Lost wallet, scheduled to fly tomorrow, help!
September 18, 2019 10:31 AM   Subscribe

I can't find my wallet. I'm scheduled to fly domestically within the US tomorrow. I've read some online about providing alternative documentation for TSA and wanted to hear some firsthand experiences and advice from other MeFites!

I haven't given up hope of finding my wallet somehow today but I've checked all the obvious places multiple times, thoroughly cleaned my room, and contacted both the police lost and found and the public transportation lost and found and no luck... so there's a good chance I won't be able to find it by tomorrow morning, when my flight is scheduled.

I think I have pretty good identity documentation. I've got my birth certificate, mail from my credit union, and could print out things like past tax returns if that would help. Both my driver's license and my debit cards were in the wallet. I might have an old school ID somewhere but that might also be still in my wallet, so I may not have any photo ID to bring. I'm wondering:

1) What to do to maximize my chances of still being able to fly?

2) If this is a "here are the rules, you can definitely know if this will work" kinda situation or more of a "this depends on how the TSA agent in question is feeling" kinda situation?

3) What are the likely fail scenarios? Like, if it doesn't work, will I just have to miss my trip (which would be sad but not life ruining) or is there a reasonable likelihood of having a "detained, interrogated, strip searched" situation which would be highly triggering for me as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse? If there's a good chance of that, I might just decide not to even try.
posted by overglow to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
Assuming you have already seen this page from TSA about alternative identification.

That said, none of those things you suggested (birth certificate, mail, tax returns) will be helpful.

I've had two family members lose/forget their driver's license before their flight and simply showed up to security a little bit earlier than usual. The TSA agent asked that they answer a bunch of questions (there's a computer verification system they have in place that's similar to the ones banks use to verify your identity, e.g. what street did you live on, what was the make of your first car that you owned). Then they went through the more extensive pat down than the normal scan. No detainment or strip searching occurred and it seemed like a minor inconvenience, not at all a traumatic one.
posted by Karaage at 10:39 AM on September 18, 2019 [8 favorites]

I would call the TSA right now: https://www.tsa.gov/contact/customer-service


Forgot Your ID?
In the event you arrive at the airport without valid identification, because it is lost or at home, you may still be allowed to fly. The TSA officer may ask you to complete an identity verification process which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information to confirm your identity. If your identity is confirmed, you will be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint. You will be subject to additional screening, to include a patdown and screening of carry-on property.

You will not be allowed to enter the security checkpoint if your identity cannot be confirmed, you chose to not provide proper identification or you decline to cooperate with the identity verification process.

TSA recommends that you arrive at least two hours in advance of your flight time.

If your identity cannot be verified, you will not be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint.


If you have misplaced, lost, traveling with an expired ID, or simply do not have an acceptable form of ID, our officers will ask you for two secondary forms of identification, with the following information:

A photo
Phone number
Social Security Number
Date of birth

The TSA officer will review all documentation provided in order to verify your identity. To minimize any potential delays, you are encouraged to provide as much information and documentation as possible. If your identity cannot be verified with the provided documentation, you may be required to go through an alternative identity verification process, which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information, and asking personal questions to help confirm your identity.

posted by lafemma at 10:40 AM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Where do you live? At least go to to the DMV and apply for a new license. I think they print you out a temp paper one. It's not an "acceptable" form but will help.
Arrive more than 2 hours early and let them know the situation.

We traveled FROM Mexico into the US with no passport after it got stolen the day before. Everyone said it couldn't be done....

I think you will be ok as long as you bring whatever you can and get there early.

I would expect to be sat in a room and wait while they confirm your ID, but nothing like a strip search.
posted by beccaj at 10:42 AM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I lost my ID in Detroit about 6 weeks back the day before I flew home and I did the additional screening interview and it took about 25 minutes and everything was fine. The gentleman interviewing me told me if I had had two credit cards and an insurance card with my full name on them then we could have skipped the interview but I didn't so interview it was! They asked me to verify some former addresses, former cars I had registered to me, family members names and birthdays and a few questions about my spouse military service. I'm an anxious traveler and thought it was going to be awful and it wasn't in the slightest. It's going to be okay, you can do this!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 11:09 AM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

This happened to me during Thanksgiving weekend last year in Boston. (I'd later learn that I'd left my wallet on the flight TO Boston, a few days prior). What you've read so far is pretty much how it went for me; I was asked to produce some sort of proof of ID/residency (I think 2-3 utility and/or credit card bills satisfied them), even though they weren't photo IDs. (Because I had my briefcase with me, where I usually carry my folders of bills to pay, etc., that worked out well for me.) Then they went through some questions that, in theory, only I should know the answer to, as Karaage said above. The actual security screening was a little more intense than I was used to (inspection of carry-on, somewhat more intimate pat-down, though not SUPER-invasive like it apparently is if you actively refuse to go through the screener), but not more than 2-3 minutes longer than normal. Then we were done.

We were, of course, lucky that we were traveling at a VERY slow time — smack in the middle of the Thanksgiving weekend (Friday evening, I think), and NOT toward the end (i.e., Sunday, when everyone's going back home). We made the flight with time to spare.
posted by CommonSense at 11:11 AM on September 18, 2019

This happened to me a few years ago. I brought my birth certificate, my social security card, some mail, and an old university ID. I was subject to an extra pat down which was unpleasant but did not feel overly invasive. I was let through without too much hassle which was quite calming as I was travelling for work. As others said, get there early, bring as much as you can identity-wise, and be calm and patient. Godspeed!
posted by youarenothere at 11:11 AM on September 18, 2019

I was in line at the DMV a couple weeks ago behind a guy who had a flight at 7pm that day. The airline or TSA had told him that bringing physical proof of the replacement application would expedite everything. Normally here (CA) I believe you would just request it online and wait for it to be mailed to you, but he had been told to actually go to a physical office for the receipts and temporary (paper) replacement. The guy sorting the line was familiar with the process, so I'm guessing they see it a lot.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:13 AM on September 18, 2019

I accidentally left my wallet at home and I was allowed to fly (departing airports were Raleigh-Durham and Kansas City). I didn't have any photo ID, only a medical insurance card and a prescription bottle with my name on it. They asked me many questions about past addresses, some dating back many years, and people to whom I'm fairly distantly related. Get there early and come prepared with any information like that you might not remember off-hand. It didn't take very long, no more than 10 minutes extra, but both of those places are pretty small airports. If there was an extra pat-down I don't remember it, so it must not have been a big deal.
posted by something something at 11:14 AM on September 18, 2019

I have TSA pre-check. (I also have Global Entry so the gubmint has a lot of data on me in addition to what they have on everyone.) I left my wallet in my checked luggage. I was prepared to tell them that and have them get it, but I started with I lost my wallet to see what would happen. As above, I had a prescription bottle in my backpack. Also, on my phone, I had access to a picture of my license I had taken a long long time before for reasons that escaped me. I showed them both and answered maybe 3 questions and was sent through the metal detector and on my way.

If I were you, I would get there early just in case it takes time. I opt out of going through the puffer, and that pat down can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 depending on how fast someone decides to come over to the area and how thorough they are being.
posted by AugustWest at 11:20 AM on September 18, 2019

is there a reasonable likelihood of having a "detained, interrogated, strip searched" situation which would be highly triggering for me as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse?

Just to speak to this question, if you get the heavy-duty pat down, here are a few things to know about how it usually goes

- you get patted down by a person of your gender (do not know how this works for trans folks, if this is you I'd ask someone)
- you get a choice whether to have it in public or in a private area, I prefer public but ymmv
- the person will usually, not not always, explain exactly how it will work and they use the back of their hand around "sensitive areas" (beneath breasts, butt, crotch may get crushed with side of hand but not groped)
- the one thing that felt the weirdest to me is someone basically running their finger around the inside of my waistband. This is made simpler if you have clothing for which this is not an issue (i.e. not baggy pants which you are holding up because TSA has your belt)

So if it helps you be more confident dress so that this sort of thing is not an issue. I think it will go fine but it's always good to mentally prepare. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 11:28 AM on September 18, 2019

I flew with my mom a few years ago, and she had several long-expired drivers licenses, a social security card, several bank statements, and some other bills. On the first leg of the journey out of Dulles, they noted that the licenses were expired, but didn't look at the other stuff, and didn't really do anything about it. On the way home out of San Francisco, the guy had a little trantrum about it, acted like we were crazy for even showing up at the airport, and basically suggested we just leave the airport. I asked for his manager, and referenced the webpage lafemma posted above, but he didn't want to hear about it. Eventually someone else came over and she just basically just looked really hard at each expired ID and document, and after a few minutes let us through. The first guy was annoyed that we weren't sufficiently apologetic about not having valid ID, the second lady just seemed exasperated, though I don't know if she was frustrated at the first guy, us, the job in general, or what.

Anyway, something to consider.
posted by skewed at 11:35 AM on September 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

At least go to to the DMV and apply for a new license.

In some states (well, at least in Georgia) you can do this online, and you can print out your own temporary paper one. I vaguely recall it saying "not valid for identification" or something similar, but it seems like it couldn't hurt.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:23 PM on September 18, 2019

No one (including you) has mentioned it, so I assume you don't have a passport, but if you did that would be perfect.

Otherwise, a warning: just because you make it through on the outbound end doesn't mean you will make it through on the return. Those will be completely independent procedures. Ask me how I know. So if you DO decide to take your chances and manage to make it through at the start, try to get someone else to keep looking and fedex the wallet to you if they find it.
posted by ubiquity at 12:39 PM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

In addition to what has been said by others: race and ethnicity will likely impact the chances that TSA will let you fly without ID.
posted by mcduff at 2:10 PM on September 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

Thanks for the info and encouragement, everyone!

I went to the DMV and have a temporary license (after waiting for three hours. aargh).

I don't have a passport. I am white and non-Latinx.

One more question-- I'm definitely going to brush up on my past addresses/birthdays of my past relatives/etc. Would it be a bad idea to write some of that info down and bring it with me?
posted by overglow at 4:52 PM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Definitely be prepared for a hassle. HOWEVER, as a data point, a few years ago I lost my wallet in California the day before I was scheduled to fly out to Boston.

You don't mention if you're flying solo or with anyone else, but I was traveling with my family and we all got there early, this is John Wayne Airport in Orange County, not exactly a hotbed of liberalism. I told the first agent we saw and they escorted me to a semi-private security section where the TSA did a hand inspection of my baggage, a pat-down and asked me a few questions that were so banal that I can't even remember what they were.

The irony? I was done and out of security before the rest of my family and our joke has become that if you're in a rush just pretend that you have no ID.

(BTW, I had no issues on the return, but yeah, just be prepared for the worst and hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised.)
posted by jeremias at 5:57 PM on September 18, 2019

I’m an immigrant and had misplaced my passport and couldn’t find it before a local us flight. They opened my bags and I got a pat down but nothing worse. They accepted a health insurance card, in addition to a debit card, NYC Id and a couple of old college ids that were in my wallet. Do go early to allow for the extra scrutiny.
posted by whatdoyouthink? at 9:54 PM on September 18, 2019

I flew a few months ago with a paper license, and got patted down each time, and had to go through the "regular" security line (I have pre-check). No additonal questioning or quizzing.
posted by missmary6 at 6:05 AM on September 19, 2019

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