February 19, 2018

Only 1 in 3 Americans Has a Passport (Seriously?)


I came across a statistic recently that surprised me: only about one-third of Americans have a passport. According to Forbes.com, this is actually a record number. Here in Virginia, nearly half of all residents have a passport, which means I may know people who don’t have a passport. Honestly, I just kind of assumed that everyone had a passport.

The article goes on to state that the United States is an exceptionally large country and that it’s still relatively new to be required to show a passport when crossing the borders into Canada and Mexico, so maybe this accounts for so few passports. I guess, but there must be more to it than that. There must be a way to get more Americans to get passports.

So I was excited to read about the Passport Party Project, a philanthropic initiative kicked off by Tracey Friley of One Brown Girl and backed by Expedia. The goal of the project is to provide girls ages 11 to 15 with the tools to obtain their first passport.

A nationwide tour kicked off in September and every month or two “Passport Party” events are taking place across the country to raise awareness and to give deserving young girls passports, encouraging them to travel the world. Girls at these events learn more about global travel and spend time filling out passport applications on the spot.

I’ve had a passport for more than 20 years, ever since I went to Paris with my French class in the 11th grade. I can’t say that I’ve been everywhere I want to go just yet – that’s coming in five years – but what I have seen in Italy, Australia, Ireland, France and The Netherlands has been amazing.

There really are no borders, no boundaries when you have a passport. You can explore the world, view yourself in another light, learn about different cultures, sample cuisines from every corner of the earth. I highly encourage you to get a passport, support the Passport Party Project and get out there and see the world. What are you waiting for?


  1. I read about the Passport Party Project a few days ago – what a great initiative! It always surprises me when I read that only one-third of Americans have a passport. I’m Canadian and about 70% of us are passport holders which makes me think that there must be something more to why more Americans don’t have passports because we didn’t need them to cross the border into the U.S. until recently either. It would be interesting to see some research on the ‘why’ part of that statistic.

  2. I think 1 in 3 is actually a good statistic seeing how in 2010 the official poverty rate in the US was 15.1 percent. The next economic level up probably would never be able to afford vacations where a passport is needed.

    Once we decrease the pool to those who are able to travel to places which need a passport, the percent holding greatly increases.

    Passports might give you access to the world but you still have to pay the price of admission.

    I think Passport Party Project is a great idea, perhaps it will motivate the girls to attain the self-sufficiency needed to travel worldwide.

  3. I find the tone of this article a little condecending…..we are a family of seven, and everything in our world has become more and more difficult since the economy worsened. We cannot afford even the most basic vacation away from home, let alone a trip to a place outside the borders of the US that would even require the use of a passport. Just because YOU still have the funds to travel doesn’t mean that everyone does, and it’s a little bit like having salt rubbed in a wound to hear, “What? I can’t BELIEVE you don’t have passports!!” The cost of passports is a factor for many people, and that doesn’t even count towards the actual cost of any given trip. Try being a little bit more sesitive to those of us who long to get away….but can’t.

  4. The Passport Party Project is a global awareness initiative. In spite of the fact that the economy has created a challenge for so many families right now, when children get a passport, it often changes their perspective about their place in the world and how they fit into it. It’s not necessarily about family vacations and finding the money for the next trip. It’s about being ready when the time comes.
    Their are programs available for kids for study abroad programs that may even provide grants/scholarships as well. Besides, passports foster dreams and as we all know, dreams can come true.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am not surprised that people are surprised by the statistic but I also understand Theresa’s being upset. It just shows you how divided America is economically and how out of touch the haves are from the have nots. I must say I am not at all surprised so few people have passports. I myself am in my mid-30s and just got 1 and were it not for a trip to see a dear friend get married that would not have happened. I have seen Niagara Falls twice and I wouldn’t pay to get a passport to go see Canada again. I’m sorry but that’s just how it is. My family is paying a lot of money for an upcoming trip but that is a choice we made because it’s once in a lifetime and by the time we paid for airfare and passports to go to Europe for the wedding we decided to “see the world” while we were there because realistically for us it will probably not happen again. For myself and 1 child it cost about $250. If my husband & younger son chose to go that would be $500 just in passports. Then thousands in airfare. I also want to say that I work in public housing and I imagine perhaps some of the chosen deserving girls may live in public housing. I will say that as I read the article I did wonder what good a 5 year passport would do an 11 year old. I do realize there are programs out there. But most of them do cost money a family doesn’t have. I am not saying it’s not a good program…I just wonder.

Leave a Comment