When you travel abroad, your passport is possibly the most important document you will have with you. Flight and hotel reservation documents, even insurance policy documents, all of these are secondary to your passport. They can be relatively easily emailed to you or accessed long distance. Your passport is in its own category of importance. You literally cannot get home without it.
Passport and Travel Document Tips:
- Well before you go, check your passport is valid – and when it expires. More and more destinations require travelers to have passports that expire 6 months or more after your visit to their country. So you need to verify your passport is still valid AND whether there are expiry date restrictions in your country of destination. Make sure your travel documents – like flight reservations – EXACTLY match the name on your passport. Making an error can prevent you from traveling.
- Make copies. Make colour photocopies of relevant passport pages: the photo and information page, as well as any visa stamps you may have had to get before your trip. We make 2 hard copies and leave one copy with a reliable contact at home (along with copies of other travel documents like flight, hotel reservations and travel insurance policy documents) and make sure we have that person's email and emergency phone number, just in case. The second set of copies, we take with us and keep tucked in an inside luggage pocket. We also take photos of the relevant pages and have them accessible. Also take extra, certified passport photos with you; you'll need some if you need to replace your passport.
- Use your hotel safe. That's what it's there for. Unless you are traveling to a country that requires you to have it on hand for authorities anytime and anywhere, lock it up in the hotel safe. Keep your travel insurance policy on hand in case you need it before you return to the hotel. We put a post it note in our travel document carrier to remind us to check the hotel safe for the passport before leaving.
- Note: If you are a first time cruise traveler, you may be surprised that when you check in to a cruise with multiple international ports of call, the cruise line purser keeps your passport (safely stored) for the duration of the cruise. That allows cruise ships to have local authorities board the ship upon docking, inspect the collected documentation and clear all the passengers at once for disembarkation – without lengthy lineups and delays for cruise ship guests. You'll be given information about how to collect your passport; usually from reception the last evening of your cruise.
What to do if you Lose your Passport:
Hopefully, you've followed the tips above, and made sure that while you travel your passport isn't lost or stolen.
But if you do lose your passport…
1. Check again and don't panic.
Retrace your steps, check every pocket, every corner of your bag, the floor of your rental car or tour bus. The best solution is to find your passport.
2. If it's really gone, you MUST report it to your government officials.
Passports are legal documents that can be used by criminals if they fall into the wrong hands, so they must be cancelled in the system so no one else can use them. In a foreign country, that means locating the nearest embassy or consulate. That is information that is good to have with you in advance, but your hotel/ tour operator can also help you find the nearest location. But no one but the passport holder (or legal guardian) can legally report the loss to authorities. Once reported as lost, it will be cancelled so no one – including you even if you recover it – can use it again.
3. Fill out a police report if it was stolen as soon as possible.
You will be asked about a police report when applying for a new passport.
4. Get a new passport.
You cannot go home without a passport; you will not be allowed to board a flight or to enter the country if driving. Getting a new passport is pretty much the same process as getting one at home, except you have to stay where you lost your passport and work through your government authorities locally. You'll need to report the lost or stolen one (and you will be asked for a police report), provide photos, proof of identity, and pay the passport fee, including a rush fee if applicable. An investigation into your lost or stolen passport may delay getting a new one. So you will need to pack your patience and look for a silver lining in that you'll have perhaps more time than you planned to enjoy the destination. This is one of the roles of consular offices abroad, so they have processes in place to make replacing your passport as smooth as possible. Your best way of getting on with your travels or returning home with a new passport is to cooperate fully.
But the real message is to take smart and savvy precautions before and during your travels to avoid losing your passport so you can have a relaxed and enjoyable journey.