Passport or Wallet is Lost or Stolen while Traveling: Now What?

So there you are having a swell time at Yellowstone or maybe admiring the view from the Eiffel Tower when you reach in your pocket and – gone! No wallet. Or your purse is missing or your passport's disappeared. What do you do now?

More good advice for international travelers

Pre-Travel To-Do List

Let's back up. Here is a list of documents and other information you should assemble as you pack for any trip.

Make copies: Make copies of all important documents including credit cards, passport, online tickets for attractions or excursions and airline boarding passes (the latter are usually available for free from airport kiosks but a few airlines will charge you for a copy). You might want to keep this on your phone during the trip but also have back-up hard copies in a safe place separate from the originals. Some travelers like to put copies in a hotel safe but be sure you don't forget them.

More travel tips: How to pack like a pro

Make a list of important contacts: Add to phone and make a hard copy of numbers to call for lost/stolen cards or missing passports. For passports, you want in-country contact listings and more on that below.

Give info to trusted friend: Make sure a trusted friend or family member at home also has this information – you can never have too many system redundancies.

Two credit cards: Bring a back-up credit card, but carry it somewhere besides your wallet (or wherever you keep the first one). You could also split the cards between spouses.

When Money/Credit Cards are Gone

If you believe you've been the victim of theft, make a police report. Then contact your credit card representative without delay. You can always find contact information on the card's website.  You will need to identify the missing card by type, number and more – information that should be included in your copied documents.

When ID is Gone

If the all-important driver's license is gone, panic. That holds true for any ID but most of us use a driver's license for purchasing airline tickets and/or going through security checkpoints.

Instead, get to the airport early – say 30 minutes to an hour early. You may be subject to additional screening, and you will be subject to questioning. As the TSA's website notes, "If passengers are willing to provide additional information, we have other means of substantiating someone's identity, like using publicly available databases."

When a Passport is Gone

If your U.S. passport goes missing before you travel, you may have time to replace it if you hurry.

Step 1: Report it to the police if stolen and report it to the U.S. Passport office in any case; you'll be on record in the event identity thieves try to make use of it.

Step 2: Contact the National Passport Information Center to make an appointment to visit a Passport Agency and there are 25 of these scattered around the country. Bring your lost/stolen report form along with a completed application for a new passport. The U.S. State Department website – a terrific resource for all things passport – provides contacts for the information center and will help you locate an official passport agency.

Step 3: Once you've got your passport, jot down (or add to your phone) the contact information for the embassies or consulates in the cities you'll be visiting. That's who you will need to get in touch with if your passport is lost or stolen while you're on your trip.

Anne McDermott
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