Starting about a year from now on Oct. 1, 2020, travelers in the U.S. will not be allowed through security and onto their flights without flashing a Real ID. There will be a couple of exceptions (more on that below), but for most of us, Real ID will be the way to go.
Unfortunately, some have never heard of Real ID, even though the feds set this in motion back in 2005. Now, it's time to get up to speed, because the deadline is looming and this is not the sort of thing to put off.
The following should give you most of the details you'll need to get Real ID but if you need more information, check with the Department of Homeland Security.
1. What is Real ID?
Basically, the federal government is setting national minimum security standards for state-issued IDs such as driver's licenses. In other words, all states will have to have to meet the same standards.
2. Is it an extra card for my wallet?
No. Think of Real ID as an upgraded driver's license.
3. What will people need Real ID for?
• To get on a plane
• To enter a nuclear power plant
• To access certain federal facilities (but you won't need it for a federal building such as the Smithsonian Museums)
4. Is it possible I already have Real ID?
Yes. Some states have been upgrading to Real ID for a while now. Check your license and look for a star at the top (or in the case of California, a star on a golden bear). That shows your driver's license is certified as Real ID and you don't have to do anything else.
If you're uncertain, check with your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) online.
Tip: If you haven't had to renew your license for a few years, chances are good you won't have the star and will have to get Real ID.
5. How do you get Real ID?
Go to your DMV. You'll have to bring proof of identity, which varies by state; again, check online with your DMV or give them a call.
6. When will you need Real ID to get on a plane?
You won't get past the security checkpoint without Real ID starting Oct. 1, 2020
7. A year from now? Why are we even talking about this now?
When's the last time you visited the DMV? It can get crowded!
Besides, it's human nature to put off such chores until you absolutely have to do them, like a day or so before a flight. Don't wait until the last minute.
8. What if you don't drive; are there alternatives to driver's licenses for Real ID?
Yes. You can use a valid passport or a state-issued photo identity card or a Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler card such as Global Entry or a Department of Defense employee ID card, and you'll find even more accepted documents on the TSA site.
However, only about 40% of U.S. travelers have passports so most of us will probably need to get the Real ID.
9. Do children have to get Real ID?
No. The regulations remain the same for minors (anyone under the age of 18); they do not have to show any identification as long as they are traveling with a companion, who will have to produce acceptable identification.
Suggestion: Next time you plan a trip, find yourself a good airfare deal, then go get your Real ID, even if your trip is before the Oct. 2020 deadline. One less thing to worry about.
Rick Seaney is the CEO for FareCompare. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.