Last week was my birthday. Unbeknownst to me, my driver’s license was set to expire on my birthday this year. I was pretty surprised when I discovered at the airport that it was expired! Here is my experience traveling with an expired driver’s license.
TL;DR: For domestic air travel you can use a license up to a year after expiration; hotels don’t seem to care if your ID is expired; car rental companies CAN NOT rent to you if your license is expired.
I didn’t even realized my license was expired until I went through the TSA checkpoint. I get to the front of the Pre-check line, and the TSO says, “Did you know your license is expired?” It must have been clear I did not know by my face, and she said, “Don’t worry! You can fly for up to a year on an expired license.”
There is no clear answer on the TSA website about expired licenses, but anecdotal data from various websites indicates my experience is fairly standard. I mean, they will typically let you fly domestically even if you don’t have any ID, so an expired license must not be that big of a deal. But as with many things, it seems to be up to the TSO’s discretion.
Renting a car
Understandably, this was where I had the biggest issue. By the time I got to the car rental counter it was almost 1am Texas time, I was exhausted, and I had completely forgotten about my expired license. When the Hertz agent handed me back my license and said, “Did you realize it’s expired?” I assumed, wrongly, that it would again be no big deal.
She said, “Unfortunately we can’t rent to you if your license is expired.” This had not even entered into the realm of possibility for me, so I was shocked. She said, “You can take a taxi to your hotel, then in the morning have your DMV fax us something.” I’m not going to lie, I cried a little. Not only did I have to go to the office the next day, but I had evening events and errands to run to prep for all of my meetings. There was no way I could take a cab for all of that, and the idea of calling the Texas DPS and getting them to fax something anywhere seemed ludicrous.
But after checking with other rental places I realized that I didn’t have much in the way of options. I went and got a cab (after ensuring he took credit cards) and headed to my hotel. On the way there I calmed down and bit and started looking for solutions. In most states, including Texas, there is an option to renew your license online if you meet certain qualifications. Once I arrived at the hotel I used their business center to renew and print out a temporary license. The next morning I took an Uber back to the airport to pick up my car.
Staying at a hotel
Hotels don’t seem to care if your driver’s license is expired. So at least that was easy.
Clearly this whole predicament was my own fault. I’m sure I’m not the first, nor will I be the last, to get so preoccupied with all the busy-ness of life that I miss a crucial detail. Interestingly enough, the night before I left I dreamed I was flying to Manila and forgot my passport. Obviously my subconscious was trying to tell me something! Luckily it was a pretty easy fix, and the biggest casualty was a precious hour of sleep.
Readers, have you ever traveled with an expired license or other document? What was your experience?
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