Here’s a great question from one Travel with Aging Parents reader, Mariana:

Help! Does anyone know what is the best/quickest way to provide proper ID to the airlines for someone who no longer has a driver license (no longer drives) and whose passport expired a year ago? I do know about the DMV ID card but don’t know how long it takes to get one. Thanks in advance for any advice!

In spite of our best efforts to follow all the regulations when traveling, sometimes things just happen.

Case in point: during my recent visit with my brother and his family in Ann Arbor, one of my nieces heaved my driver’s license into the fireplace. At the airport the next day, I explained the situation to the security staff and handed them every piece of ID I had in my wallet (none of which had a picture on it, unfortunately!). I was then treated to a thorough pat-down as well as trips through both an X-ray machine and a full-body scanner. Everything in my carry-on bags was removed and carefully inspected. All together it took me an hour and a half to get through security (thank goodness I’d arrived at the airport three hours before my flight!).

My takeaway from this experience? Never underestimate the importance of having the appropriate ID when traveling. (And the corollary: when you travel, always have backup copies of your ID either with you or in a place where you can easily access them. I’ve always been good about making copies of my passport for international travel, but until this trip it hadn’t occurred to me to do to the same with my ID for domestic travel as well!)

Here’s what the TSA has to say about proper ID:

Adult passengers 18 and over must show valid identification at the airport checkpoint in order to travel.

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • 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

Note that all of these are photo identification cards. As you can tell, the TSA is pretty serious about making sure that you’re who you say you are before they let you you get onto a plane.

Fortunately, the TSA does recognize that people sometimes show up at the airport without one of the required forms of photo ID listed above:

In the event you arrive at the airport without proper ID, because it is lost or at home, you may still be allowed to fly. TSA officers will request you present two other forms of ID bearing your name. One of the items must bear your name and other identifying information such as photo, address, phone number, social security number, or date of birth.

There is no standard list of what alternate forms of ID are acceptable. Examples include: temporary paper driver’s licenses, non-driver IDs, social security cards, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and credit cards.

You may also be asked to provide additional information, TSA has other ways to confirm your identity, like using publicly available databases, so you can reach your flight.

So, Mariana, if your mom has some of these other forms of ID, she might still be able to fly domestically. (There’s no way she can fly internationally without a valid passport, however.) The TSA doesn’t guarantee that, though: note that they say “you may still be allowed to fly” and not “you will still be allowed to fly.” So encourage your mom to do everything possible to tip the odds in her favor by bringing as many forms of ID as possible: the expired passport, any ID with her photo on it, an insurance card, a utilities bill (as proof of residence), a library card, etc. And then get to the airport ridiculously early—at least three or four hours before the flight—to give you plenty of time to go through all the TSA’s extra procedures for people who don’t have proper ID (and to give you time to figure what to do if the TSA refuses to let your mom through security).

Depending on when your mom is planning to travel, she may actually have time get a photo ID card at her local DMV. Regulations vary across the country, so check with your local government offices. (If you live in Oregon, for example, you will get your card five to ten business days after you submit the application. In Virginia, on the other hand, you’ll have to wait fifteen days for it.) If she’s not leaving for at least three weeks, she might even have time to renew her passport—as long as she’s willing to pay the extra $60 fee for expedited service. Note that both of these options do require a trip to a government office.

Good luck!

flying and I lost my IDP.S. Because a passport is the one form of ID that’s recognized anywhere in the world, I highly recommend that everyone have one. Keep your passport up to date, even if you don’t plan on any international travel. You never know what travel opportunities might arise—and for only $110 you get an ironclad piece of identification that’s accepted everywhere and is valid for ten whole years!