Arriving at the airport to discover you’ve forgotten or lost your ID is every traveler’s worst nightmare. Here’s how to handle it and (possibly) still make your flight.

Packing for a trip can be stressful enough — especially with checked bag fees on the rise for several airlines. While forgetting something simple like a toothbrush is easily solvable at your destination, showing up at the airport without a valid ID would fill the best of us with pure panic.

Related: What to do if you lose your passport while traveling internationally

In this scenario, remain calm. All hope may not be lost if you can’t find your ID, but the Transportation Security Administration isn’t just going to let you through the checkpoint because you have an honest face.

TPG went straight to the source and asked a TSA spokesperson for advice on what to do if you arrive at the airport without your ID.

Can you still fly without your ID?

Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado. HYOUNG CHANG/MEDIANEWS GROUP/THE DENVER POST

The good news is that you may still be allowed to fly even if you lose or forget your ID. “The TSA officer may ask you to complete an identity verification process to confirm your identity and allow you to enter the screening area,” the TSA spokesperson shared with TPG.

What exactly does that process entail? According to the TSA website, you must provide additional information that confirms your identity to the TSA officer. This is usually information available in public databases, including information about yourself, your family members or where you live. “Identity verification remains a lynchpin in security screening, so being able to verify that the person at the checkpoint is the same person with the boarding pass is essential,” the TSA spokesperson said.

You will likely also need to show something with your name on it, like a credit card or a work ID badge.

What should you do when you get to the airport if you don’t have your ID?

Notify a TSA officer as soon as you realize you don’t have your ID. This is one of several reasons travelers should arrive at the airport early.

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Whether it’s a long line at the security checkpoint or you get flagged for additional security screening, things may not go according to plan. Getting to the airport early gives you time to navigate any issues that could arise — and provides any extra time you may need if you forget or lose your ID.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California. PATRICK T. FALLON/BLOOMBERG

Do you still need your ID at the airport if you have Clear?

In short, yes. Clear’s expedited security program typically uses biometric data, like your fingerprint or an iris scan, to verify your identity. However, you may still need to show your ID in certain circumstances. Clear representatives sometimes perform random ID checks; if you don’t have yours, you will be required to complete the additional security screening process before you can fly.

“By arriving in advance of their flight time, passengers can better manage the stress of travel and any delays that may present themselves over the course of travel,” the TSA spokesperson said.

Is there a possibility you won’t be able to fly without your ID?

“You will not be allowed to access the screening area if your identity cannot be confirmed, you choose not to provide proper identification, or you decline to cooperate with the identity verification process,” the spokesperson said.

If you cannot properly answer the questions asked during the verification process, you likely will not be allowed to fly. If that happens, you may need to cancel your flight and rebook, giving yourself enough time to secure a new ID (or find your lost one).


You must renew your passport in person at a passport acceptance facility if you have lost it. Some of these facilities allow walk-ins, while others require an appointment. It isn’t unheard of for travelers to drive to other states if they urgently need an appointment. You will also need to pay an additional fee for expedited renewal.

Check your state’s motor vehicle registration website for instructions if you need to replace a driver’s license. Many will allow you to complete the replacement application online, but some states may require you to visit in person. However, you cannot fly with a temporary ID, so you will need to wait until you receive your permanent ID in the mail before you can fly.

These are the acceptable forms of ID at the TSA checkpoint

While a passport or driver’s license are the most common forms of identification travelers bring to the airport, you can use other acceptable forms of ID at the TSA checkpoint. As written on the TSA website, the full list of acceptable IDs includes:

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • Department of Homeland Security trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, Nexus, Sentri, Fast)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • An acceptable photo ID issued by a federally recognized tribal nation/Indian tribe
  • 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
  • Veteran Health Identification Card

Remember that beginning May 7, 2025, your ID must be Real ID compliant.

Bottom line

We’re not going to sugarcoat it: You need to do everything you can to avoid showing up at the airport without your ID.

Even if you can fly, it will cause stress at the airport and take additional time to get through security. That said, it is reassuring to know the TSA has a plan in place for situations where your ID is lost or stolen.

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