How to Fly Without an ID

July 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s about the biggest inconvenience you can experience when traveling: you arrive at the airport and realize you don’t have your ID. What do you do? For starters, don’t turn around and go home. You won’t make your flight, and may be hit with a ticket change fee.

Here’s what you can do instead.

TSA CheckpointFirst, seriously, don’t panic. It is possible to continue with your itinerary without an ID. Isn’t that good news? The bad news is it’s going to cost you some time, but no money.

Be prepared to provide a succinct summary of your predicament to TSA. You don’t have to hang your head or act embarrassed. This happens enough that they’re used to it, and as long as you are willing to submit yourself to a second layer of security, you’ll be fine. Whatever you do, don’t be cocky — you are in no position to demand anything — after all, you did forget your ID or lost it. You are at the mercy of the system and there is a procedure for this situation, so submit to it, be kind and be patient. The old saying, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part,” applies here.

Next, be prepared to answer all questions honestly and politely. TSA officers go through behavioral detection training, and while you may be stressed, you don’t have to be nervous. They’re just doing their job.

As a precaution, you should stash a copy or carry another form of personal ID somewhere in your belongings. You’ll need something that can prove you are who you say you are, and that employee ID with your picture could really help you establish yourself. If you have been the victim of a purse snatching or a pickpocket, be sure to file a police report. Showing the TSA agent the copy of said report should help get you on your way.

If you find yourself in this situation in a smaller airport, some of the screening staff may be unaware that you can fly without an ID, so politely request someone be found who you can talk to about your dilemma. Again, kill them with kindness.

One caveat: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS OVERSEAS. If you lose your passport, or it gets stolen, you’ll have to apply for an emergency replacement at the local embassy. As a precaution, make a copy of your passport pages and stow them in a secret compartment in your suitcase or other carry-on luggage, so that you can expedite the process.

It could also help to have photos of all your ID on your mobile phone for this reason. Lock them away in an encrypted file in Evernote.

If you think this will never happen to you, we hope you’re right, and you never have to follow any of this advice (but share it with your friends and family anyway). And remember, having a few papers tucked away is way less of an inconvenience than the alternative.

Have you ever lost your ID when you tried to travel? How did you manage it? Were you able to get by, or did you run into major problems? Tell us your story in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: NJTVNews (YouTube, Creative Commons)

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