Protecting Travel Documents While on the Road

BY Beth Williams

Misplacing travel documents is something that should be avoided and so travelers should keep a careful eye on their travel papers all the time. Travelers prefer avoiding obtaining replacements for travel documents so it is a responsibility to protect these important papers. This article will be giving travel advice necessary for the basic guarding of one’s travel documents wherever and whenever.

What Travel Documents Should You Back Up?

Authorities at airports, train terminals, and ferry docks have become very strict about proper documentation and whether you’re visiting the U.S. or an American citizen traveling abroad, it’s vital to have those papers on order; however, these aren’t the only documents you should have a copy of on your trip. Depending on where you are traveling, you’ll want to make 2 printed copies of the following:

  • Passport (the identification page)
  • Visa
  • Travel insurance
  • Driver’s license
  • Health information
    • Name, phone number, and email address of your primary care physician and travel doctor, health insurance company name, identification number, and phone number
    • Travel insurance company name, identification number, and phone number
    • Names and dosages of each medication you are taking, including anti-malarial (copies of your prescriptions are a good idea because you may be able to get replacement medications if yours fall overboard on a river cruise, for instance)
    • List of allergies and any current or chronic illnesses
    • The address and phone number of a hospital or clinic you have identified ahead of time that is within the vicinity of your travel destination
  • Credit cards
    • You should have a list of your credit card number (not copies of actual cards) and associated phone numbers to call if a card is stolen. But when your write down your credit card numbers, .consider switching several of the numbers for each card.  For example, if you have a card number that looks like this (obviously it won’t, but we’ve simplified it for the sake of making the point): 1111-2222-3333-4444.  Consider a system of switching the first and last numbers, perhaps like this: 4111-2222-3333-4441 or 1114-2223-3334-4441, or some other easily remembered pattern. You know the pattern, and if you think you won’t remember it, write the key on the copy you leave at home.  How does this work? Think about it: if you lose the sheet, or if it is stolen by the hotel maid, then you won’t have to worry about your accounts being compromised. If your purse or wallet is stolen, you’ll be able to call the contact phone numbers and get the cards canceled quickly. If your sheet of numbers is stolen, the thief won’t get far with those fake numbers. Plus, if both are stolen, you can call your friend or family member and get the information sent to you and still put a quick stop to the raiding of your accounts.
  • Traveler’s checks, although we’re not convinced anyone uses these anymore
  • Travel itinerary
  • Airline tickets
  • Hotel or lodging reservation confirmations
  • Car rental reservation confirmation
  • Cruise tickets
  • Vaccination certificates (Some countries require a vaccination certificate for specific infectious diseases. For example, travelers entering Venezuela from certain countries are required to show a current yellow fever vaccination certificate.)
  • Any other pre-paid confirmations

Events such as the twin tower blast have made it extremely difficult to obtain proper travel documentation. As people may notice, documents such as passports and boarding passes cannot easily fit into a wallet and can be awkward to carry. Thievery is a problem that travel advice can help alleviate for black market demand motivates the stealing of important documents such as these.

Travel advice tells that documents are not theft free especially with the price tag attached to them. Different trips may require travelers to keep travel documents considering different methods for each. A traveler can decide among the different protection tactics to apply for travel documents by being aware of which are available per trip.

Travel advice for the home is to have a safe place to store documents yet have an easy grasp for when they are needed. The best possible protection is a fireproof safe particularly one which is bolted to the floor adding to the security of the documents. It is common for thieves to take unbolted safes in their entirety and destroy the locks later on.

At a hotel, the travel advice would be to keep the documents right away in the hotel room safe or have them deposited at a safety deposit box by the front desk. It is easier to simple place the items in the room safes but safety can be jeopardized because of staff members who have easy access to the rooms. It is a good idea to take the documents whenever leaving the hotel especially in countries that may require them at any particular moment.

Hostels would have travelers share rooms so the travel advice is to guard luggage with a reliable safety lock. There are several hostels who offer patrons with lockers but personal locks should still be utilized in this case. Chaining the bag to the bed may provide added security for travel documents and the like.

Placing documents in neck wallets and packs underneath the clothes is the travel advice for when going out. A traveler has options for different variations of wallets and the like for their travel papers. Do not make the mistake of placing important documents in backpacks or fanny packs outside clothing.

Best Backup Methods for your Travel Documents

You’ve seen this recommendation before – from us and many other travel experts – have a copy of your travel documents, but what travel documents are we talking about and how should you carry a copy of your documents?

Before we discuss how this can more easily be accomplished, let’s discuss why having a copy of your travel documents is necessary. Losing your shoes can be a true hassle on a trip. That loss can even cost you money to replace them, but losing your identification and travel documents is much, much worse for three reasons:

  1. They take longer to replace
  2. They’re more difficult to replace in a foreign country
  3. Depending on what you lose, you might not be able to get home on your schedule – and that could cost you even more money

If your passport is stolen in a foreign country where the U.S. embassy is short-staffed or closed for any reason, you could be waiting a long time to get a replacement. With a copy of that document, you can speed up the process.

Online Storage of Travel Documents

Many travelers are moving to placing copies of their important travel documents in online storage systems. It is a convenient storage facility if one makes use of online document storage websites yet there is a minimal chance of hackers being able to manipulate the system. Convenience and comfort are key elements to traveling and so travel advice would suggest that a traveler make use of service providers online who can store travel documents and provide copies when needed as these will be perfectly as legitimate as the real thing.

A lot of secure options are available to travelers for the protection of their travel documents and this is in order to be able to have various options that can cater to any possible form of traveling plan that people may have. Travel advice warns people that keeping travel documents at bay should not jeopardize the security needed for them. People should always consider the security of travel documents and different ways can help them do so.

Scan your documents and store them electronically

The new-school way to have a copy of your documents is to scan them and store them electronically.

  1. Send them to your own email account (and perhaps to a friend’s as well).
  2. Store them on a memory stick and take that instead.
  3. Store them in your choice of online cloud.
  4. Store them on your portable device or laptop.

The idea here is to have electronic copies of your travel documents to save space and aggravation, but remember, these are critical documents and if stolen, they could cause you a lot of harm with identity thieves, so guard them closely. Secure the online documents, and even those you send to your friend, with a password. Be sure your portable devices and laptops are secured with a password as well.

If you can’t get to a computer with a printer or one with Internet access, you can call your friend and have them send the copies by email, fax, or courier to the nearest embassy or to another trusted contact.