(Flash-forward to December 27, 2020)- Today is the day! You are leaving for a much needed 7-day Caribbean cruise to destress and relax after the holidays.
You've done everything to get ready for this big day: you hired a sitter to take care of your dog, your bags and sunscreen are all packed, and travel documents are safely tucked in your carry-on bag. . . now it's time to head out the door to the airport.
As you get ready to go through the TSA check point, your mind wanders to you sitting on the beach with a drink in hand!
You hand the agent your boarding pass and driver's license and he says,
"Sorry, ma'am, but I can't let you through with this ID. Do you have another form of ID, like a passport?"
You look stunned, because you just handed him the only ID you have like you have always done when flying. As you tell him this, he just shakes his head and tells you once again he's sorry, but you now have to have a REAL ID or a current passport to get through the checkpoint.
You are getting very anxious (and a little mad) because you had no idea you had to have this special Real ID driver's license to fly in the United States. (Now, if you had booked that cruise with a travel agent, you would have known!!).
You don't know what to do!
You do not have a passport and it is too late to get a new ID from the DMV.
You gather up your belongings, retrieve your luggage, and head back home crying. While driving, you start thinking about how to get a refund for your cruise, but then realize-YOU DIDN'T BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE! Now, your dream vacation has turned into a nightmare!
What could you have done differently?
Use a travel agent!
This terrible scenario can be avoided if you are aware that on October 1, 2020, travelers must have a REAL ID to fly within the United States. If you do not have a REAL ID, or in some states an enhanced driver's license, you will need a valid passport. All of these changes have come about through the Real ID Act passed by Congress in 2005. What does this mean?
"Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act and implementing regulations establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards and prohibit federal agencies, like TSA, from accepting licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards for official purposes, such as getting through the airport security checkpoint to board a plane."
What do YOU need to do to get ready for 10.1.2020?
First, check to see if you don't already have the REAL ID. Does your driver's license have a GOLD STAR (see PDF below for other identifying marks) in the upper right hand corner? If not, either go to your state's DMV website and see what documents you will need to bring in to acquire the REAL ID or give your local office a call. Not everyone will qualify for this new form of ID. If that is the case, and you do not have a current passport, you need to begin the process of getting yours.
Getting a REAL ID is not hard if you meet all of the qualifications. Besides the normal birth certificate and social security card, you will also need TWO proofs of residency (utility bill, homeowner's insurance policy, a valid driver's license, etc). Again, check with your local DMV office to see what forms of identification you will need. Other than that, it's the same as getting a regular license. But, if you do not own a home, or may have an issue with getting a REAL ID, then you will need a passport to fly within the United States beginning October 1, 2020.
If you need or want a passport, I would not wait until the last minute to apply for it. As more and more travelers realize they will need a passport to travel of they do not want a REAL ID, and submit their applications, it will take much longer to get your passport sent to you. It normally takes 6-8 weeks (sometimes sooner during off season travel dates), but with the expected influx of applications before October 1st, I would send in your application as soon as possible if you are unable to get a REAL ID driver's license.
If you need to apply or renew your passport, check out the the Apply for a Passport and Passport Renew links under the TRAVEL RESOURCES button above.
So, are you planning to fly within the U.S. in 2020? Before your trip, check your license — without a star you won’t get far.
Make sure you are #REALIDready before October 1, 2020!
I am an avid traveler wanting to see as much of this world as I possibly can.