Summer travel season is here, and for some of us that means packing bags and heading outside our country’s borders to see the world.

For nearly all international travelers, the one must-have is an active passport.

That’s what the people at the border or the airport are going to want to see before they let you in.

Some of us don’t have passports because we haven’t obtained passports.

But a very small number of people in the world don’t have passports because they don’t need passports.

If you’re thinking of the president, actually, no.

American presidents have passports, though they have diplomatic passports with black covers instead of the standard blue ones.

There are also what are called “official” passports, which are for people traveling on business of the US government but are not doing diplomatic work, like members of the military.

Those have maroon covers.

To circle back to our original question: the most famous example of someone who doesn’t need a passport when traveling abroad is King Charles.

Passports essentially say to officials in other countries, based on the agreements that our country has with yours, this passport-holding person is eligible to enter your country and we ask in the name of the authority of our country that they be let in.

In the US, that authority comes from the government, and the Secretary of State is the official point of contact.

But in the UK, the authority comes from the monarch, the living source of the country’s sovereignty.

And UK passports request passage for the passport holder in the name of the King.

When the King is traveling he doesn’t have to hold a passport that says “in my own name, let me in.”

By virtue of being the king he gets to go in, though when he travels the UK does call ahead.

One of the few other reported examples in the world of this, maybe the only other one, is the emperor and empress of Japan, and it’s for the same reason.

As for the rest of us, we’re probably going to have to continue to carry passports as we move around the globe, or possibly find some far-off land that needs a new top royal.

This week Louisville, Kentucky is home to Ali Fest.

It’s a week long festival about the one and only Muhammad Ali and his impact on the world.

It includes a carnival for families, a day of community service, plus lots of arts and music – and probably at least a little floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.

Does the President Have a Passport? (Slate) 

Ali Fest in Louisville, KY 

Travel over to our Patreon page to get bonus episodes and lots of other extras – no passport required 

Photo by DurhamDundee via Flickr/Creative Commons