Can I Still Get on the Plane without a Picture ID?

Even though both TravelWhimsy and I have mentioned our weekend trip to Seattle, neither of us told you about a hiccup that occurred the night before our scheduled return flight.

After almost a week, I am still in shock that I let the unimaginable happen because I am usually a very careful traveler. Yes, I am ashamed to admit that for the first time I lost my driver license, the only form of government-issued picture ID I had with me during the trip! But I am not embarrassed to share the experience with you, because it could help you be better prepared and less stressed should this ever happen to you.

The wonderful American Taitai and her dear husband graciously offered to host us at their beautiful Seattle home, and we had lots of fun spending quality time with them. As our Monday morning flight was scheduled for 6:30am, we decided that it would be best not to awaken our hosts at such early hours. Instead, I booked my first Marriott stay at the Fairfield Inn SeaTac Airport for Sunday night.

This was where things got unnecessarily complicated, after a long sunny day of hiking at the Mt. Rainier National Park. While I was proud to see the newest addition to my wallet, I was incredulous to realize that my driver license was nowhere to be found!

After a manic search through my pockets, backpack, and finally the rental car, I decided to leave it up to fate and started to prepare myself for the possibility of being stranded in Seattle. Thinking hard about where I could have lost my ID, I was convinced that the National Park employee who sold me the annual pass did not return it to me.

We then did the next most logical thing – taking the hotel shuttle to the airport to get more information. To our relief, both the Southwest Airlines agent and the TSA agent told us that I would probably still be allowed to board the plane, subject to a supervisor’s additional screening and identity verification.

At that point, I wished that I had one of the following items, besides my stack of credit cards.

  • Passport (or a copy/picture of it);
  • A copy/picture of my driver license;
  • Social security card (or a copy/picture of it);
  • A credit card with my picture on it;
  • A library card;
  • My college ID (or any other form of picture ID).

We got to the airport early, and had a very friendly and understanding TSA supervisor. After looking over my Fairfield hotel bill and credit card, she let me through. We learned that in the event of a stolen/lost wallet/purse, a copy of the police report would help. The TSA could also choose to call your state’s DMV to verify your identity.

As soon as I got back, I made copies of our passports for future travel and ordered a replacement driver license online (a temporary driver license valid for 30 days was generated for me to print).

Unfortunately, the Mt. Rainier National Park didn’t find my ID. Three days later, however, I came home to a pile of mail that contained this.

Yes, I lost my ID on Friday night going through security at the fabulous Las Vegas McCarran International Airport! The Lost & found department must mail these out all the time, because it uses this piece of hard white paper, folded in half (shown in the picture above), to hold lost IDs. Plus, I received two of those envelopes addressed to me, one with my ID and one with a fellow Canadian traveler’s. I was just grateful that my ID was not sent to Canada, and will be returning his ID shortly to McCarran when I go through airport security again for our next weekend trip. You can be sure that I will have a copy of my passport with me and a picture of my ID on my phone!

Has this or something similar happened to you before? Were you able to get on your scheduled flight?

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  • Glad it worked out okay!

  • Caveman

    I have all my imp documents saved on google drive. So no matter where I am all I need is internet access and I can print a copy of every document in minutes

  • Artkorapin

    I have all scanned copy of my documents on my yahoo mail box too so I can print them whenever I want to. Glad to hear that it was not that bad for you to make a trip back home. Have fun in Denver! 

  • Bluecat

    you may just want to scan a copy of your docs and email them to your yahoo account.   that way you will always be able to access them

  • Pingback: Whirlwind Weekend in Denver Colorado - Rocky Mountain National Park | TravelWhimsy()

  • andrew

    I keep a copy of all my important documents in dropbox. The information is synchronized across all computers with the app installed. Dropbox also has excellent apps for iPhone, iPad and android. The interface is slick and it’s great to have access to all important info at your fingertips. I found it most useful to synchronize the info to my phone’s memory card when I’m traveling to areas with no and/or expensive internet access.

    • andrew, I recently just signed up for Dropbox. Thanks for the great idea!

    •  That’s a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that. I’m taking a trip to Israel over Thanksgiving and having copies of everything will be important.. Thanks for the great idea Andrew!

  • Well I guess its good to know that you can get through security without your ID. I think anyone who travels a lot has this exact nightmare!

    I grew up in Washington and miss the mountains. Love Mt Rainier! Did you go to Paradise?