Losing Your ID While Traveling

What a headache. You’re far from home, having a good time, then wham! Some hooligan runs up from behind, bumps into you, and before you realize it, he’s long gone and so is your wallet. He picked your pocket and he’s nowhere in sight. This happened to me, so I know exactly what it’s like. After you stop cussing that lowlife for robbing you, you’ll first start thinking about canceling your credit cards and then about losing any cash you have in your thin wallet.

You’ll quickly realize you’re hundreds of miles from home and you wonder how you’ll get on the plane without your ID. If you’re in a foreign country and you lose your passport, the nearest US Embassy in that country can help you get a replacement. But what about domestic travel? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

First, you need to file a police report as quickly as possible. Even if you think you misplaced or lost your ID as opposed to being a victim of a crime, still file that police report anyway. That report will be very important at the airport.

Second, and this is something you should do before you lose your wallet, make a good quality photocopy of your ID and credit cards and anything else in your wallet that has your name or photo (i.e., work ID, library card, AAA membership card, Sam’s Club card, etc.) and pack it in your suitcase before you leave home. This will serve as good support in concert with the police report to help verify your identity.

Next, get to the airport extra early, possibly an hour or more earlier than you would normally arrive. You will need the extra time to get through security and respond to the millions of queries you’ll likely get from the TSA. Your ID helps you get through the line much more quickly. But without it, it’ll take you a little longer. Not having it won’t necessarily stop you from flying. They’ll ask you things about yourself that exist in publicly available databases, most of which the average person should easily be able to answer. If you’re travelling from a large, international airport, they’ll be better equipped to assist you and get you through more quickly. Smaller airports may be less prepared for a no-ID traveler. So, tack on some extra time on top of the extra time you planned for.

Lastly, and this is the most important part, be cordial and agreeable. If you’re normally an asshole in your everyday life (and you know who you are), this is a time when you should put that part of you on the shelf. Don’t be a jerk. You can resume being a jerk when you get back home. Frankly, I don’t like helping people who are rude and obnoxious. Cooperate with the TSA personnel and provide answers to their questions. They have a lot of power over you. Failing to be pleasant could cause a delay, which in turn could cause you to miss your flight, and it will be your responsibility to get yourself on another one. These days, rebooking fees are pretty steep. You still might miss your fight, so be prepared for that. The police report could be excellent fodder for the airline to waive the rebooking fee. So, be sure to ask, and when they tell you no, don’t assume that it’s their final answer. Ask again, putting on an air of sorrow. Be nice. The adage, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”  should be your primary frame of mind.

So that’s it. Just remember not to panic. If you lose your ID while traveling, it isn’t the end of the world. Relax. Take a deep breath, keep it moving. Don’t let it ruin your vacation. Keep on having fun.

I'm an avid traveler for both domestic and international venues. I've learned a lot of things, some of them the hard way, that taught me valuable lessons. So, I am passing that knowledge on to others to help make their trip more enjoyable and stress-free. I also will share what I think are great venues, stores, restaurants, or other things that I enjoyed that I think others would enjoy as well. Knowledge is power, transformational. Let us share with each other.