seattle, a beautiful waterfront, and easy access to the wild and secluded San Juan Islands. Texas plays host to musical, independent, eccentric Austin, as well as the more mainstream Houston, while Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans are bursting with musical heritage, and cultural history.
On the East Coast you can travel from the southern stateliness of Savannah or Charleston, all the way up to Washington D.C. which is crowded with monuments and museums, to Atlantic City, New York City, and Boston.
With so much to do in the US, it is little wonder really, that so many Americans do not feel the need to leave the country when taking a vacation.