Can You Travel If Your ID is Lost?

US Driver's License. Photograph, Hal Bergman - iStock Photos.

US Driver’s License. Photograph, Hal Bergman – iStock Photos.

Your wallet and identification are GONE, and you have a plane to catch. What are you going to do?

My cousin came to visit for a week, and was due to fly home yesterday afternoon. Before we left for an early lunch, Peter discovered that his wallet was missing — the last time we’d seen it was in a restaurant the day before.  After looking, re-checking, re-looking, calling AND visiting the restaurant, we knew the wallet was gone.

Replacing your credit cards and driver’s license is always a hassle — but if you are about to get on a plane, can you still travel? We weren’t sure . . . I didn’t know whether I’d have a house guest for another week while we waited for a replacement driver’s license to get here.

After making some calls, we discovered — if you are a American citizen traveling domestically within the United States, the answer is YES — if the TSA is able to confirm your identity.

Peter’s ticket was with Alaska Airlines, and they printed a boarding pass and checked his bag with only his confirmation code and his ability to answer several questions — but they would not guarantee that TSA would let him fly. We weren’t sure if we would have to go right back to the ticketing counter and cancel his flight.

black and white graphic of airport security checkpoint

Airport security is not fun even at its best. Be sure to bring your patience and best manners if you have lost your picture ID. Image by A-digit, iStock Photo.

If TSA cannot confirm your identity, you will not be allowed through security.

When we got to security, the TSA officer called her supervisor. Peter was passed through security after answering a series of questions and providing a magazine that was sent to his home address.

Things that the TSA asked us for yesterday:

  • Copy of driver’s license and/or passport
  • Prescription medications
  • Mail with your home address on it
  • an expired form of ID with home address

Getting through security took us an extra thirty minutes, so if this happens to you, plan for security to be much longer than normal. Depending on how busy the security checkpoint is, our wait could have been longer. Anticipate this. Be calm. Be polite. Be patient. Realize that they do not have to let you through, so this is not the time to turn into an entitled ass.

This is a great reminder for all of us to be sure to have copies of identification with us when we travel. I always keep a copy of my passport when I travel abroad — but I have to admit, I don’t do it here in the USA. Effective immediately, I’ll add copies of my driver’s license and passport to the list of things I travel with domestically.

This is a link to the TSA blog with their post on Traveling without an ID.

Photograph of US passport on a map.

If your passport is lost or stolen while you are traveling abroad — you will have to get it replaced to be able to travel. Photograph, Michael Quirk, iStock Photo.

Replacing Passports

If you are overseas, you will not be able to travel until you get your passport replaced. You’ll visit the local American embassy or consulate, and work through the process to get a new passport. When you read the following list of required documents, it’s easy to see that a copy of your passport should be number one on your list of things to pack.

“The following list identifies a number of documents/items you should take with you to the embassy/consulate. Even if you are unable to present all of the documents, the consular staff will do their best to assist you to replace your passport quickly.  Please provide:

For citizens of the United Kingdom, here is information for getting an emergency passport replacement.

For my Canadian readers, your emergency passport instructions are here. And Australian citizens will find passport replacement information here.

Last year, I went through replacing my lost passport. I was not traveling, but at home when I discovered my passport was missing — about ten days before my cruise on the Royal Clipper in the Caribbean. I was a panicked mess. The cruise was paid for — and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go. I had a very good experience with the service Rush My Passport; while it was expensive, that passport expediting service did exactly what they advertised. I followed their instructions, FedExed the required forms and materials to them, and I had my replacement passport within the advertised time. I hope NEVER to have to do it again, but it did work.

Peter’s lost wallet is a great opportunity for all of us to improve our travel habits. Be sure to store your passport in a secure place at home. When traveling, bring copies of your driver’s license and passport with you, keeping them separate from your main identification. It’s always smart to keep some cash and one credit card separate as well — because you know, you never know when it will be you.

Ann Cavitt Fisher in Castolon, Texas. Photograph, Jim Stevens.

At Castolon, in Big Bend National Park, Texas. Photograph, Jim Stevens.

About Ann

I grew up in Mississippi and New Orleans, have lived in both Seattle and Manhattan, and finally moved back to Texas in 1990’s.

I have a darling teenage daughter who heads off to university in the fall of 2017. I have been divorced and am now widowed. Finally, I am a colon cancer survivor.

I am now writing and traveling full time — what a wonderful thing!

This website is a forum for many things. I want to talk about life, in all of its rich, wonderful and terrifying forms. I want to share my travels, my thoughts on life, and my experiences as a woman and a mom. I want to talk about the nature of reality and the meaning of life, and to celebrate being alive.

Thanks for coming to visit!

I’m happy you’re here — For other articles on life and travel, browse the home page:



16 Comments on Can You Travel If Your ID is Lost?

  1. mycountryepoque // March 3, 2017 at 12:31 am // Reply

    ooh well, this is one scary thing I wouldn’t want to go through is to lose my ID or passport while I am traveling, the worst nightmare for anyone. It was a good read. Well written and very interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think if you have a laptop or smart phone with you, you should also be able to confirm your identity. Thanks for including tips for your international friends.


    • Hi Steve, you may be correct. My list is from what TSA asked us for — all physical things. If you — or anyone reading this — has experience with using your laptop or smartphone to help with this — please post it. It’s great information for any of us in this bind.


      • Hi i jus lost my id and i leave to cali on monday so i made a duplicate at the dmv would they accept. The copy


      • I don’t know for sure, but I would think so. You may want to bring a piece of mail that was sent to your home address to present along with the copy of your id. I would also expect to spend more time clearing security as they may pull you aside and ask additional questions. If TSA is able to verify your identity, they will probably let you fly.

        Here is a link to the TSA blog post on the topic:


  3. Well that was very helpful information! Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ann, a couple times I have considered what would happen if I lost my ID and concluded that I just better be careful and never let that happen. Never occurred to me that there was anything to do to prepare for a disaster like that. What a great post. I am getting out an expired drivers license and making a copy of my passport. Will just put them with my travel stuff and throw em in my bag anytime I head out. Hope it never matters that I read your post but I am sure glad I did.

    Really appreciating your ideas and thoughts. Keep it up!

    Bill P

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Bill. I’ve made the effort to bring copies of my passport on overseas travel. But I’ve never thought much about it on domestic travel. Thursday sure has put it front and center on my mind.


    • Thanks, Jeni. I certainly learned something — I didn’t think there was any way they would let Peter on the plane. But if he hadn’t had that magazine with the subscription address, he’d still be here.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Useful information. I’ve shared it with my traveling friends.


    • Thanks, Kim. I think it’s something all of us need to be aware of. I really thought he’d be stuck here until the replacement driver’s license arrived — not good, since he was due back at work and I’m planning to travel next week. I certainly learned a lot yesterday, and I won’t ever leave home without at least a couple of copies of my DL.


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