What Is Domestic Travel? And How Do You Know What Is What?

Like many others, I’ve also spent some time traveling to other countries for tourism’s sake and for vacation. With all of the information on the web in regards to travel and the multiple ways for setting up a vacation or trip, it can seem confusing or quite overwhelming.

You’ll probably see mention of the terms, “domestic,” and, “international,” when it comes to setting up travel plans. 

What Is Domestic Travel? Domestic travel defines any flight that both takes off and lands within the same country’s borders. If you’re intending to travel to any state or city within the confines of the country you are located in, you will be traveling domestically.

There are quite a few differences between domestic and international flights and what you might need to prepare for or expect upon check-in at the airport. We will go over the differences thoroughly in this article which mainly pertains to security clearance.

What to Expect When Travelling Domestically

A great example of a domestic flight would be one where someone has to travel from New York City to Los Angeles.

This is a long flight that probably includes layovers, but it is still considered domestic travel since both Los Angeles and New York City are within the United States.

So, what should you expect and prepare for if you intend to travel domestically? Let’s walk through what you should plan for.

3 Preparations for Domestic Travel

If you plan to fly domestically, you’ll have fewer security hurdles to jump through at the airport. This means a whole lot less to stress about which is great since airports are a huge contention of stress, to begin with for most folks. To travel domestically, you will need:

No. #1 Airline Ticket

Many folks purchase their airline tickets online ahead of travel instead of showing up to the airport looking to purchase the old fashioned away. This is crucial in today’s age since buying ahead of time gives you access to an array of competitive fares, assures your travel dates and times will be secured and allows you the option to choose your desired seat.

Bonus: If you’ll need to rent a car upon arrival to your destination or even a hotel, you can also schedule this online. Many of the online travel and booking companies provide you with the option to bundle these things all together for purchase and save both money and stress!

Can you believe people used to just show up at the airport and buy a ticket? Many times, they also waited upon arrival to their destination before finding accommodations like rental cars and hotels? Yikes! Where would we be now without the amazing invention of the internet?

No. #2 Identification

To travel domestically, you will need to present a federal or state-issued photo I.D. at both check-in and security that includes your:

  • Name (The name must match the name on your ticket.)
  • Birthday
  • Gender
  • Expiration Date
  • Tamper-resistant Feature

REAL ID Act: Starting in October of 2020 any resident of the United States who intends to travel domestically will have to present a REAL ID-compliant government or state-issued I.D. The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 as a means to, “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses” per the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to congress.

In order to obtain a REAL ID-compliant license, you will have to go and provide more paperwork to prove your official residence and citizenship. These licenses will have a gold or black star on the front that signifies their compliance.

To find out if your state has begun issuing REAL ID-compliant licenses and to find out what you need to do to obtain one, contact your local Bureau or Department of Motor Vehicles.

Read more about Travel identification in this article.

No. #3 Baggage

Everyone who travels domestically or internationally is likely to have baggage. Most airlines will allow you the option to check the baggage in for storage in the cargo of the plane or bring the baggage as a carry-on. Before you travel, check the TSA’s, “What Can I Bring?” list to make sure your baggage doesn’t violate security requirements.

Checked baggage will go through security screening behind the scenes after check-in, while carry on baggage will be screened as you walk through the security portion of the airport by means of airport X-Ray scanners.

Do you have kids? Check out 11 baggage options to make your family travel easier for you.

You yourself will be asked to remove shoes, metal objects, and anything in your pockets as you proceed through a metal detector, or in some cases a full-body scanner to assure there are no security violations.

With a domestic flight, this is the extent of what you will have to prepare for. Once you have made your way through security, you will be on your way to finding your airline’s specified gate. 

You might enjoy a coffee or a stop at a restaurant or bar within the airport terminal first. With one final scan of your ticket upon boarding, you’ll be on your way to your destination.

TIP: Make sure you give yourself ample time to arrive at the airport and go through security. Sometimes the lines can be long. 

3 Preparations for International Travel

Now that we have walked you through what you can expect for domestic travel, let’s discuss the differences with international travel. The main difference being security preparations. 

While domestic travel is any type of travel that takes place within the confines of a country’s borders, international flights are ones where your destination is across country borders.

The process of buying a ticket for international travel is identical to buying a ticket for domestic travel. The main difference stems from:

No. #1 Identification

Not only will you need a federal or state-issued photo I.D. to check-in and present to security (REAL ID-compliant of course after October of 2020), you’ll need a few if not just one of the following forms of identification depending on your individual circumstance according to the TSA website:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

REMEMBER: You’ll likely have these forms of identification checked for a third time upon boarding your plane, so you’ll benefit from having them handy at all times.

No. #2 Visa Requirements

Depending on the country you travel to, you’ll need to check their visa requirements. Many countries require visas prior to entry. There also may be some countries that require immunization records. If you plan to travel internationally and you are not sure of the requirements Travel.gov is a good source for finding out what will be required for entry.

No. #3 Immigration and Customs

Upon entering or leaving any country(if it’s not your residing country) you’ll have to go through immigration and customs first. Upon entry of the country, you are traveling to you will declare any items of value that you are bringing in and sometimes you might have to pay taxes on them.

When traveling to the United States from another country some international airports allow you to do this as preclearance before return, so you don’t have to worry about it when you land in the states.

Each airline might have its own international requirements as well, so it’s best to check their policies prior to travel.

Learn more: What Is A Travel Document Number?

When to Consider Travel and Medical Insurance

Many folks don’t realize that their health insurance plans in the United States do not extend across borders. Consider calling your health insurance provider for clarification to find out if you’re protected. If not, you can purchase medical insurance plans for travel from an array of providers so that you are protected in the event of a medical emergency or an accident while out of the country.

You can also purchase additional travel protection for things like theft, or property damage while abroad.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When traveling both domestically or internationally, you should consider basic travel insurance that covers you in the event that you have to cancel your flight due to an untimely death, illness, or other medical reason or if you have ended up with lost or damaged luggage during travel.

Domestic Travel That Can Be Confused for International Travel

Before you prepare to travel check if the destination you are traveling to is one of the following:

  • Puerto Rico
  • Guam
  • Saipan
  • U.S. Virgin Islands

Many folks think traveling to these territories is considered international travel, but it’s not. These are actually considered domestic flights, so don’t worry about customs, immigration, or having to get a passport if you plan to visit.

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