No matter where you’re headed on your trip, there’s nothing more stressful than realizing you lost your identification. Whether it’s a state-issued ID to fly across the country, a passport for international travel or a driver’s license to rent a car, a lost ID while traveling can really complicate things.
Thankfully, there are solutions. So don’t stress out if your ID was lost or stolen. Here’s everything you need to know about what you can do if you’ve lost your driver’s license on vacation.
Lost ID? Here’s what to do
If you’re renting a car
If you lost your driver’s license before or while traveling and you need to rent a car, there are solutions. First, if you think your license was stolen, you should definitely file a police report. This report will make the process of receiving a new license easier and can help your case when it comes time to rent a car.
Regardless of whether your license was stolen or lost, the next step is to go to your state’s DMV website and order a temporary driver’s license. A lot of states let you print out a document that serves as a temporary license until you get the replacement in the mail. You can also download the PDF to your phone.
There’s no guarantee that the rental company will accept your temporary driver’s license and the police report, but it absolutely helps your case.
If you’re traveling domestically
Losing your driver’s license while traveling around the U.S. isn’t ideal, especially if you need to use it to catch a flight. The good thing is that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has alternative ways of identifying you, even if you lost your ID on vacation right before heading home.
Basically, you’ll need to go through an identity verification process with a TSA agent before you go through airport security. They’ll ask you a bunch of personal questions, like details about your address, and request any secondary forms of identification you may have with you. Then, they’ll cross-check it with their database and any publicly available information to ensure you are who you say you are. If you answer their questions correctly, you’ve got a better chance of getting on your flight. If they clear you to go through security, they’ll likely add a little note to your boarding pass to let other TSA agents know that you don’t have an ID but you’re good to go.
Keep in mind that this identity verification process can be pretty lengthy, which is why you’ll need to get to the airport earlier than usual if you lose your driver’s license while traveling. Your airline may not issue you a refund for your flight if you miss it. But as long as you get there early and are willing to cooperate with TSA, there’s a better chance you can fly.
ID alternatives for domestic travel
If you’re dealing with a lost driver’s license or ID while traveling domestically and you need to catch a flight, there are other forms of ID that TSA actually deems acceptable. These alternatives don’t always guarantee you can get on your flight, but they may help your case if you’ve lost your ID while traveling in the U.S.
- U.S. passport
- Foreign government-issued 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
- 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
Secondary documents to support your ID
- Scanned photocopy of your lost ID
- Credit card
- Prescription medication with your name and address
- Library card
- Student ID
- Business card
- Voter registration
- Family photo if you’re traveling with other family members
- Police report confirming you filed for a missing ID (if your ID was stolen, you should do this regardless)
- Birth certificate
Keep in mind that a temporary ID isn’t an accepted form of identification when it comes to getting on a plane. And for expired IDs? TSA is making some exemptions, but they’re just temporary. You can currently travel with an expired driver’s license or state ID for up to a year after the expiration date. The REAL ID enforcement deadline has been extended to May 7, 2025. That means that starting on that date, your state-issued ID or license will need to be REAL ID compliant for you to go through airport security.
If you’re traveling internationally
If you lose your passport while traveling internationally or right before a big trip out of the country, things get a little more complicated. Tight border controls in the U.S. and restrictions in other countries make it challenging to prove your identity without a valid passport. Essentially, there’s not much leniency when it comes to international travel. If you try to leave the U.S. without a passport, chances are it won’t work.
But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. If you lose your passport before you head of the country and you’re still stateside, you should try to get a replacement immediately. There are ways to expedite the process (you’ll pay extra), but keep in mind there’s no guarantee that it will arrive before your trip begins.
The rules are a little different if you lose your passport while you’re out of the country. The first thing to do is head to the U.S. embassy or consulate to get a new passport. Contacting the embassy is the only way to ensure you will be let back into the U.S. They will provide you with information on how to get it replaced, such as the paperwork you’ll need to fill out and the cost, and facilitate the process.
And if your passport was stolen? Report it to the local police and then go to the U.S. embassy or consulate with the police report to get your passport replaced.
If you’re trying to return to the U.S. ASAP, the embassy may be able to issue an emergency passport with limited validity that must be replaced when you get back stateside.
What to do before vacation in case you lose your ID while traveling
No one wants to think that they might lose an ID while traveling, but it’s smart to prepare for any potentiality. There are two quick and easy steps you can take to prepare for possible ID emergencies:
1. Take photos of the front and back of all the IDs and credit cards you’re bringing on your trip.
Store those images in the cloud or with a trusted friend or family member so you can access them if your devices are also lost or stolen.
2. Take note of where all the U.S. embassies and consulates are located throughout your travels.
That way, you’ll know exactly where to go if you lose your passport while on vacation and you’ll have backup documents to help expedite the process.