REAL ID requirement in US delayed. Results of ITN's “Where Were You in 2019?” poll of subscribers

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the June 2020 issue.
Château de Chenonceau, built between 1513 and 1517 in France’s Loire Valley, became a royal estate of King Francis I as part of a debt settlement in 1535.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 532nd issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine, back in print form after doing an online-only issue last month. Crazy times, right?

We sent out email notifications about that to our subscribers for whom we had current email addresses (our first mass emailing ever). I’m sorry we were not able to send notices to the rest of you. Here’s most of the text of the message we sent:

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the May 2020 issue of International Travel News will not be in its usual printed format. Instead of mailing out regular copies, we have published a digital version that will be posted online only, starting May 1st.

ITN depends on income from travel-related advertising. Our advertisers are uncertain about when things will return to normal, thus our ability to cover printing and mailing costs has been temporarily affected.

“To remove any obstacles to accessing this digital version of ITN, the entire May issue will be accessible to everyone who visits our website, including subscribers who have not yet created an ITN Online account and even non-subscribers. You won’t need to log in; just visit to read the full issue.”

That email message was sent from the address, attached to our Subscriptions department (800/486-4968), so if you didn’t see the email, and if a search of your email doesn’t bring up that address, you may want to email the Subscriptions department to inform them of your current email address; include the surface-mail address at which you receive ITN, as they’ll need to connect the two.

(For the record, ITN does not sell or trade anyone’s name, address or email address to any firm, although the post office sometimes checks samplings of our subscribers’ addresses to verify that all are valid. Consequently, they require that an email address or phone number be available for each.)

Now that we’re all caught up on the “issue issue,” I need to catch you up on a couple other things.

In my April 2020 column, I reported that on Oct. 1, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would begin requiring anyone boarding a commercial aircraft to have a REAL ID. This could be either a passport, a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) or a state-issued driver’s license that meets the REAL ID standards. (To know if your state-issued ID is a REAL ID, check the top right corner. If there’s a star there, it’s a REAL ID. For more info, visit

Due to issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, in March the DHS delayed introducing the REAL ID requirement until October 2021.

After reading my April column, ITN subscriber Vince Meleski of Cullman, Alabama, wrote, “Before I went to renew my driver’s license in December 2017, I had read that Alabama was issuing REAL IDs, and I assumed you would get a REAL ID automatically when renewing.

“When I received my license, however, it did not have the identifying star on it. I called to inquire about it and was informed that REAL IDs are issued only on request. To get a license with the star, I had to go through the renewal process again and pay for another license. My mistake was not too costly in Alabama, but in other states it might be expensive.

“Be aware that this can happen, and ask up front for the REAL ID. I would have been very unhappy if I had not noticed this and eventually found out by being denied boarding on a plane.”

A CORRECTION to note —

Cathie Sundry of Chula Vista, California, wrote, “I enjoyed the letter ‘Global Greeters’ (Oct. ’19, pg. 40), about a website on which to find private guides in different cities. As my husband and I are planning a trip to Europe for fall 2020 (pending coronavirus), I went to

“Please note that this website is for arranging assistance through airports upon arrival or departure. The correct website for the service mentioned is”

ITN contacted the letter writer, who confirmed she meant to recommend

Hey, this is the June issue. That’s when we announce the results of our annual “where did you go last year?” informal poll. As limited a travel year as 2020 will end up being for our readers, the year covered in our poll, 2019, was a bumper one. ITN subscribers traveled far and wide last year, even visiting a couple of countries you may find surprising.

One set of statistics that always impresses me is the numbers of countries visited by individual ITN subscribers — an adventurous lot. In 2019, 44% of ITN subscribers who responded to our poll reported visiting 1-5 countries or territories each, 36% said they visited 6-10, 15% visited 11-15, 3% visited 16-20, and 2% visited more than 20 destinations each. Overall, the average number of countries visited in 2019 as reported by ITN subscribers was 7.03.

Figures like those are why certain tour operators have continued to advertise here. ITN readers travel overseas frequently!

So what country did most people go to in 2019? That would be France, visited by 19.5% of respondents. The second-most-visited country was our neighbor to the north, Canada, which 19.2% set foot in, followed by Italy (18.9%); the United Kingdom, including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (18.4%); Germany (16.1%); Spain (15.8%); Mexico (14.7%); Portugal (11.6%), and Netherlands and Japan (10.8% each).

This was fairly in line with 2018, when the UK was the most visited country. Two differences from a year ago — Japan moved up from position 35, and Greece dropped to 14; otherwise, the top 10 countries were typical of ITN surveys throughout recent years. Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, the UK, Germany and Spain have always been in the top 10, in various orders, since at least 2013.

Outside of the top 10, here are the rest of the countries visited in 2019, in descending order: 11. China; 12. Switzerland, 13. Norway; 14. Australia and Greece; 16. Singapore; 17. Costa Rica; 18. Argentina, Morocco; 20. Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Russia and South Africa; 25. Thailand; 26. Israel/Palestine; 27. Croatia, Indonesia and Panama; 30. Belgium, Chile, Egypt and India; 34. New Zealand and Vietnam; 36. Cuba and Denmark; 38. Estonia, Hungary, Jordan, Turkey and Zimbabwe; 43. Bulgaria, Iceland, Romania, South Korea and Sweden; 48. Botswana, Fiji, Guatemala and United Arab Emirates; 52. Ecuador, Ireland, Latvia, Montenegro, Peru and Poland; 58. Barbados, Cambodia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, St. Lucia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Zambia; 68. Kyrgyzstan and Uruguay; 70. Antigua & Barbuda, Ghana, Myanmar, Philippines, Qatar and Tanzania; 76. Lebanon, Slovenia, Taiwan and Tajikistan; 80. Czechia, Georgia, Malta, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka and St. Kitts & Nevis; 86. Albania, Andorra, Serbia and Slovakia; 90. Armenia, Côte d’Ivoire, Laos, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Moldova, Monaco, Nepal and Oman; 99. Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cyprus, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Northern Macedonia, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Trinidad & Tobago and Ukraine; 113. Belarus and Papua New Guinea; 115. Belize, Bhutan, Cape Verde, Grenada, Honduras, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Gambia, Timor-Leste, Togo and Uganda; 126. Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Iraq, Jamaica, Kiribati, Kosovo, Mozambique, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Syria and Vatican City; 138. Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Nigeria, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, São Tomé & Principe, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname and Tuvalu; 152. Afghanistan, Algeria, Brunei, Cameroon, El Salvador, eSwatini, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Micronesia, Nauru, Paraguay, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu; 166. Bahrain, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Palau, Republic of the Congo and Tonga; 175. Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kuwait, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen and, by foreign subscribers, the US.

Subscribers also visited nonsovereign territories in 2019. The most visited were the Canary Islands, ruled by Spain; French Guiana and French Polynesia, both ruled by France, and Greenland, ruled by Denmark. Each was visited by 2.4% of respondents.

Other nonsovereign territories visited were, in descending order, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Falkland Islands, Saint-Martin, Aruba, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Azores, Bermuda, Guernsey, Faroe Islands, Jersey, Saint-Barthélemy, Svalbard, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Martinique, New Caledonia, Northern Cyprus, Pitcairn Island, Réunion Island, South Georgia Islands, Turks & Caicos Islands, Anguilla, Isle of Man, Niue, Saba, Saint-Pierre & Miquelon, Sint Eustatius and Tristan da Cunha.

In addition, 2.1% of respondents went to Antarctica and 0.01% went to Western Sahara, two regions that do not (officially) belong to any nation.

There were some interesting trends in 2019. In East Asia, South Korea and Japan both rose in visits from the year before, particularly South Korea, going from position 143 to 43. In the Middle East, Israel rose in position from 57 to 26, and Saudi Arabia went from 166 up to 99. Afghanistan, Libya, Niger and Yemen had not been visited by ITN subscribers at all in 2018, but they were visited by at least one person each in 2019.

Two destinations in particular stood out this time. For the first time since a civil war broke out there in 2011, ITN readers visited Syria. Another place visited for the first time in recent memory was Northern Cyprus. The border between Cyprus and Northern Cyprus has often been shut since the country split during an insurgency in 1974. However, on Nov. 18, 2018, an agreement was reached to allow people to cross the border for the first time in eight years, providing an opportunity for people like ITN readers to easily visit.

Iran had the biggest drop in visits in 2019, plummeting from the number 95 position to 165, while Belize had the second-biggest, tumbling from the 57 spot to 115. In Europe, Czechia fell from 51 to 80, and its former partner in countrydom, Slovakia, fell from 70 to 86.

Countries visited by subscribers in 2018 but not last year were, in Africa, Comoros and South Sudan and, in the Caribbean, Haiti; all three countries were among the least-visited in 2018. Also not visited in 2019 were Venezuela, Burundi, Mali and North Korea.

Of course, 2020 has had a tough start. For the moment, international air travel is restricted mostly to repatriation and essential travel, and cruise lines have canceled all sailings… but only through July. Cabins ARE being sold for autumn cruises, and many tour companies are planning tours, perhaps optimistically, for the latter months of 2020.

When some semblance of normalcy returns, ITN readers are sure to be among the first to head back out into the world.

And now, having reviewed all of our “Where Were You in 2019?” data, it’s time to announce the prize winners among our poll participants.

In random drawings, we pulled three winners this year, each of whom have won gift certificates to CircaTerra Travel Outfitters (3317A State St., Santa Barbara, CA 93105; 805/568-5402, The grand prize (a $65 certificate) goes to Jacquelin Siegel of Davis, California. Second prize ($45) goes to Alla Campbell of Greensboro, Georgia. And Nancy S. Gierhart of Santa Barbara, California, has won third prize ($25).

Thank you, all of you who sent in your lists of countries visited. The stats, always impressive when involving ITN subscribers, serve to attract advertisers, which helps this magazine survive.

Before I sign off this month, I’d like you to read a note from one of our subscribers. It demonstrates why opening the mail at ITN continues to be rewarding.

In her letter titled “Despite Health Issues, Enjoyed Travel” in our February issue (page 30), Wanda Bahde of Summerfield, Florida, described how she and her husband, Ray, managed, and enjoyed, a European river cruise taken in May 2019 once his health had stabilized following a diagnosis of cancer. I noted at the end of her letter that, just before press time, Wanda had informed us of Ray’s passing, saying, “… we were so grateful for sharing our amazing planet together” and “Ray wanted me to continue traveling.”

In April, Wanda wrote, “In response to your editor’s note, several readers sent me private notes of condolence and encouragement to keep traveling. Specifically, Diane Powell Ferguson of Scottsdale, Arizona, most accurately stated how so many of us feel: ‘I regard ITN readers as my extended family and friends. I feel as though I know you and the other travel community contributors.’

“And Deb Riley of De Pere, Wisconsin, shared that, after her husband’s passing in 2010, she traveled solo with Overseas Adventure Travel to every continent. She encouraged me, ‘Travel as long as you are able!’ I hope to follow her advice in 2021 when the planet reopens.

“Yes, thanks to ITN, we are part of an extended family of travelers.”

Thank you for sending that, Wanda.

From the beginning, ITN has made it possible for people to help others by sharing their travel knowledge, recommendations and warnings, so I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising when readers reach out personally to each other, even to offer encouragement. Still, it’s nice to hear about it.