Should you pack your passport on your next road trip?

If you’re traveling overseas, you know you’ll need a passport.

But what documents do you need if you’re only planning on driving across the country? I don’t think it’s something most people consider before their big family road trip.

As a matter of fact, until we took a cross-country drive from Florida to California, I didn’t think we’d ever need more than our licenses as long as we stayed in the country.

But then we took the wrong road in Texas that went a little too close to Mexico. Aye, aye, aye!

Travel has changed so much. There’s a lot more paperwork involved and it’s easy to forget something. Maybe that’s why I’m packing every form, photo and contract.

When we travel we have folio packed with the standard IDs, car registration, insurance cards, passports and birth certificates for the kids. Plus I carry a file folder bursting with reservation numbers, a list of back-up hotels, local maps, contracts of carriage and liability releases. I also keep digital back-ups online.

It might seem like too much, but it gives me peace of mind.

However, recently I was given a very suspicious look by a TSA agent who wanted to know why I was carrying my kids’ passports and birth certificates if we were only going to Utah.


Then a friend asked, why we bother with the passports if we’re staying inside the U.S.?

I was shocked. Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

And though I wanted to give her a snippy “Why not?” I thought about it a moment.

My short answer is flexibility. A few years ago, on our regular road trip from Florida to New York, we made an impromptu visit to Montreal. We’d have missed out on their colorful markets and incredible food if we didn’t pack our official identification.

Another reason to pack passports is that they’re my children’s only form of photo ID. In the case of an accident or emergency having quick access to an official picture and description can be helpful.

But to tell the truth, I really think we keep our U.S. Passports nearby because anything can happen. And if you spend time with us you’ll realize that we require very little planning if the opportunity to visit another country exists.

Is that overkill? Maybe.

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