Get Everything in Order for a Smooth Trip to Paradise
You might know a few key things about Puerto Rico—that San Juan has incredible historical sites, the food is divine and the nightlife is legendary. But you might not be sure what its status as a U.S. territory really means. Is it part of the United States or does it have its own passport rules? There's a lot to discover in Puerto Rico, but you can settle those questions upfront. American citizens don't need passports to visit Puerto Rico, but you might want to bring one anyway.
What's the Deal With Puerto Rico and Passports?
Puerto Rico's history and relationship to the United States is complicated and still in flux. Officially, it's a self-governing territory of the U.S., which means that it has its own constitution, but belongs to the United States. American citizens can travel between the 50 states and Puerto Rico without having to show proof of citizenship. So, American citizens flying directly from the U.S. to Puerto Rico and back aren't required to show passports. The same goes for children.
But, if any part of the trip includes leaving American territory, like taking a cruise that involves stops in Mexico or other countries, every member of your group should carry a valid passport.
Should We Bring Passports Anyway?
Despite the fact that you won't be asked for passports on your trip from the U.S. to Puerto Rico, you might want to pack them if you have them. For one thing, having a second form of ID allows you to board the plane home even if your wallet has been stolen or you've misplaced your driver's license. And if you're a spontaneous traveler who decides to tack on a few days in the Dominican Republic or on a non-U.S. territory Caribbean island, those passports will come in handy.
What Other IDs Do We Need?
Bring to Puerto Rico the same identification you would use for any domestic air travel. Adults need to show a valid government-issued ID, such as a driver's license or a permanent resident card. The TSA does not require children under 18 to show ID, but some airlines have their own rules. Typically, kids under 18 aren't asked for ID unless they're traveling alone. Older teens may be asked for ID if the airline wants to verify that they're still minors and therefore not subject to the same rules that apply to adults. In that case, something like a school ID card or birth certificate should suffice.
If one of your children has another parent or legal guardian who isn't joining you on the trip to Puerto Rico, carry a document signed by the other person that states you have permission to travel with the child. This document is more important when you're traveling outside the U.S. or its territories, so you may not need to present it during your trip to Puerto Rico. But this is one of those cases where the minor inconvenience of getting a letter of permission far outweighs the hassle that could come from not having it.
What Else Do We Need?
Puerto Rico tends to be hot, sunny and intermittently rainy, so warm-weather clothes like shorts, tank tops, sandals and bathing suits should make up the majority of your wardrobe. Don't forget a waterproof jacket, water shoes and a few warmer pieces for chilly nights. The island can be buggy, so insect repellent is a must-have. Puerto Rico has plenty of American-style convenience stores and other shops where you can pick up necessary items like sunscreen and aspirin, so don't stress too much about forgetting anything essential.
Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.