International Ticket Cost vs Passport Ownership

International Ticket Cost vs Passport Ownership

International Ticket Cost vs Passport Ownership

US Passport Ownership by State. CGPGray
Older one by CGP Grey
US Passport Rates by State, by Matt Stabile
Newer one by Matt Stabile of The Expeditioner






Every so often I see a picture like one of these two. Both show the percentage of people in each state that have a valid passport. They are usually followed by comments that make a moral judgment about having or not having a passport and about how can Americans not travel. Proving once again that people are bad at Geography.

So Why?

No single fact explains everything but the fastest and easiest answer is geography. Most people do not realize how big the USA is. For some reason, a lot of Europeans I meet seem to think it just takes a day or two to drive Californiafrom  to New York. According to Google its 43 hours of driving. So yes, if you needed to and had friends you could push it and do it in two days. That is probably not what they are thinking and there is a lot to see in between California and New York.

In fact, the country changes a lot both as far as landscape and culture. Outside of the expensive coastal cities, the USA can be a relatively cheap place to travel (having a car, or a friend with a car helps a lot here). Granted most people think of the expensive coastal cities first so it becomes most peoples metric of the cost of traveling in the USA.

Passports and Passport Card Issued by year

On the land borders, you now need a passport, a passport card, or enhanced drivers license. I imagine that most of the passport cards that have been issued are along border states. With of price of 30 USD vs 110 USD the passport card wins out for many people.

The main reason brought up by people in between Europeans claiming it’s only a three-hour bus ride from NYC to Quebec (You don’t need a passport for that trip) is how expensive it is. It makes sense.



My idea was simple I looked up the cost flights at different airports in each state on July 15th, 2017.

  • The flights could be any time in the next year
  • The flights could not be to Canada or Mexico
    • First, for variance, they are right next door
    • Second, you can go there with a passport card or on a cruise without a passport
    • It’s not really “overseas”.
    • Something about that strip club that is right over the border down a dirt road

I found the cheapest flight from an airport in the state and then divided it by the Median Household Income. This then gives me a percentage that we can use to compare states. Why not just ticket price? Simple, if you have less money the same ticket makes a bigger hole in your wallet.

Passport Ownership vs Cost of International Flight Scatter Chart

Above we can see a scatter plot there is a relation to the cost. Let’s look at one of the outliers. Delaware has a high cost of tickets for a number of passports in the state. However Delaware is not very big, so it is easy to travel to nearby states like Maryland or Pennsylvania. That is the big flaw with this method. I may live in Massachusetts but I usually fly out of an Airport in New York.

Let’s not forget that these are the cheapest destinations I found. They may not be anywhere you have an interest in going. Either way, have fun and travel.


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