Q: Peter, we're planning a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, and we're going to get passports. Someone told me about something called a passport card that I could use in place of a passport for travel to Canada. What’s the deal with this?
–Claudia O'Brien, Ojai, Calif.
A: Claudia, here's the scoop on U.S. passport cards. You can use them to get into Canada by land or sea, but they can't be used for international air travel. So if you're planning on flying into Vancouver, you're going to need a passport.
The passport card was introduced just two years ago and is a relatively new option. One of the biggest benefits of the passport card is the price — it will cost you only $45 compared with $100 for a passport book. It's also small enough to fit in your wallet, making it easier for some to carry around than a passport book.
But be aware of its limited use. It can get you into territories in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which includes Canada, Bermuda, Mexico and the Caribbean, by land and sea only. It cannot be used to gain entry into countries if you're flying internationally. The passport card is valid for the same length as the book — 10 years for adults and five years for children.
So that's the lowdown, Claudia. If you're a frequent or even occasional traveler, you may as well just pop for the full passport book. Chances are you're going to need one at some point.