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8 Big Changes for American Travelers in 2023

American traveler in airport
Allianz - American traveler in airport

Americans want to go in 2023. Where? Anywhere!

Cruises are seeing a surge in popularity. So are trips to far-flung nature destinations, wellness retreats and culture capitals — “not a new normal but people branching out to unexpected trends in what we’re calling the ‘no normal’,” said Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Brands.1

Wherever you’re traveling, you should be aware that some things have changed that could affect your trip. We’ll give you the quick rundown of 2023 travel changes for Americans.

Remember: If you’re planning more than two trips this year, then an annual travel insurance plan is a smart buy. For one low price, it protects all your travels — long and short, international and domestic — for 365 days. Find the perfect travel insurance plan for your 2023 adventures!

1. Online passport renewal is finally available.

For most travelers, renewing your U.S. passport has long required mailing in an application. At last, the process has been streamlined (somewhat) with an online passport renewal portal. There, you must create a MyTravelGov account and wait for it to be registered before going through the online renewal process. **Note: As of March 2023, online passport renewals have been paused, to resume later in 2023.

Don’t forget to check your eligibility first! You must be older than 25, live in the United States, and meet all the other requirements. Processing times are the same as for mailed applications, unfortunately. You can’t renew your passport online if you have urgent travel in less than six weeks. Also, be aware that as soon as you submit your online passport renewal application, your current passport will be invalidated and you can’t use it for international travel.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Applying for a Passport & Passport Renewal

2. The REAL ID deadline has been pushed back to 2025.

Way back in 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act, which would require American travelers to have a new, more secure identification card or driver’s license called a REAL ID to board domestic flights. (A passport or military ID would also be accepted.) But the deadline for requiring REAL IDs has been delayed more times than we can count, and now has been moved to May 7, 2025.

What does this mean for American travelers? You can continue to fly within the U.S. in 2023 with your standard driver’s license or state-issued ID. But you may want to upgrade to a REAL ID this year, just so you’re prepared. It will be marked with a star symbol to distinguish it from an ordinary license/ID card.

To get a REAL ID, you’ll typically need to provide documentation showing your full legal name; date of birth; Social Security number; two proofs of address of principal residence; and lawful status. Your state may have additional requirements, so check with your local DMV.

3. Digital IDs are beginning to be accepted for travel.

Can you use a digital ID to travel in 2023? Some U.S. travelers may be able to, although their use isn’t yet widespread.

A digital ID or mobile driver’s license is not a photograph of your physical license. Rather, it’s a verified digital version that’s stored securely on your phone. If you live in Arizona, Maryland and Colorado and you have an Apple device, you can already access a digital ID on Apple Wallet. The TSA began accepting digital IDs from residents of these states in 2022, but only at select TSA PreCheck checkpoints (you must be a PreCheck member). Travelers should carry physical versions of their ID as well.2

Florida and Louisiana offer a digital version of driver’s licenses, but these aren’t yet accepted for travel (as of early 2023). Connecticut, Ohio and Utah are among the other states working to offer this option.3

The Mobile Passport Control app can speed up your passage through customs at 31 U.S. international airports and other border-crossing sites, but it’s not a replacement for your physical passport.

4. You’ll need a visa waiver to travel to 26 European countries.

Thinking about traveling to Europe in 2023? Beginning in November, American travelers will need to apply for a visa waiver before visiting any of the 26 Schengen visa countries. In short: If you’re over 18 and under 70, you’ll have to fill out a form online and pay a €7 fee so you can be screened by the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). This security system will issue an authorization for most travelers in minutes, although if you’re flagged as a security risk, it can take up to 96 hours for your application to be reviewed. For this reason, you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to apply. An ETIAS waiver is valid for three years.4

5. Your fingerprints and face will be recorded when you enter the E.U.

Love collecting stamps on your passport? That practice may be ending, as the European Union adopts an automated Entry/Exit System in mid-2023. This system will capture the personal information, fingerprints, photo, and entry and exit dates of third-country (non-E.U.) travelers when entering the E.U. The E.U. says recording this data will improve border security and prevent people from overstaying the approved length of their visit.5

6. Cruise lines have loosened, but not eliminated, their COVID rules.

Beginning in late 2022, cruise lines began to relax their stringent requirements for passenger COVID testing and vaccination. In 2023, major brands including Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Lines allow unvaccinated passengers to sail on most voyages. However, tests and/or vaccination may still be required for longer voyages, or by certain cruise lines.6 Make sure you check before purchasing your trip.

7. Most—but not all—countries have lifted COVID travel restrictions.

As of early 2023, most countries have fully opened their borders to tourists. Some popular destinations, however, still have travel restrictions related to COVID-19. These include Indonesia (vaccination required for entry), China (no tourist visas issued), the Philippines and Brazil (both countries require COVID testing for unvaccinated travelers).7

As we’ve learned over the last three years, travel requirements and restrictions can—and do!—change rapidly. If you’re traveling internationally in 2023, it’s wise to double-check the rules for your destination before you go. Use our interactive map to see travel requirements by country.

8. Allianz Travel Insurance now offers a Cancel Anytime upgrade.

Travelers asked for this, so we answered! Cancel Anytime is an optional upgrade available on our most popular plans, OneTrip Prime and OneTrip Premier.

Unlike trip cancellation benefits, which reimburse 100% of lost trip costs when you cancel for a covered reason, Cancel Anytime can reimburse 80% of your lost non-refundable trip costs if you cancel your trip for almost any unforeseeable reason your plan does not already cover. That way, you can travel with confidence.

Get a free travel insurance quote.

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