Q: My daughter lost her driver's license while visiting San Francisco and asked us to FedEx her passport to use for identification. We did, but what does one do in situations like this when the picture ID is lost during transit and you have nothing to show the Transportation Security Administration people except your boarding pass?
You can board your flight without ID, as long as TSA officials can verify your identity. “Establishing identification,” says TSA spokesman Christopher White, “is as important as having a passenger go through a metal detector.”
Formerly, travelers without ID had to undergo regular screening, a whole-body pat-down and a full luggage check before they were allowed to board their flights. But on June 21, the TSA's policy changed, White said, to focus on identity verification. The new policy “increases safety for the traveling public,” White said. “If you're a bad guy, the last thing you want is to have your name called into a government operations center, be interviewed by the police and have a behavior-detection officer come chat with you.” He said it takes an average of six minutes to verify identity.
Here's how the new system works: If you lose your ID, you should arrive at the security checkpoint early and explain the situation to the officer at the document-checking station. You'll be asked to fill out a form including your full name and address, which officials will check against publicly available databases. If necessary, local police and TSA behavior-detection officers will interview you, and you might have to undergo additional screening.
Q: My husband and I have been researching a last-minute vacation to the Virgin Islands this summer. Is it crazy to consider going in August-September, given the heat or hurricanes?
Not completely crazy. Hotel rates can drop as much as 50 percent during the offseason – but you have to be a bit of a gambler. The threat of hurricanes is very real in the Caribbean in summer. Be prepared for the possibility of bad weather. So buy travel insurance (read the fine print; some policies won't cover you unless an evacuation has been ordered), check your hotel and airline's cancellation policies beforehand, and keep abreast of weather conditions. The heat can get pretty beastly in summer, with temps in the 90s and humidity to match — but that's what that lovely blue sea is for.
Q: Can you recommend the most efficient way to spend two days in Los Angeles that would give us the flavor of the city? My friend and I like the glamour of the entertainment industry. Our teenage boys like beaches and sporty activities. We'll be reliant on cabs to get around.
No need to pay hefty cab fares. Start downtown by taking the subway's Red Line to the Hollywood & Highland Center, in the heart of Hollywood. From there, you can tour the Kodak Theatre, take a stroll on Hollywood Boulevard, see the Hollywood Wax Museum and Grauman's Chinese Theatre and check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At Grauman's, hop on a minibus and take Starline's movie stars' homes tour: more than 40 mansions, two hours, $34 (www.starlinetours.com).
Back on the Red Line, head to Universal Studios Hollywood (www.universalstudioshollywood.com). There's a free shuttle across the street from the subway station, with pickups every 10 to 15 minutes during park hours. One-day admission is $64.
Let the boys have their day at the beach the next morning by taking a bus from downtown to Santa Monica (30 to 60 minutes; from $2 round trip; schedules at www.socaltransport.org). Details on LA: 800-228-2452; www.discoverlosangeles.com.