If your travel documents are lost, there is still hope

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by sobore, May 26, 2011.

  1. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    It's one of a traveler's worst nightmares. You're on the road, and your wallet is stolen, your smartphone is lost, or you get to the airport and find your passport has disappeared.
    At a time of heightened security, how do you get past airport screeners without your driver's license? What if your boarding pass was saved on your missing cellphone? How do you pay your hotel tab with no credit card?
    USA Today Road Warriors, who travel hundreds of thousands of miles a year, have relied on expired driver's licenses and even a library card to help them through security. Others learned the hard way to carry copies of their passport or boarding pass in case of a mishap. And it's not a bad idea to know the location of the nearest U.S. embassy if you need to replace your passport.
    "It can definitely happen to anyone, even the most seasoned traveler," George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, says of losing travel documents. "When we travel, we get stressed out, and things happen."
    Of course, it helps that nowadays, travelers have fewer documents to lose. Tickets are mostly issued electronically, and more fliers are able to store their boarding passes directly onto their mobile devices.
    "When you actually had physical paper tickets, if you lost that ticket, it presented a big problem," says Steve Lott, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association. Now, "there are fewer documents you have to worry about today than even five years ago."
    Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines, says "that's one of the best parts of electronic tickets. They never really lose them."
    Frequent flier Al Diamond recalls an occasion when he lost his boarding pass after clearing security but before he got on his flight. "When I got to the gate. I didn't have a boarding pass," says Diamond, president of an insurance agency consulting company, who's based in Cherry Hill, N.J. "They pulled up my confirmation number, waited until everybody else had boarded, and when nobody had checked in with my name, they let me on."
    A lost driver's license, however, is a trickier matter, since a valid government-issued identification with a photo is required to get through airport security screening.
    Todd Sifert says he was flying out of Dallas/Fort Worth about eight years ago when he discovered that he'd left his driver's license at a bank. "I didn't realize I was missing it until I got to the airport," says Sifert, who went to the security checkpoint anyway. A TSA agent told him that other, multiple forms of ID could suffice as long as at least one was issued by a government authority.
    "As I showed him what I had in my wallet, he spotted my library card, which is certainly issued by a local authority," says Sifert, a health care systems consultant. "And I also had a Costco card, with my picture. He counted the two of those as proof of identification and let me through."
    The Transportation Security Administration requires valid government-issued identification, but "not having ID does not necessarily mean a passenger won't be allowed to fly," TSA spokesman Greg Soule says. TSA officials can verify the identities of passengers who provide additional information through other methods such as public databases, he says.
    "Showing other types of ID may be useful," Soule says. But "passengers whose identity cannot be verified by TSA may not be allowed to pass through the screening checkpoint or onto an airplane."
    Brian Hilton was on a trip to Atlanta about two years ago and forgot his wallet on the seat of a rental car he'd returned. When he went to retrieve it, it was gone.
    Hilton happened to have his passport in his briefcase, so he was able to make his flight. But when Hilton got back home to Pennsylvania, he made a discovery that's since held him in good stead. "They said for $10 you can get a second state-issued ID," he says. Now, "I've got it hidden in my briefcase, so if I ever lose my driver's license, I've got my state ID. That's a hell of a security blanket for $10."
    But Sue Reiss had a more difficult time after her wallet was apparently stolen on a business trip to Philadelphia. "Getting home was quite an ordeal," says Reiss, a national sales manager based in San Antonio. "My husband had to fax me a copy of my passport. I had to obtain a written copy of the police report and needed both it and my passport copy to board the plane. My boss had to wire me cash to pay for my rental and other expenses."
    Now, she puts her license, cash and credit cards in different parts of her purse and luggage. "If my wallet was ever stolen or lost again, I would not be without some form of ID, credit card (or) cash," she says.
    Losing a passport overseas can be especially frightening, since U.S. citizens, along with visitors, must have one to get back into the U.S. On its website, the State Department advises travelers to report the missing passport to local law enforcement, as well as the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate where they can get a new document, "often within 24 hours."

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