A travel and safety expert’s advice on what to carry, and what to do if the worst happens.
Losing your wallet or having it stolen is a nuisance anytime, but when you’re on vacation, it can ruin the hope of a good trip, according to Chris McGoey, a security consultant who has traveled to more than 110 countries.
“People carry critical personal information like credit cards and a driver’s license in their wallet, and a lost or stolen one is a bigger headache and harder to recover from when you’re traveling,” he says.
But there are ways to minimize the damage from that missing wallet and keep your trip from going awry, and McGoey shared advice on how to do just that.
Know your wallet’s contents
You know your wallet is important, but do you know what’s in it? In his training seminars, McGoey says that he has his attendees look inside their wallets and he finds that most are surprised at what they unearth.
“People have insurance cards, credit cards and other pieces of personal information they forgot they had, but if you don’t know what’s in your wallet, you can’t report it missing,” he says.
He suggests keeping an inventory of your wallet’s contents in your email or on an encrypted cloud server such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
Carry only essentials
Most people carry too many credit and ATM cards in their wallet, McGoey says, advising that you travel with only the ones you rely on daily. Also, don’t carry both your Social Security card and driver’s license in your wallet because one piece of identification is generally sufficient when you’re traveling.
“The more personal information you lose, the more work you have to do to get replacements,” he says.
Have backups of documents
Make copies of all the documents in your wallet, and leave these copies with a family member or trusted neighbor back at home. And include a checklist of phone numbers to call in case your wallet goes missing, such as the numbers of your bank and credit card company. You can also scan and email these copies to yourself or store them on a cloud server.
These backups and numbers allow you to quickly report your cards missing. Also, if you’re flying, you won’t be left without the identification you need to get back home.
In addition, McGoey suggests having a copy of a backup credit card on your email or cloud server and leaving the actual card at home with someone you trust — if you need a replacement right away, that person can send you the card overnight.
Rely on the U.S. embassy
If you’re traveling internationally and end up losing your wallet but have no backups of your credit cards and license, the local U.S. Embassy is your best resource to get your life back in order.
“The embassy can help you get temporary identification and also loan you cash,” McGoey says.
Your tour company, if you used one, may also be able to assist.