Sunday, November 3, 2013

What I learned when my wife lost her passport. AKA: Dave's new prep list

Sharon had her passport stolen.

Despite all our normal planning, we fell victim to theft, and her purse, containing everything about her, was taken from a bar in Barcelona.  I'm not going to recount the crime itself, but what I learned as even a seasoned traveler like myself could take away from the experience.  Finding a printer was a hassle, finding pictures was a hassle, getting cash was hard... there was so much about it that was a pain.

Let's assume for a moment you are left without any stuff.  No passport, no phone, none of your credit cards, etc.   What do you wish you had done prior that would have made the process entirely easier?

- carry two forms with you, both easily available.   These are the DS-11 and the DS-64 (available here).    Don't fill them out at all, and when something happens, don't sign it until you are told to when at the embassy and the consulate.

- print your backups of your passport.   I scan everything so I have copies -- but realized I'd be spending a bunch of time printing it, since it took us over an hour to get everything and then print it for Sharon.

- carry a backup credit card.  And if traveling with someone else, swap one credit card.    I'm going to get an additional card and put it in my travel stuff with those forms I just referenced.

- and make one of your cards an American Express card.  Sharon got into a touch of cash trouble at the consulate, and discovered that AmEx holders can get money sent via Western Union for this kind of emergency.

- Seal it all in an envelope that you then sign, so you know if it's been tampered with.  This stays in the hotel safe during your stay.

Lessons learned.