Airport: San Diego (SAN)
Date: March 13, 2008
Reason given: Lost ID
Reference: Tim Ferriss
My wallet was stolen at ETech in San Diego 3 hours before my flight was scheduled to leave for Austin, TX. Panic set in, as I had to be on a panel the following afternoon, but I learned of a few work-arounds.
Here’s what I did, first from the hotel:
1. I took the clever Brady Forrest’s advice and printed out a little-known (outside of techies) letter from the TSA, written to Senator John Warner, that outlines protocol for flying without ID. If the airport check-in staff or security stop you, this letter and requesting a supervisor is often enough to get you onboard.
2. I used my flight number and name to print out my boarding passes from the hotel kiosk. I wouldn’t be able to use them ultimately, but it would be helpful to prove identify.
3. I borrowed $100 from two friends for taxis, etc., and promised to immediately reimburse them through PayPal, which I could use as currency in place of my stolen credit cards and cash.
At the airport:
1. Told them very casually “Oh, by the way, I’m flying without ID today because my wallet was stolen.” They gave their condolences and marked my boarding pass for additional screening with “SSS” in bright red block letters. I checked one bag and never had to show the TSA letter.
2. Because you are now a bigger security risk, they put you in your own line! The key is to put as much in checked luggage as possible, as they will swab everything in your carry-on for explosive residue and do a quick pat down.
3. After clearing security in record time, I called the San Diego harbor police using 1-800-GOOG-411 on my cell to file a police report with an officer at the airport, which took about 10 minutes.
The officer then called up my CA driver’s license number and put it on a temporary ID card that I could use to drive (and also get served alcohol when used in combination with an old student picture ID from Berlin). Filing the police report is also important for filing claims with banks, credit cards, etc. to be reimbursed for any fraudulent charges.
I had the student ID in a second wallet where I put cards, memberships, etc. that I use infrequently, so I don’t clog up my ultra-slim wallet. This back-up wallet is stored in my backpack.
4. Used wi-fi at the terminal to cancel my cards and get replacements overnighted to a friend’s place in Austin.
The End Result — Faster without ID!
I cleared security in 5 minutes, where it took others AHEAD of me in line with ID 15-20 minutes.
I was upset that that my FlyClear biometric card had been stolen, expecting to be delayed, but perhaps the cheaper solution and equally effective time saver is to “lose” your license, or simply keep it in the wallet and tell them you’re traveling without ID.
I’ll be testing this on my return trip as well.
Just another reminder to question what you “have to” do. Oftentimes the forbidden opposite is the best solution.