The friendly old passport: petite, colorful, a little dog-eared but undoubtedly the international traveler’s best friend. It gives you the world and asks for nothing in return, except perhaps that you know where it is at all times. But because of its intrinsic value, it’s also a tremendous liability – to lose it brings incalculable annoyance.
When It’s On Your Person
If you must carry it with you, know where it is at all times. Feel its reassuring edges at a touch. Of course this way also puts it up to loss by way of theft or absentmindedness. Keep it under your clothes, in something that doesn’t give away its presence, something water resistant perhaps. Put your passport in a pouch, money belt or other under-the-clothes sack.
If you must keep it in your pocket, consider that your back pocket equals already lost. If you’re overly paranoid about identity-thieving scanners, think about one of those high tech passport covers. Of course, if you’re one of these people, you probably haven’t left the house in the first place, so don’t worry about it.
Keep it in the safe
Most hotel rooms abroad have easyto- operate safes in which to lock your valuables. Just remember, it’s not a good idea to blindly trust a hotel safe. Any security can be breached if the desire is there. Personally I’ve never had an issue in 20 years of travel, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. If you have any doubts about the safety of your accommodations, keep the passport in your securely locked bag in the room. If you get cleaned out, might as well go all the way.
Apart from security checkpoints at airports and border crossings, it’s not necessary to drag out your actual passport book for everyone who asks for it, not even policemen. A copy will suffice. And if something should happen to your passport, a paper photocopy or scan will also help speed up the process of getting a replacement. With a scanner or copier: copy the photo and signature page. Carry around two paper copies of your passport, one in your day bag, one in your main luggage or with the rest of your nonpassport travel documents.
Also consider memorizing the vital passport info: number, expiration date, issue date, city issued. Reciting numbers may not always suffice, but it’ll certainly help in not having to dig through your belongings all the damn time. Before you leave, scan your passport and keep it on a password enabled website. Just email it to yourself – your passport copy will never be farther away than your inbox. But if the management has problems with that, try Google Drive or else DropBox for file storage. Use PDF scans for additional security.You can also use a photo sharing site like Picasa or Flickr – they both allow for private albums. Just make sure to delete these photosets when you return. No sense leaving them on the web for grabby hackers when you’re not traveling.
Leave one at home
Give paper copies to your closest contact at home should all other options fail you. You’ll have an easy connection a mere phone or email away.Remember, a stolen passport can go for big money on the black market so there’s an obvious incentive for a thief to get yours. But with a little vigilance you’ll make it home just fine and with all your fancy passport stamps intact. Oh by the way, stop worrying! The surest way to problems is by dwelling on whatifs. Presume that nothing will happen and chances are they won’t. And if they do, at least you won’t have wasted all that time worrying.