Traveling abroad? Your passport is the most important document on your packing list; protect it, and it will protect you. Having your passport lost or stolen could turn your otherwise flawless trip into a potential disaster. Read on for ideas about how to protect your passport -- and tips for what to do if it's lost or stolen while you're traveling abroad.
Before you leave home, make two copies of your passport identification page. Leave one copy at home with friends or relatives and carry the other with you in a separate place from your passport. We also recommend scanning your passport and sending a copy of it to your own email account so it can be accessed anywhere in the world.
Bring along at least one passport photo as well. These are 2x2" photographs taken within the last six months, featuring a front view of your face on a white background. Be sure you also have another form of photo ID as well. If your passport is lost or stolen, having these will speed up the replacement process.
Also, if you plan to be abroad for more than two weeks, you may want to register with the U.S. embassy in the country you are visiting. For more information, see Travel Warnings and Advisories.
Although you may not realize it, a U.S. passport is a hot commodity. To avoid being a target of crime, don't be too conspicuous with it. Not only do you risk having the passport stolen, but your other identification, credit cards and money as well. Take it out only when you need to provide it to officials. At all other times keep it in your hotel safe or well hidden on your person.
There are several travel accessories that can help keep your personal items safe. Companies like Magellan's and TravelSmith offer money belts that can be worn around your waist, slipped around your neck or stashed away in a pants leg.
Do not leave your passport in a checked suitcase, a handbag or an exposed pocket. One person should never carry all the passports for an entire group. Never lend your passport to anyone, use it as collateral or ask someone to hold it for you.
As soon as you realize your passport is missing, contact the nearest police authorities, U.S. embassy or consulate. You will be asked to fill out a DS-11 form, which is the standard passport application form.
If your old passport was still valid, you must also complete the DS-64 form to report the lost or stolen passport. You be asked to report how, where and when you lost your current passport. Having a photocopy of your passport will help you fill out the form, which asks for the number and issuance date of the missing passport.
In emergencies, you may contact the National Passport Information Center for support. Call (877) 487-2778 to reach an operator Monday through Friday from 8 a.m until 10 p.m. ET; an automated system is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The emergency after-hours number is (202) 647-4000. If you're outside the country, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.