Passport Safety Tips and Tricks
You passport is the single most important item when traveling internationally – if you have nothing else with you, make sure you have that passport. Even more than your plane ticket, the passport your travel document into countries and back into your home country. It is also the only ubiquitous international form of ID – often times your domestic driver’s license doesn’t do much outside the your home country.
A lost or stolen passport unfolds a messy situation:
- The immediate consequence of not having a proper form of ID on you
- The need to interrupt your vacation to find an Embassy to help you (which may not be in the country you are currently in)
- If you can’t find a way to get a new passport then it jeopardizes the rest of your plane travel at the least
- The potential of having your identity stolen as passports are a highly desired currency among thefts (I read as high as $10,000!)
For these reason and many more, it is even more important to pay extra attention to the security of your passport.
Here are some tips and tricks you can do to ensure your passport is secure:
- Always keep your passport with yourself
I keep my passport with me at all times. Money belts are a popular solution but we have not used them (yet). I often used a crossbody bag or sling that are attached to my body. Never, never, never keep your passport in a pant pocket! When using a bag, store the passport in an interior pocket and not an external, easily accessible one. What I love most about this sling is the pocket in the back that sits against your body is the perfect passport hiding spot.
- If you can’t carry it with you, lock it up
There are certainly some situations where it is not practical or possible to have your passport. When we visited Galapagos, many of the excursions were on boats with other tourists and a full crew. We brought the bare minimum with us and that meant leaving the passports behind. Since the room we were staying in did not have a safe, we packed our passports deep in our backpacks and locked up our bags.
- Make a copy
And then make another copy, and another, and another. It can be as easy as scanning your passport for a paper copy to making nice laminated versions or even paying for an official wallet size. We keep it simple and make photocopies at home. Having these can be the ultimate passport life saver. Makes sure you spread the love and store them in different places – what a bummer would it be to have them all in your day bag and then have your day bag stolen. The whole point is for these to serve as a back up. Another great tip is to leave one a home as well.
- Also make an electronic copy
Take a photo of your passport or take the scanned version and save it on your phone, or email it to yourself, or save it to your favorite secure cloud server. A surprise for us in Galapagos was that the entrances of the national parks require visitors to sign in – one column is for your passport number. I do not have our passport numbers memorized (perhaps I should) and so having the pictures on our phone saved us from having to go back to the hotel or carry the originals with us.
- Keep your own passport
Unless you will be with your travel party the ENTIRE time, each adult should carry their own passport. The reason is as simple as everyone should have their own form of identification on them to if the bag that has everyone’s passport gets lost or stolen now everyone is is trouble (but I guess you will be in trouble together).
- Check that it’s there, but don’t take it out
While they are convenient, wallets that store passports can be an advertisement for theft (all our valuables in one spot!) as you will be taking your wallet out frequently when traveling to pay (cash or credit). Some versions may be better at having a more discrete passport pocket. A passport cover can have value as well. It can prevent people from identifying what country you are from in case you are traveling somewhere where this may be an issue.
- Be wary of people that ask to see or hold your passport
If someone asks to see or hold your passport (not an official at the airport or customs), go with the copy even if it is a cop – there are scams in certain countries with fake or corrupt cops. We have not run into these types of situations yet but this travel blog outlines tips for dealing with this particular situation.
- Enroll in STEP
For people in the US, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This is a service that allows US travelers to register their trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. This can be an invaluable resources if you get into trouble and it’s completely free. We have registered for many of our trips and it is a great safety net we have not needed to utilize yet (knock, knock, knock on wood). You will also get notifications for safety conditions of your travel destinations. Go ahead and give the Embassy a big old star on you Google Map in case you will need to visit.
In the event that you do lose your passport abroad, you should know what the anticipation remediation plan looks like. This government website has resources outlining the “know before you go” strategies. We have not gone through this ourselves (knock, knock, knock on wood) but it is equally important to know what you need to do ahead of this situation occurring. Here is an outline of the process:
- Contact the US Embassy or Consulate for your destination. This is way easier if you are enrolled in the STEP as you will have this contact information in advance. You can also refer to this government webpage. Let them know of your situation regarding the passport (ie lost, stolen, damaged, etc).
- You will be asked to fill out paperwork such as a affidavit (legal document) outlining what happened to your passport and then an application verifying your personal data. Sometimes a police report is requested (though not required) so make sure to report the incidence if theft is suspected. The information required here also includes your passport number and date / place of issue – this is very difficult if you do not have a copy of your passport either scanned or electronic.
- Pay fee – no surprise here that there is going to be a pretty penny needed to get your passport reissued under such urgency. That being said, check with your traveler’s insurance if purchased – you may get refunded for all of these shenanigans, including any financial impact to your travel.
- Say cheese! You are going to need another passport photo. Many full time travel bloggers travel with extra passport photos for visas requirements. The Embassy can direct you where to get a passport photo done.
I hope that we (yes, you too!) never need to use this but hopefully with these tips and tricks it can help keep your trusty passport safe and sound!