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The Definition of “Domestic Travel” in Detail

The simple definition of domestic travel is traveling within the borders of the country you are in. It can get complicated, and different groups define it in different ways.

Some countries have open borders, so a flight or a road trip across that border may be considered domestic travel.

It pays to know the rules of the road when you travel, to avoid unpleasant surprises and added expense.


What does domestic travel mean?

Domestic travel means traveling in your own country, and that may not be as simple as it seems. Once you cross into another country’s territory, you are doing international travel. There are exceptions and nuances, however, that make it a little more complex. Where you begin and end your trip is what determines whether it is domestic.


Why does the definition of “domestic travel” matter that much?

The reason it matters is it defines whether you need a passport or not. You need a passport or visa when crossing most borders, and that is considered international travel.

You do not need those documents when traveling domestically, but you may need some kind of identification.

The designation also determines whether you have to go through customs when your plane lands, or when you arrive some other way to your destination.

Going through customs can be aggravating, and there may be things you are not allowed to bring into the country.

If it is not something that is illegal, they will just take it from you and you will go on your way without whatever it was.

If it was illegal, you would have some trouble.

It can also matter to your employer if you are traveling on business. It can affect how much you are compensated. It can also matter on your taxes as to what can be claimed as a deduction.


Domestic travel — Exceptions

In Europe, you may cross several borders and not have to go through customs. As far as travel goes, the European Union considers travel to its member countries’ domestic travel.

If you go from France to Germany, and then to Holland before catching a flight to London, you are still traveling domestically.

This would be true for citizens of all of those countries. If you go there from the United States, you would not be traveling domestically, but you would still be able to cross the borders of individual countries just like you cross state borders in the United States.

There are similar situations around the world, where countries have open borders with each other and consider traffic back and forth to be domestic in nature.

If you are taking a long flight that has a stopover, and you do not intend to leave the airport, you most likely will not need a passport.

The flight becomes international when you leave the airport in another country.

While there are legal definitions, insurance companies may have different rules for their policies. Your car insurance company may consider Canada and Mexico to be domestic travel for their purposes.


The Definition of a Domestic Flight

The determining factor is where your destination is. For flights, it is rather simple.

If you take off in one country and land in another, that is not a domestic flight. If you flew to Alaska and had a brief stopover in Canada, that would still be a domestic flight.

If you leave the airport in Canada and stay the night, it will become international travel at that point.

If you were in Mexico, and took a flight from Cancun to Mexico City, for instance, that would be a domestic flight. If you flew from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and then on to Cancun, that would not be domestic because you started in one country and landed in another.

If you do not leave the airport, and your final destination is in the same country where you departed from, that is domestic travel, even if you landed briefly in another country.


What about Domestic Flights in Europe?

Europe is a different matter with the establishment of the European Union. The Schengen Agreement, allows people to travel to and from 26 countries in Europe without a passport.

Travel from Paris to Hamburg, Germany, for instance, is considered domestic travel even though you cross a country’s borders.

Ireland is not part of the agreement, so someone from another country would not be considered for domestic travel.

As long as you are a citizen of a Schengen Agreement area, you may travel to any other country that is part of that agreement, and it will be considered domestic travel.

If you are an American traveling to Europe, it is an international trip, whether by plane or boat.

However, once you are in Europe, traveling to another country is considered domestic. An American who has entered Amsterdam legally, for instance, could then fly to Paris on a domestic flight.


What is domestic travel in the United States?

Domestic travel in the United States means traveling to any area that is considered a possession of the country.

Flying to Hawaii, or to Alaska, is still domestic travel. Puerto Rico is part of the United States as well, so going there is still domestic travel.

There are several islands around the world that are part of the United States, and you will not need a passport as that is domestic travel.

Besides Alaska and Hawaii, there are islands and territories that are part of the United States, and travel there is considered domestic, no matter how far away it is.

  • American Samoa
  • Baker Island
  • Guam
  • Howland Island
  • Jarvis Island
  • Johnston Atoll
  • Kingman Reef
  • Micronesia
  • Marshall Islands
  • Midway Islands
  • Navassa Island
  • Northern Marianas
  • Palau
  • Palmyra Atoll
  • Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Wake Island

What about Americans going to Mexico or Canada?

If you are a United States Citizen, going to Mexico or Canada is considered international travel. There are certain situations where you will not need a passport, but you will most of the time.

Once you are in Mexico, you can go anywhere in the country and that will be a domestic trip.

In most cases, you will need a passport to enter Canada or Mexico, and that is not considered domestic travel.



While the definition of domestic travel is simple on the surface, there are some exceptions that can make it complicated. The reason it matters is to determine if you need a passport and whether you have to go through customs at the border.


Frequently asked questions on “Domestic Travel”

Is a cruise domestic travel?

If you take a cruise to Mexico and return to the United States, you will not have to have a passport. You will be able to go ashore at stops with some limitations without a passport. The same is true for most other countries.


Is travel within the British commonwealth domestic travel?

It may not always be considered international, but you will still need a passport to enter the individual countries. Someone from London would need a passport to fly to Australia. An Australian will need a passport to go to New Zealand.