Living in Vicenza, you can travel to at least seven countries driving for less than half of a day. Cheap flights abound. If you don’t believe me, just check out all the budget airlines in Europe.
Because most popular travel locations are countries that belong to the European Union (EU), the passport is almost a non-issue. Though you may be stopped at a border crossing, most likely you will not. European Union countries have open borders with one another. If you fly from one EU country to another, you don’t usually have to go through customs. So again, no passport.
Even though you should always have the passport to prove your citizenship, you won’t get your passport stamped in EU countries.
So, why bother with a tourist passport? If no one is looking at my passport, why shell out another hundred bucks for a second passport?
First of all, the government issues the
maroon no-fee passport for official travel only. The no-fee passport signifies that you are a government dependent and the Status of Forces Agreement protects you. Your visa is attached to the no-fee passport. If there is a natural disaster (think Japan Earthquake), the no-fee passport allows you to be evacuated with American military forces. The passport is for official use. Period. (I admit, I am a rule person. If there is a law, I try to follow it. I don’t download illegal movies. I wear my seatbelt and try not to speed.)
**AS OF 2012, THE OFFICIAL PASSPORTS ARE NOT MAROON ANYMORE, THEY ARE ALL BLUE!**
Also, some countries may not accept your no-fee passport if you are not traveling for government business. Nothing could be more disappointing than planning some great R & R travel and then being turned around at a border. This type of mistake could cost you a lot of money if you have non-refundable reservations.
There are some safety considerations for Americans visiting other countries, as well. If you are toting around a no-fee passport, you are identifying yourself as connected to the United States government. Anyone who has watched more than five minutes of American Forces Network television knows there is always potential for terrorism. If you are carrying an official passport, it could make you more vulnerable *IF* an incident occurs while you are on vacation. (Even though, we know that in almost all certainty, it won’t happen.)
What about travel to non-EU countries?
You may want to visit some countries that are not part of the European Union. Because travel to countries such as Croatia is inexpensive, many people stationed in Vicenza love to visit. However, you will have to go through a checkpoint and possibly customs to get in and out of Croatia and other non-EU countries. On the upside, if are looking forward to having your passport stamped, this is where you will get that stamp!
My take on the tourist passport…
Before you leave the United States, apply for your tourist passport. Make sure everyone in the family has a tourist passport. You may not want to hang around and wait for them to arrive once you are in Europe and so close to all the places you will want to visit.