What to Do if You Lose Your Driver's License While Traveling

What to Do if You Lose Your Driver's License While Traveling

No matter where you’re headed on your trip, there’s nothing more stressful than realizing you don’t have the right form of identification to get you there. 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, losing your ID before or while traveling can really complicate things. 

Thankfully, there are solutions. Even if your ID was stolen or you simply can’t find it, there’s no reason to stress out. Here’s everything you need to know about what you can do if you’ve lost your ID on vacation. 

If You Lose Your Driver’s License While Traveling Domestically  

Losing your driver license while traveling around the U.S. isn’t ideal, especially if you need to catch a flight. The good thing is, TSA does have alternative ways of identifying you, even if you happen to lose your ID 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 security questions like details about your address. Then, they’ll cross-check it with their database to ensure you are who you say you are. If you answer their questions correctly, you’ve got a better chance of getting on that plane. If they clear you to go on through, they’ll likely add a little note to your boarding pass to let the rest of the security 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. 

person holding passport


Other 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 that plane, but they may help your case if you lose your ID while on vacation 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

Other Documents to Help Your Case

  • Scanned photocopy of your lost ID

  • Credit card

  • Prescription medication with your name and address

  • Library card

  • Mail

  • 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 ID 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 license or state ID for up to a year after the expiration date. 

If You Lose Your Passport 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 it will arrive before your trip. 

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 should offer you information on how to get it replaced, like where to get the passport photo taken. 

And if your passport was stolen? Report it to the local police and then head to the embassy or consulate with that police report to get it replaced. 

If you’re trying to head back home ASAP, the embassy may be able to issue an emergency passport with limited validity that must be replaced when you get back to the US. 

A great way to prepare for possible ID emergencies is to note where all the embassies and consulates are located throughout your trip. That way, you’ll know exactly where to go if you lose your passport. You can also sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program before you leave on your international trip. It essentially makes getting a new passport from the embassy all the easier. 

If You Lose Your Driver’s License: Car Rental 

If you lose your driver’s license before or while traveling and you need to rent a car, there are also solutions. First, if you think your license was stolen, you should definitely file a police report. This report will help make the process of receiving a new license much easier and can help your case when it comes time to rent a car. 

Regardless of whether your license was stolen or not, the next step is to head to the DMV website and order a temporary driver’s license. A lot of states actually let you print out a document proving a temporary license right on the spot until you get the replacement in the mail. You can even 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. 

Start using one of the best ways to rent a car while traveling