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Losing your passport or bank cards on the road sucks. Not having the numbers accessible sucks even more.

Photo by Tom Purves

FOR MOST OF US our day to day life takes place in our homes, apartments and offices.

Each of these locations contain pretty much everything we own, need to survive and identify who we are. Somehow though, when we travel we are able to condense all these “essentials” into one or two small bags, carry them on our shoulders and hoist them onto trains.

This should tell us is that (1) We really don’t “need” all that stuff at home and (2) The condensed version is important and needs to be protected.

If you find yourself in an unfortunate situation that cannot be avoided, preparation and precautions can be taken.

Here are a few simple tips to help ensure damage and loss of your true essentials is kept to a minimum.

1. Passport preparation

A great way to ensure you have access to this info is to take the time before your trip to scan the front page of your Passport.

Having a passport is necessary these days. With new laws being put into effect every year it is virtually impossible to travel without one. Safeguarding yourself in the event of a loss overseas is important; knowing what to do in such a situation is necessary.

Anyone who has temporarily misplaced their passport while on the road knows that feeling of panic.

How will I continue my trip? Will I be stuck in this country for weeks? Who should I call? The truth is that for many countries the process for replacement is the same.

Call the passport agency and report the document missing and then find the nearest embassy and start filling out forms. Americans can call the National Passport Information Center (NPIC) at 1-877-487-2778. Australians should notify the authorities on line and Canadians can ring 819-997-8338.

In both the initial call and the forms to follow you will be asked to provide the issue date, issuing agency, passport number and expiration date and possibly proof of citizenship (which you just lost).

Having all this info will expedite a process that can significantly cut into your travel time. According to the NPIC, “the more you know the better off you will be”.

A great way to ensure you have access to this info is to take the time before your trip to scan the front page of your Passport. Attach it to an e-mail and send it to yourself.

Now you have access to all the important info, visual proof that you, at least before your trip, had the document and best of all can get to it any time with simple internet access.

2. Bank and Credit Cards

Photo by psd

Everytime you have to call your bank or credit card company you look on the back of the card and call the toll free number printed at the bottom.

Then, when the computer at the other end of the line picks up it asks you to “say or key in your account number”.

So what are you going to do when you step off an overcrowded bus in a foreign city and realized someone just lifted your wallet out of your pocket?

Having these numbers listed somewhere can be invaluable if such a situation arises. You will be able to cancel your cards and remotely access your account in a hurry.

The toll free numbers of course can be kept pretty much anywhere you feel comfortable such as your travel journal but please don’t keep them in your wallet (see above).

Your account numbers should be kept in a secure location. Like my passport scan, I e-mail myself all these numbers so that in the event I need them I will be able to access them from pretty much anywhere.

If you’re one of those people who really don’t trust the security of your own e-mail account; leave out a reoccurring number that you can commit to memory. How about the first digit of your address or your phone number?

3. Give access to a family member

Consider allowing a parent or loved one staying behind access to the bank account you will be using.

Figure out which credit/debit card you will be using and take a trusted family member on down to the bank and have their name put onto your account. It’s quick and easy at most banks and is not hard to reverse when you get back.

In case of an emergency your contact back home can move funds around in your account or add a few bucks to get you out of a jam.

Trust me; it is much cheaper, easier and quicker to have someone put a couple hundred dollars directly into a bank account you have access to via ATM card than to have them try to wire it to you overseas.

4. Lock up your bag

One of the best ways to protect your bag is to make it inconvenient for someone to snatch it up.

There are plenty of bags around that are left unattended or thrown hastily on the overhead rack while its owner sleeps soundly below.

It doesn’t take much to deter a thief while traveling. One of the best ways to protect your bag on trains, sitting in a park or even in your hostel dorm room is to make it inconvenient for someone to snatch it up.

Purchasing and using a small travel cable and lock such as the Lewis N. Clark retractable cable lock makes your bag more of a hassle to take.

One type is a wire netting that fits around your bag to prevent criminals from easily accessing the pockets and zippers of your bag. For me, this is a pain to get on and off in a hurry as well as extra weight to carry.

There are plenty varieties out there so shop around and see what works best for you.

5. Maintain your health

You stuff is ultimately replaceable. But making sure you’re clear-headed and feeling great will keep you from making mistakes that make your prone to theft.

When you’re traveling, eating well and getting enough sleep can be a challenge.

Carry along a bottle of chewable multi vitamins. They are easy to take and can help you stay on top of a trip-ruining illness.

For a quick burst of vitamin C and other feel-better goodies toss a vial of Airborne in your backpack. These handy effervescent tablets not only can keep your immune system up but also help flavor that occasional bottle of tap water you’re stuck drinking.

Taking these few extra precautions and protecting the essentials you brought along with you can help ensure your trip doesn’t hit any unwanted bumps that you can’t deal with.

When your trips over and you’re back home, take a look around your apartment and throw out all that non-essential junk lying around. It will make packing easier next time.

What tips do you have for protesting your documents abroad? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Travel SafetyFinancial Savvy


About The Author

Christopher Cook

Christopher Cook currently lives in Tallahassee Fl where he received his second Masters Degree from FSU. As an avid traveler he maintains a new budget travel blog, in the hopes of inspiring others to just get out there and see Europe. He has lived and studied in Tübingen Germany and travels as much as possible each year to cities throughout Europe. His writing has appeared on Bootsnall and Vagabondish.

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  • Daniel Harbecke

    Valuable article, Christopher! Be forewarned, 800 numbers don’t work too well in Europe! It also helps if you let your credit card companies know you’re going abroad, so the sudden charge in Botswana doesn’t seem so suspicious.

    (BTW, if Ian or Tim come looking for me, tell them you haven’t seen me…) =)

  • Jeff

    I have an issue with leaving an e-mail open in my account, especially with the security issues inherent with any Microsoft based system.

    I scan copies of all of my important docs and save an encrypted .pdf copy on a flash drive that I carry with me and store separately from my docs.

    The one time I had to access my docs in an emergency, a bank in Dublin was kind enough to borrow one of their computers to access the flash drive for my info.

  • Lu Lu Palmer

    Hi Christopher: I read your article and it was very informative. I hadn’t given any thought to what I would do if I lost my passport but now, thanks to you I will be very careful on my next trip abrord. Thanks

  • Chris Cook

    Thanks Jeff and Daniel. Both great suggestions. I like the idea of saving an encrypted .pdf file just not sure if taking along something else that can be lost or stolen fixes the problem. Would an encrypted file on an e-mail be a safe way to go perhaps?

  • Marie

    Number 5 has many good points, but I think you might be missing one: Watch your alcohol intake if you want to stay clear-headed.

  • Elizabeth

    Interesting article! I’ve read that lost and stolen passports are one of the leading reasons travelers need consular assistance.

    Marie has a good point… Tourists make easy targets because they often let their guard down on vacation. Add a little alcohol into the mix and it’s easy to misplace something or for someone to take advantage of you.

  • Heather

    Daniel is right on– 800 numbers don’t work from most foreign pay phones.

    I just had this issue in Mexico. My credit card was stopped by my bank for unusual spending. I attempted to call the 800 number from my cell phone and airport pay phones– no luck. I ended up having to call a friend in the U.S. who called the bank to get a non-800 number, which I then called.

    Keep the 800 number they give you, but also make sure you get a non-800 number as well!

  • Chris Cook

    If you ask your bank, most will provide you with a number you can call collect from an international location. This can come in handy when, well, all your money has been stolen along with your credit cards.

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