It's a well-known fact that, when flying abroad, Americans prefer destinations that are not only sunny and tropical but easy to reach from the mainland States and, most importantly, bureaucracy-free to visit.
Not many foreign territories allow U.S. citizens to visit with few, if any, requirements. In fact, a majority of destinations are adding additional hurdles, from Jamaica's newly introduced entry form to Europe's controversial plan to require Americans to apply for an entry permit in advance.
There is one paradisaical Caribbean island, however, where they are not only welcome with open arms but where, soon enough, a passport will not be required for entering:
A Paradisaical Island In The Dutch Caribbean
Aruba is a tiny, non-sovereign island in the Caribbean Sea that is a constituent part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a country in Europe, meaning Arubans are Dutch citizens, but other than being a mere remnant of a colonial outpost, it has a much more diverse character.
Despite being associated with the Netherlands, Aruba has been influenced not only by Dutch, but several cultures over the centuries, including Iberian – it remained under Spanish control over the territory – as well as Venezuelan and Chinese, thanks to later migration trends.
Its settlements are typically European-colonial, and the quality of life is definitely on a par with the developed Northern Hemisphere, but instead of Dutch pastries and stroopwafels, Aruba is best known for its indigenous, spicy Antillean cuisine and seafood.
This is the Caribbean, after all, and the climate and landscape are markedly different from the mainland Netherlands: it's warm year-round, and albeit small, at only 180 km², Aruba has no shortage of gorgeous swimming spots, unruffled white sands, and nature reserves.
Aruba Is Doing Away With Passports Altogether
The best thing is, from March 2024, Americans will be able to fly to trendy Aruba passport-free.
For months now, there have been talks the local government would introduce a digital passport program that would enable travelers to leave their international travel documents at home and bring a digital version of it instead on their phones or preferred electronic devices.
Some doubted it would ever happen, especially now that countries are adding more rules for visitors, from travel authorization forms to e-Visas, but Aruba is instead hoping to welcome guests in a more ‘efficient' manner.
How Will It Work?
The Aruba Happy One Pass (shortened to AHOP) will permit travelers to store their data on their own digital device, completing pre-boarding verification, and crossing the island's checkpoints without presenting an actual passport.
According to local news, the system converts physical passports into digital credentials, so that upon arriving at Aruba, during the routine biometric check, which typically includes facial recognition, the information saved to the app is simply ‘verified' without requiring the physical copy of the ID.
They expect it to expedite border control, as well as minimize risks of theft and fraud. Though Aruba is doing away with passports for travelers willing to go paper-free, having a passport in the first place is still required, as the relevant information needs to be added to the platform prior to traveling.
A successful trial of AHOP has already been carried out, and for those who may be concerned about digital safety, previous tests ran smoothly, and the program does strictly follow IATA regulations.
Aruba is only one of several destinations piloting programs of the sort, with one other famous example being Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, which has started to allow some passengers to go passport-free upon exiting the country as early as September 2023.
Why Is This Good News For Frequent Travelers?
For many travelers, particularly frequent travelers, passports are outdated identity cards that can, at times, pose problems instead of opening up doors.
Their pages are numbered, and many countries worldwide require full blank visa pages of visitors, or they will deny them entry, and something as insignificant as a slight tear on the wrong page, or even a damaged cover, can render the entire document invalid for travel in some destinations.
Additionally, frequent travelers often see themselves having to renew the document in three to five years, in spite of the original decade-long validity, due to pages running out quicker.
They are certain to welcome Aruba's decision to digitize international travel documents, but it's worth noting the concept would be valid for nonstop travel to and from Aruba, as connecting flights in third destinations, where digital passports are not allowed, would not be possible.
Thankfully, there are numerous daily flights from the United States landing directly in Aruba from cities like Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and many more.
Could Aruba Become America's Next Go-To Sunny Spot?
In recent decades, Aruba has become a trendy resort island favored by sun-loving vacationers who are mainly looking to escape the surging crowds in Cancun and Punta Cana, and lucky for them, there are plenty of accommodation options in the market.
Home to a Riu Palace, a Holiday Inn Resort, Embassy Suites by Hilton, a Marriott-signed resort and casino, and countless more local, luxurious boutique listings, Aruba is a hugely underrated all-inclusive getaway.
Prices are not that much higher than exceedingly-popular Cancun, with the price of a five-star resort sitting at an average $456, based on Tripadvisor, except they can feel more exclusive as arrival numbers are far lower.
Whether it's the colonial architecture in the charming capital city, the delectable delicacies of Oranjestad's local market, sunbathing on a palm-lined sandy crescent, or snorkeling off the coral-fringed, flamingo-inhabited Aruban coast, you have plenty of activities to busy yourself with during a one-week stay.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.