COVID-19 (Coronavirus) may impact your travel plans. Wherever you're going, you'll find the latest advice here.

Travel News Flying without an ID: What to do if you lose your ID while traveling in 2021

All articles

Flying without an ID: What to do if you lose your ID while traveling in 2021

Times are tough for travelers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go

What happens if you lose your ID before a flight? Can you fly without an ID? Just imagine it: bags packed, hotel booked, Instagram pose prepped, and then suddenly that stomach-dropping, cold-sweat-drenched moment… you can’t find it. You’ve looked everywhere. What do you do next?

Well, don’t cancel everything and spend the rest of the day weeping under the covers just yet. Believe it or not, all is not lost, even if your ID is. Here’s everything you need to know about flying without an ID.

Illustration of man and woman walking inside an airport

Can you fly without an ID?

The short answer: YES.

If you’re catching a domestic flight within the US and your ID is lost, stolen or you left it at home, you might be in luck. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has other ways of confirming your identity using publicly available databases, so there’s a good chance you’ll be allowed on your flight.

First, though, you’ll need to complete an identity verification process with a TSA officer — so arrive at the airport well ahead of your flight’s scheduled departure for the best chance of making it in time for take-off. (We’d recommend AT LEAST two hours ahead.) The TSA officer will ask for info, including your name, current address and other personal details that can be used to confirm that you are who you say you are. The process could take a while.

If they’re able to confirm your identity against a database, you’ll be allowed through to the security screening. (You’ll get a boarding pass with a note on it explaining that you don’t have ID).

If, however, your identity can’t be verified, they’ll have no choice but to turn you away. (A day weeping under the covers it is, then).  

A person is looking inside a packed suitcase

What happens if you want to travel internationally without an ID?

Hm, that’s a stickier problem. Different countries have different rules about the identification they’ll accept for commercial flights. So, if you’re not catching a domestic flight within the US, we highly recommend that you don’t try to travel without a passport.

If you lose your passport while abroad, go to your embassy as soon as possible to get a replacement. It’s the only way to guarantee you’ll get home.

The rest of this article focuses on what to do when you don’t have an ID for domestic flights within the US.

Can I fly with a temporary ID?

Unfortunately, a temporary ID — like a temporary driver’s license — is not considered an acceptable form of ID by TSA.

Can I fly with an expired ID?

Right now, TSA is making temporary exemptions for those with an expired ID. You can still travel with expired an driver’s license or state-issued ID, but only up to a year after the expiration date.

Can I fly with a picture of my ID?

This will help your case, though we can’t guarantee definite results. But it’s totally worth a try. Bring a photocopy or a digital scan of an acceptable form of ID and show this to the TSA officer (if it’s a digital scan, keep it somewhere secure, like a private Dropbox or other cloud-based account).

What forms of ID does TSA accept?

OK, so you lost your driver’s license. But TSA accepts a bunch of other forms of ID for domestic travel. So, if you have any of the below with you at the airport, you don’t have to sweat it at all.

Flying without an ID? Here are some alternative documents to try:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

Again, there are no guarantees here, but even if you don’t have an acceptable form of ID with you, there are a few things you might bring along to the airport to help your case with the TSA officer. (Remember, though, that you should arrive nice and early as the process could take a while).

Building a strong case to fly without an ID

  • A credit card, a business card with your photo on it, mail or prescription medication with your name and address on the label, voter registration or even a library card can build a stronger argument for you during the identification verification process.
  • Traveling with family who do have their ID? Bring along some family photos that show you all together. It just might work!
  • Filing a police report about your missing ID is also a good idea — for two reasons: First of all, if you bring the police report to the airport, it’s proof of your story and can help to confirm your identity with TSA. Also, it will help stop anyone from stealing your identity. Even if you lost your ID, rather than had it stolen, someone could find it and decide to do the wrong thing.
  • One more tip — if the ID you lost was your driver’s license, tell your local DMV, too. They might be able to flag your license number if someone gets pulled over using it.

A few last words

A lost or stolen ID is not the end of the world, especially if you know what to expect and are prepared. Whether you plan to travel now or later, always check local government sites such as the CDC before booking your flight or hotel. You can also count on Skyscanner’s coronavirus travel guidance page for the latest news on domestic travel.

Where can I go?

Ready to make plans to get back out there? Whether you’re looking to travel locally or internationally, find out what places are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

Illustration of Skyscanner's interactive travel map

Frequently asked questions

Can I use my birth certificate to fly?

For adults, a birth certificate cannot be used as a primary document when flying. However, it may be used together with other documents to confirm a traveler’s identity if their ID was lost or stolen.

Do I need REAL ID to fly?

The use of REAL ID for travel was scheduled to go into effect on October 1, 2020; however, in light of the pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended the REAL ID enforcement deadline to May 3, 2023.

Can my child fly without an ID?

If you’re flying domestically within the US, children don’t need an ID to fly. If they’re accompanied by someone over the age of 18 who has an acceptable form of ID, they’ll be allowed through security. Keep in mind, however, that airlines may ask you to show proof of your child’s age. So you might want to carry a copy of your child’s birth certificate. Of course, if you’re flying internationally, your child will need a passport.

Want to read more?