With more than 700 subtropical islands dotting the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean, the Bahamas just may be the ideal international vacation destination of your dreams, and not too far from home. Even though no passport is required for United States residents to visit the Bahamas, air travelers need one to get back into the United States on the return trip. It's a good idea to keep a passport on hand when traveling to the Bahamas by cruise as well, in case of emergency.

Flying to the Bahamas

All United States citizens flying from the U.S. to the Bahamas must have a valid passport to complete a round trip. While the Bahamas technically requires only a valid government-issued photo I.D., such as a driver's license, to enter the country, a U.S. passport is required for the flight back home. For this reason, airlines may require round-trip travelers to show a passport even for the outbound flight from the United States to the Bahamas. Make sure the passport has at least six months left before it expires in order to streamline traveling through security checkpoints.

Traveling With Children

All children regardless of age must have passports when flying round-trip to the Bahamas. A minor traveling with one parent may be required to show officials a letter of authorization from the child's other parent giving permission for the child to travel. If traveling with a non-guardian, such as on a school trip, the child must have a letter of authorization signed by the parents or guardians. Each airline has its own requirements for unaccompanied minors. Delta, for example, allows minors ages 15 to 17 to fly alone without opting into the unaccompanied minor program, while Southwest Airlines does not allow unaccompanied minors on international flights. The unaccompanied minor program assigns an airline employee to look after minors traveling alone on flights. This service may be available for an added fee or by purchasing a full adult fare for the traveling child.

Visiting by Cruise Ship

Cruise travelers do not necessarily need a passport when visiting the Bahamas, although keeping one on hand is a good idea in case unexpected air travel is required to get back home or to meet a cruise ship in one of the ports if a portion of the trip was missed due to a flight delay or other reason. A Bahamas cruise that begins and ends in the same U.S. port will usually accept a government-issued photo I.D. along with proof of residency such as an original birth certificate, but a passport is much preferred. Check the travel requirements issued by your cruise line, as each has slightly different rules. Cruise ships may also stop in other countries that do require passports, so consult the cruise line for specifics pertaining to your cruise's itinerary.