If you’re an avid traveler, there’s probably one scenario that scares you more than anything else: You’ve been planning that bucket-list trip for months and you’re finally at your desired destination having a blast. You’re enjoying a pint at a pub in Dublin, strolling along the canals of Venice, or shopping in Hong Kong, when you reach into your pocket or bag … and realize (to your horror) … that your passport is GONE!
A lost or stolen passport can really put a damper (if not a complete stop) on your travel plans. But it doesn’t have to ruin your trip. As long as you take the right precautions and know what to do in case this should ever happen to you, dealing with a lost passport might end up being little more than a minor hiccup in your itinerary.
Here are some tips to help you avoid and manage this travel emergency:
Before You Go
Make Copies Before You Hit the Road
Before you even find yourself in the unfortunately sticky situation of having lost your passport, make sure to take a few photocopies of the photo page of your passport as well as any pages with visas or other relevant information. You can keep a copy somewhere safe back home and a copy or two with you on your trip (just not in the same place as your passport). You should also have a digital copy of your passport saved on your phone or laptop, and just as a safety measure, should consider emailing it to a close family member or friend.
Consider Getting Travel Insurance
So you’re all packed and ready to go … BUT have you got your travel insurance sorted out? Having travel insurance is another way to reduce stress and expense when there’s an emergency while you’re away. If you’re spending several hundred or thousands of dollars for your trip, having insurance is a sound investment, if only for the peace of mind it offers.
Most travel insurance policies will recoup most of the costs incurred dealing with getting a new passport, so SAVE those receipts!
If You Lose Your Passport Before You Travel
Lost your passport before heading overseas? Make an appointment ASAP to apply in person at your nearest passport agency to replace your passport. If you don’t have any immediate plans to travel, you should still apply immediately at an authorized passport acceptance facility to replace your passport at a time convenient for you.
During Your Trip
Keep Your Passport Safe
When you’re on the road, it’s always a good habit to have a special “safe spot” for your passport. You could use a sturdy passport wallet, which would also help keep your passport from bending and creasing and makes it easier to locate in the black hole that is the inside of your bag. A neck pouch, purse, or handbag specifically for holding your passport (and maybe a few other essentials such as house keys) is always handy to carry.
When traveling abroad, your passport is one of the most important things in your possession. So keep it safe from theft, wear and tear, and being misplaced.
When scurrying about airports, train stations, and other places where you may need to show your passport to authorities, try to always put it away in its “safe spot” instead of shoving it in a random bag or jacket pocket.
When traveling with someone, get in the habit of asking them at the onset, during, and soon after any trip if they have their passport on them or in a safe place. For families with small children, it’s a good idea to designate one of the adults to handle all underage passports while traveling.
Most hotel rooms these days have safes. Put your passport in and remember to get it out before you leave (but don’t forget your password!). If you feel it’s a lot safer to carry your passport with you, then stow it away and out of reach in a money belt worn under your pants or in an interior pocket that zips or snaps in your shirt or jacket. Basically, make your passport (and all valuables) as difficult as possible for pickpockets to access.
Report Your Lost or Stolen Passport ASAP
If you do end up losing your passport, don’t panic. Contact your nearest embassy or consulate to cancel and replace it. Do this as soon as you know for sure it’s missing.
In big cities, getting to the embassy or a consulate will be easy. However, this might prove to be a bit tricky if you’re in less populated destinations. It’s important that you’re aware of your country’s relevant online resources as well as contact details and locations for your embassies or consulates in the countries you’re visiting
For Americans, you’ll want to report your lost or stolen passport to the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs. To do so online go to this link.
Here are some further tips from the Bureau’s FAQ page about Lost or Stolen Passports:
Ask to speak to the Consular Section to report your passport lost or stolen. If you have been the victim of a serious crime, be sure to tell a consular officer about it as soon as possible so we can provide appropriate assistance. If you are scheduled to leave the foreign country shortly, please provide our consular staff with the details of your travel. We will make every effort to assist you quickly. You will also be directed to where you can obtain a photo for your replacement passport. In most cases, you will need to get a passport photo prior to your arrival at the consular section.
To report a lost or stolen passport by phone in the US or Canada, call the State Departments dedicated line at 1-888-407-4747. From overseas, call +1 202-501-4444.
File a Police Report
If you’re certain your passport was stolen, contact the local police to report the incident. If you are a victim of a serious crime do this immediately. Be sure to request a copy of any police report.