Keeping Your Passport Safe – at Home and Abroad

shutterstock_110207810One of the biggest problems that can happen to you when you’re traveling abroad is for your passport to be either lost or stolen.  If your passport is stolen, you cannot return to the US until you get a replacement. Getting a replacement can be difficult at best, as you must go to a US embassy or consulate to get it.  Your stolen passport opens you up to identity theft as well.  There are some easy steps you can take to protect yourself.

Safety at Home

Before you travel, keep your passport safe at home.  If you are applying for a passport renewal, mail your old passport in registered mail with a return receipt.  This will allow you to know your documents arrived safely.  Many people use their passports as IDs in the US.  If you have a driver’s license, use that instead.  If not, it’s a good idea to get a state issued photo ID.  They are inexpensive, and easier to replace than a passport.  Your passport, like other important documents, should be stored in a safe place at home where thieves would not necessarily look. Your top desk drawer probably isn’t a good location.

Getting Ready to Go

Prepare yourself for your trip.  Make multiple color copies of the information page on your passport that includes your picture and signature.  Keep one in your packed luggage, but not in an obvious location.  Give another to a friend or family member you can contact if your passport is lost or stolen.  Make extra copies for hotels.  The copy of your passport will speed things up for you at a consulate if your passport is lost or stolen.

Keeping Safe While Traveling

Once you’re abroad, keep your passport with you at all times unless you are able to secure it in a room safe.  Do not hide your passport in your baggage.  If someone enters your room to steal something, your suitcase is not a secure place to keep valuables.

Some foreign hotels use your passport to register you with immigration control.   They will request that you surrender your passport until you check out to satisfy this government regulation.  The reality is that they only need a verified copy.  They want to hang on to your passport so that you will not leave without paying for the room – that is why they took your credit card imprint.   YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SURRENDER YOUR PASSPORT at hotels.  You may have to show it, but your copy should suffice.

The safest way to carry your passport is in a specially designed passport wallet.  Pickpockets abound in many areas, and a rear pocket, backpack or handbags are easy targets.  We typically use a pouch that hangs around your neck inside your shirt for our passports to keep them safe.  There are many options available at many different price points.  Buying something to protect your passport will be money well spent.

While travel organizers that hold your passport and other items such as cash, airline tickets and credit cards in one place seem to make sense, consider other options.  These organizers can be large and difficult to carry close to your body.  Keeping valuable items in separate pockets can be safer.

Document cases and travel wallets work best for those who travel frequently because the cases can hold documents on either side without being bulky.

Basic passport holders are the simplest and least bulky options. They are generally constructed like book covers.  You can select a variety of materials – plastic, vinyl, or leather.  They protect the outside of your passport from the elements and are more easily carried in a front pocket.

Your most high tech option is a RFID  (radio frequency identification) shielded passport case.  RFID tags are embedded in passports and credit cards, and there is valid concern that your passport or credit card information can be stolen by a thief with an RFID reader as you walk down the street or through security at an airport.

Consider your needs and then select the best passport carrier for you.  There are a number of online sources to choose from.  Several luggage companies make covers to match their bags.  You can find carriers online and in many retail stores.  You can opt for inexpensive and basic or go high end.  Just get one – and use it.  And remember to keep your passport with you at all times when traveling abroad

If You Do Lose Your Passport

Unfortunately, even if you’ve taken reasonable precautions to protect your passport, it can be lost or stolen.  If this does occur, don’t despair.  If you have travel insurance, you are covered for trip interruption while you replace your passport.  In addition, all insurance plans on tripinsurance.com provide 24/7 live assistance to help you find the closest consulate or embassy.