How to Change your Last Name Without Affecting your Travel Plans

Changing your last name after getting married is a daunting task, even more so if you’re an avid traveler and are afraid that changing your last name will put a halt on everything.

In Missouri, this is even more of a concern because driver’s licenses are soon to NOT be a valid form of identification while flying domestically. If you were to try to go anywhere by plane, you will need a passport. An update is coming but for me, and many other travelers, not quickly enough.

So where do you get started? How do you do this without sacrificing travel?

Two weeks after we were married, a certified copy of our Marriage Certificate was available at City Hall. This is the first thing you will need to begin the name-change process. Check with your state to see what you will need (not all states allow you to use a certified copy, some will need an original copy to process.)

When I started this process, I was advised to purchase two copies of our Marriage Certificate so that, if I wanted to, I could do two changes at once. I could mail off one Certificate, while taking another copy in person to a different department.

From my experience, I didn’t need the second copy, but it is nice to know I have another just in case the first one gets lost in the mail. This way, I won’t have to waste another lunch break in lines at City Hall, I already have what I need.

1. Social Security Card

The first thing you must do to get your name change started is to update your social security card. If you have the time, this can be done in a couple of hours of hanging around your local Social Security Office. Unfortunately, I burned up all available time off on our Honeymoon, so I wasn’t able to make time to get to the office during their Monday-Friday business hours.

The other option they offer to you, and perhaps one of the easiest ways to get this done is to mail off all your documents. (I sent mine via FedEx for added security.) Your passport will be out of commission with this step for a few weeks. Mine seemed to be processed very quickly, not even two weeks, but this will depend on where you live and how much traffic your local social security office sees on a weekly basis. The good thing about this step is that all of the processing stays local. I mailed my documents off to an office only a mile away from my house, and it was processed locally, and mailed back to me surprisingly quick.

2. Driver’s License

There are conflicting reports on whether to do your Passport or your Driver’s License next. I had originally planned to take care of my Passport second, but decided against it. I needed multiple documents for identification (in Missouri, we needed an old ID, the new social security card, a bill that proved my residency) and I wanted to be sure I had absolutely everything I could possibly need, including my valid passport, if needed. I wasn’t asked for it, but the DMV’s website told me I was going to need it, so I wanted to have it along just in case. The options then were to either finish the Driver’s License process first, or to wait until your passport processing was completed. I was happy to be able to finish my Driver’s License change first, so that once the passport arrives, the process is practically done.

At this stage of the change process, you are still able to fly using your passport, as long as the name on your plane ticket still matches the name on your passport (and it should!) Be sure that if you do have a flight coming up that you take your passport into the social security office in person so you can leave with it the same day.

At this point, your driver’s license will have a big “VOID” stamped into it, or some other type of hole punch, to make it no longer valid. They will provide you with a paper temporary ID. I kept both my invalid ID and my paper ID in my wallet so there are no questions until the new ID shows up. Even after, I still keep my new and old driver’s license in my wallet so I can always be identified by either my new or my old name.

3. Passport

The next step for me, knowing that my upcoming trips are all domestic road trips was to take care of my passport.  The process was a little bit nerve-wrecking because it felt to be the most “hope-for-the-best” of them all.  I mailed off my passport, and without any confirmation at all waited, and waited, and waited until one day it magically returned to me!

Once you have the big three taken care of, all that’s left is to notify, notify, and notify everyone and anyone about the name change.  Here are a few other companies that need to know about your name change:

  • Banks
  • Credit Cards
  • Frequent Flyer Programs
  • Insurance Companies
  • Employer(s)
  • Utility Companies

Give them a call and let them know as quickly as possible that your name has changed and you need to update your account.

Perhaps the best piece of advice I received about the name change process is to always keep copies of your documents that have your previous name, and keep them on you at all times (or at appropriate times.) For example, I am always traveling with both passports, or always driving with both Driver’s Licenses, even though one copy of each is invalid, it is still a photo ID that proves I am both my married-self and my maiden-self.

What’s one thing you’re struggling with in the name change process? How has changing your name affected your travel plans, or what have you done to avoid getting held up by the change?


UPDATE:

To change your name with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Program, send an email to: swacss@wnco.com. In this email, include your Rapid Rewards Number, New Legal Name, Old Legal Name, Current Address (or the address tied to your account), Phone Number, and Email Address (or the one tied to the account). Attach a copy of your Marriage License, or a copy of your new and old driver’s licenses (I did both of these things, to assure they had all the information they needed.)

They said this change could take up to 30 days, but I received an email back confirming the change in less than 3 days.

We had a trip booked at this time. I had to book a ticket without tying my Rapid Rewards Number to the flight (because my legal name needed to be on the ticket) and then was able to add my Rapid Rewards Number after the Account Name was changed. I was lucky to have gotten this done very quickly, but it can take some time, so make sure you give yourself plenty of it!

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