Showing up to the Airport with No ID — Reader Mistake Story

Jan 8, 2018

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader John, who had to find his way through airport security after misplacing his driver’s license. Here’s what he had to say:

A few years ago I had a layover in Atlanta on my way to Florida for a long weekend.  Unfortunately, my driver’s license fell out of my wallet at some point in ATL, so I had no picture ID to verify my identity when I landed. I had pictures of my driver’s license and passport, which helped to identify myself when acquiring my rental car (after lots of sweet talking) and checking into my hotel. Still I was worried about my trip home.
When I entered security for my return flight, I told the TSA agent about my predicament and he asked if I had anything with my name on it. Fortunately I had credit cards and insurance cards with that information. In order to board the plane without a picture ID, I needed to answer questions to verify my identify, subject myself to an intensive pat down, and allow my bag to be examined thoroughly. After completing that process, I was allowed through security. I was elated to make my flight, but I also never wanted to go through that again.
To prevent this from happening again, I now keep another picture ID (my Trusted Traveler card) in a separate bag. Now if I lose one ID, I should have another ready to go. I also still keep pictures of these IDs on my phone, because even though they may not technically qualify as IDs, they help make the case that I am who I say I am.


Consider secondary benefits like travel delay protection when you decide whether to cancel or downgrade a card.
Credit cards and other alternate forms of ID (plus enhanced screening) may get you through airport security.

Over 20 forms of ID can serve as valid identification at airport security checkpoints, but the TSA may still allow you to travel if you leave yours behind. Credit cards, business cards, personal mail and other documents may suffice in a pinch. If your ID is stolen and you don’t have any backups, be sure to file a police report and bring a copy to the airport. You (and your belongings) will likely need to go through extra screening, but that’s better than missing your flight and having to reschedule.

This information may soon come in handy if your state isn’t in compliance with the REAL ID Act. The TSA recently extended the deadline for those states to October 11, 2018, after which driver’s licenses will no longer be considered valid identification for getting through airport security (unless the deadline is extended again, of course). Residents of compliant states can continue to use non-compliant licenses until October of 2020. Wherever you live, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with other valid forms of ID so you’re ready when the time comes.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank John for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

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