I’m not sure about the other travelers out there, but as a traveler—and an expat living abroad—I frequently have passport panic before and on trips, wherein I wake up in the middle of the night, freaking out about the location of that all-important document.
Have passport paranoia, too? Make the nerves subside the way all smart travelers do—with information. Replacing a stolen or lost passport on a trip is no fun, that’s for sure; but if you’re prepared, it’s not nearly as complicated. Here are steps you should be taking before and during your trip, and what to do if the unthinkable happens.
Before you go
Some helpful things: Sign up for travel insurance, as a good policy will cover any expenses you incur from your passport being stolen or lost. Always write down the address, phone number and email of the embassy or consulate nearest your destination, and register with them before you go—you can even go a step further and write down how to get there from where you’ll be staying. Take a secondary I.D., such as a driver’s license, with you, as well as a couple of passport-sized photos (having them made to your country’s specific measurements in some destinations can get tricky).
Have all your personal information bases covered. Make sure to have access to backup copies of the following important documents you may need to obtain a new passport while abroad: your travel itinerary, passport (photo, signature, and visa pages), driver’s license (front and back), birth certificate, social security card, and an expired passport (if you have one).
Travelers who will be traveling off the grid—or who just don’t want to fool with tech stuff—can photocopy important documents, and store copies in an envelope separate from the originals you’re carrying on your person. If you want to be extra cautious, leave copies in a sealed envelop with someone you can depend on, i.e. someone who you’ll be able to reach easily in case of emergency. If your friends and family are hard to track down, consider leaving a copy with a trusted colleague or your accountant—ideally someone who’s invested in you returning safely, and can at least be reached during normal business hours.
Travelers with internet access can scan the important documents listed above, convert them into PDFs and then encrypt them into a secure, password-protected format (we suggest AES-256) with free software like 7-zip. Upload the file into Google docs, Dropbox, or your email account, and then you’ll be able to open it anywhere you have an Internet connection. Another option is to encrypt your files as described above, and put them on a USB drive that you can carry with you. If you want to be extra careful, you could do all of those things.