Protect your ID and documents on vacation

What would you do if you lost your passport while traveling abroad?

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Key takeaways

✔  Before traveling, make copies of your ID and travel documents.

✔  Keep one copy hidden in your suitcase; give another set to someone at home.

✔  Scan your documents and keep an electronic copy as well.

In today’s digital world, toting hard copies of your ID and important documents seems a tad old-fashioned. Nevertheless, until wallets go extinct, carrying some cards and papers will be essential—especially when you’re traveling.

Keep these documents safe.

When embarking on vacation, take steps to keep these documents safe and accessible as you travel.

  • Health-related information. When traveling overseas, you may find yourself in situations where you need information about your current vaccinations. For instance, some countries in Central and South America, and also in Africa, require tourists to have a certificate showing they’ve had a yellow fever vaccination. For both domestic and international travel, it’s also a good idea to bring a letter from your doctor for any medications you may need, plus contact information for your doctor. You could lose a vital prescription, or, even for some over-the-counter drugs, the rules for getting medications in some foreign countries may be more strict, according to the “Traveler’s Checklist” on the State Department website.
  • Travel documents and personal identification. When traveling internationally, having your passport and other forms of identification, like a driver’s license, is essential. You may also need a visa, depending on the country you’re visiting. The State Department website linked above provides information on visa requirements.
  • Emergency contacts. If you’re on the road, it makes sense to have emergency contact information close at hand in case unexpected problems arise. For international trips, you may want to store addresses and phone numbers for the closest U.S. embassies or consulates.
  • Travel itineraries. Vacations often entail a lot of details—flight information, hotel reservations, rental car bookings, and sightseeing tour logistics. Organizing this information in one place can make traveling less stressful, and digital versions can be shared with others for their reference as well.

How do I keep all this secure?

Because you can never be too careful, or too prepared, make two color copies of all your identification and travel documents. Keep one set of copies snug in your suitcase and give the other set to someone at home. Keep the copies on you or in carry-on luggage when in transit.

Here’s where you can finally use beloved technology. Scan your documents and securely store an electronic copy. You have a few options for doing this—you can email the documents to yourself, use a thumb drive to hold everything, or upload your copies to an online document storage company. Of the three options, keeping your important documents on a secure server offers the highest level of security from identity theft.

When asking a friend or family member to hold on to your documents, you can minimize the risk of ID theft by giving them access to your securely stored electronic copies. Some digital storage options offer secure document sharing and even give you control over who can download or share a link to your information.

If you do decide to share hard copies instead of electronic versions, be sure to retrieve all your paperwork at the end of your trip and shred it.

In the event that your passport is lost or stolen, being able to show copies of it will make it much easier to get a replacement from the U.S. State Department. If you are visiting a country that requires a visa, you may also want to retain a digital copy of this document in a secure, digital archive.

You never know what could happen to your luggage when traveling. Having the digital copies could give you some peace of mind—with access to the Internet, documents can be uploaded, shared, and retrieved anytime and anywhere. That way you’ll know you’re ready for whatever adventures lie ahead.

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