3 Rules Travelers Need To Know For 2009

Three rule changes for travelers come into effect in 2009:

  • Crossing any border by land or sea, unless you’re on a cruise, will require a passport
  • Visas for people coming to America will be completely electronic
  • Tickets prices for flights to and within Europe will have to be disclosed in-full and up-front, taxes, fuel surcharges and all.

[via MSNBC] (Photo: Ryan McFarland)


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  1. timmus says:

    It’s really weird how Europe has dismantled all its internal borders and you can fly from Helsinki to Madrid without going through any customs, yet now we need “papers please” just to drive the ol’ crapwagon from Buffalo to Toronto.

    • Triborough says:

      @timmus: Part of it is no doubt revenue enhancement. People have to pony up the cash for a passport and the government gets more money.

      • mugsywwiii says:

        I REALLY don’t think revenue from passports is what the government is after. A passport is what, $75? And lasts 10 years if you’re an adult when you receive it. So figure 200 million Americans have passports and renew them every 10 years. That’s 20 million per year * $75 = a whopping $1.5 billion, a piss stain on the federal budget. Then you have to figure in the cost of operating the border crossings.

        More plausible explanations for why we need passports to cross between the US and Canada –
        1. Taxes on imports
        2. Drug smuggling
        3. How do we open our border with Canada while we build a wall to keep Mexico out?
        4. Americans don’t WANT to be part of a pseudo-mega-country like Europe is becoming.

        • P_Smith says:

          @mugsywwiii: 4. Americans don’t WANT to be part of a pseudo-mega-country like Europe is becoming.

          The fact that people like you don’t see the benefit is part of the problem.

        • mzs says:

          @mugsywwiii: It was something like $95 for a passport that lasts two years for each of our children. Multiply that by 3 and that hurts. It is the reason we did not travel through Canada this year (the web site said that this required passport was already in effect). Oh and the weak dollar and the waiting/applying for the passport hassle too…

    • jamar0303 says:

      @timmus: Oh yes, especially with towns like Baarle (an oddity on the Belgium-Netherlands border)- for them it’s life as usual. For similar border towns between the US and Canada (and same on the other border) it’s a whole different animal- the US is trying its darndest to split these towns.

    • GreatWhiteNorth says:

      @timmus: It does seem interesting… but it would seem to comply with the need of George W’s puppeteers to be in full control the population of the US. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Americans have let George W strip away your constitutional rights, rape your election system, bugger your government departments, and pillage the financial resources of government and of the people for the generations to come.

    • P_Smith says:

      @timmus: It’s really weird how Europe has dismantled all its internal borders and you can fly from Helsinki to Madrid without going through any customs

      Just wait until the US government starts demanding them when travelling between state borders, never mind national.

      “Auschweitz, please!”

    • k6richar says:

      @timmus: If Canadians could get in to the USA without a passport the terrorist win… somehow?

  2. Illusio26 says:

    I wish we had the third bullet point in america

  3. British Benzene says:

    “New European laws mandate that tickets prices be disclosed in-full and up-front, taxes, fuel surcharges and all.”

    Hey congress, I know you’re busy selling my grandchildren’s future to bail out investment banks, but could you maybe look into this?


  4. Bladefist says:

    @EnglishC6H6 is British Benzene: Our congress is paid off by some of the airline companies. So, eeek, sorry, no. The won’t be looking into this. But they take your request very seriously.

    • British Benzene says:

      @Bladefist: Much like money from the airline bailouts ended up as campaign contributions, money from the financial (and Detroit) bailouts will do the same.

  5. MikeB says:

    Hopefully #4 will get passed/upheld/enacted/etc.

    Passengers get a bill of rights – maybe

  6. ecwis says:

    The first bullet point is only true for air travel.

    Anyone crossing an international border by land or sea will be required to have a passport, passport card, or WHTI compliant document which includes the following.

    * Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
    * State Issued Enhanced Driver’s License (when available)
    * Enhanced Tribal Cards (when available)
    * U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
    * U.S. Merchant Mariner Document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business
    * Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
    * Form I-872 American Indian Card


    It will probably be easier to just get a passport but for those who only travel by land and don’t want to spend $100 to prove that you’re American, it might be smart to just get a Passport card for $45.

    • MercuryPDX says:

      @ecwis: I have no plans to go overseas, but have visited Canada (Vancouver BC) with plans to go again. WA State has an Enhanced Drivers License (EDL) available and I got one when I renewed this year. It’s essentially a modified drivers license on the front (includes a 2nd biometric photo), and a passport on the back.

      I have yet to see it “in action”, but I’m looking forward to using it.

      I’m a little annoyed it doesn’t apply to Air Travel within the valid “land/sea OK” countries as well, but here’s to hoping it expands.

  7. Osi says:

    The first bullet does not apply to those of us who live in Alaska.

    For instance, we ALWAYS must cross the canadian border when going down south (lower 49). With the exception of Alaska to Hawaii traveling.

    So … the #1 bullet is not true ….

    • jamar0303 says:

      @Jinx: Cruise, I’m assuming (Alaska-Hawaii)? I mean, if you’re flying surely you don’t need to go through Customs if you land in the lower states, right?

      (And on a tangent- nice choice of governor, look at her now)

      • Osi says:


        We’re still flying over Canadian air space. Same with ferries. Sometimes we have to dock on Canadian soil for supplies. Even then, us passengers who roam the town for those few hours never need to show any form of identification.

        I never voted for “Queen” Palin. Despite her being hot as hell, and good in .. “home”. She doesn’t have a thought in that pretty head of hers.

    • GreatWhiteNorth says:

      @Jinx: possibly true to get into the Yukon, but what about trying to get back into Alaska?

  8. TPK says:

    As usual, the commercial media is incorrect. From the MSNBC article: “U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry must either have a passport, passport card or WHTI-compliant document.”

    This is misleading, due to a very large exception that has been allowed for cruise passengers. Now I know that the Consumerist staff is generally afraid of cruises (hey give one a try sometime, you really just might like it), but it’s fairly important to be aware of this:

    Even after the June 1 implementation of the Final WHTI rules, the vast majority of US Citizen cruise ship passengers will still be allowed to cruise with the same documents that are allowed right now. Namely, a Birth Certificate, and a government issued Photo ID.

    This is also a permanent exception. It will never “expire” unless Congress re-writes the law, which by the way, took them eight years after 9/11 to finally get done.

    Only on cruises that originate from a point other than where they are terminating (that is, entering the US) will passengers be required to present passports or other WHTI approved documents.

    As always, I will say that a passport is the very best travel ID document to have. But for many, especially families, it is an unnecessary expense, that may never be used again. It’s not up to the media to make this decision for them, by leaving out important details.

    I’ve done the research on this, and have posted source documents, straight from the top, that document my claim. You can read all about it here.

    • balthisar says:

      @TPK: Where not needed for a one-time use, I can see them perhaps being call unnecessary. But at $85 (or whatever they cost now), it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the price of a vacation. Calling them “expensive” when paying $4000 or more for a vacation seems out of line.

      • TPK says:

        @balthisar: Your point would be good, except… There are literally dozens of short cruises out of southern Florida that are available for less than $200 per person. Buying a passport for this possible one-time use can quite literally in some cases add 50% to the cost of the trip. Nobody should be duped into spending that kind of a mark-up for a “requirement” that does not exist.

        All I’m saying is give people the truth, let them make up their own minds. The benefits of obtaining a passport can stand on their own, deception is not needed.

  9. buckfutt says:

    Good news regarding full disclosure of fees. All the airlines (foreign and domestic) have been using junk fees to hide the actual cost of flying. I’ve seen many cases when the fees added up to more than the “price” of the ticket.

  10. Tallanvor says:

    Yeah… I think I’ll stay in Europe for a few more years before returning to the States… So much less of a hassle.

  11. mackejn says:

    Just a note about the cruise thing. I was in the passport office to get one to fly overseas and the guy taking care of our paperwork warned some other couple about this. If you’re on a cruise, and you don’t have a full passport, if you have to stay in a hospital or something for being sick and then fly back into the states you will need a passport. The rules only apply if you exit and enter the country on the cruise ship. Just something to think about.

  12. digitalhen says:

    from the article, visa’s won’t be electronics, but visa *waivers* will be. it’s a very important difference!

  13. mythago says:

    Don’t forget the not-so-new policy that border guards can now seize and review anything you may have on electronic storage media. The legal community is having a fit about this – excuse me, you want to take my clients’ confidential information for no reason whatsoever?

    • mugsywwiii says:

      “No reason whatsoever” = searching for contraband. It’s really no different from searching your briefcase which may contain sensitive documents.

      • johnva says:

        @mugsywwiii: Yes, it is different, because a) unlike in that situation, they can easily make copies of everything for later review and permanent storage, and b) the scope of the search is potentially FAR larger. Electronic devices can carry an amount of information that totally dwarfs what someone can carry in a briefcase, including a lot of incredibly personal and/or confidential info like saved email. AND, due to caching and virtual memory paging, etc, it can be quite difficult to totally sanitize a laptop or phone against forensic analysis. The government might even be able to steal saved passwords or encryption keys (even ones inadvertently saved) and use that to access restricted databases and networks elsewhere.

        So yes, I think imaging your laptop is COMPLETELY different from searching your briefcase. Sorry. I think legislative action should be taken to put a stop to that practice unless there is actual reason to suspect someone of something.

    • johnva says:

      @mugsywwiii: Also, I might add that I don’t see what “contraband” they could be looking for in electronic form actually justifies such a hugely invasive search on a random basis. The only things I could think of are maybe child porn or copyrighted material. Frankly, I don’t care about people bringing the latter in, and while child porn is deplorable, I don’t believe that random border searches are going to be effective at all in stemming that tide given that there are so many other ways to smuggle electronic data into the country. So, since this isn’t an effective means of catching pedophiles or terrorists, it’s not worth entirely suspending innocent people’s rights over. The government should just accept that they have no control whatsoever over electronic contraband, because that is the reality. These searches will only hurt innocent people, frankly, because the bad guys will just move to some other way of moving the information.

      • samurailynn says:

        @johnva: I completely agree. A terrorist could just as easily send information on a disk by mail, send it by email, post it on a website… all of those things are pretty simple, and most of them can be done without being traced to the original sender. I mean, they could even write out plans and print them on paper in an obscure language. I assume that when looking at paper documents that people have with them, security probably just glances over them and if it was in a language they didn’t know, they wouldn’t think anything of just glancing at it and handing it back to the traveler.

  14. Difdi says:

    I live in Washington State; One of the local geo-political oddities is Point Roberts, a small peninsula of US soil, attached entirely to the Canadian mainland. Driving from Point Roberts to the rest of the State requires going through Canada. The odd little scrap of US territory is due to using latitude & longitude to draw borders, rather than following coastlines. That passport requirement is going to suck when residents there commute to and from work. The only way on or off the peninsula without crossing a national border is by boat — and there is no car ferry.

  15. wickedpixel says:

    The European Parliament this year approved a new “transparency” rule mandating that airfares have to include all taxes, fees and charges added to the basic ticket price and known at the time of publication.

    If only the US could do something like this for cell phone plan pricing. A girl can dream…