Most frequent international travelers have found a passport toting system that works for them, oftentimes through a little trial and error. Everyone has heard the dramatic story about the cousin’s best friend’s ex-boyfriend’s brother’s third grade teacher who somehow lost his passport and the agonizing tale of trips to the embassy, missed flights, temporary documents and the like. Stressing about your passport and other travel documents is time NOT spent exploring and enjoying yourself, so it’s wise to have a passport system in place before boarding the plane.
How to keep your passport safe when you travel
- LEAVE IT! Whenever possible, don’t carry it with you. I know this sounds crazy, but other than when you’re actually entering or exiting a country, you generally don’t need the real thing in you possession. If your hotel room has a safe, then lock it up. Otherwise, lock it in your luggage and leave it in your room. Then go explore your destination without that little book weighing you down!
- MAKE COPIES! Always have photocopies of your passport on hand, as well as a copy of the page with your visa (if applicable.) Leave one copy back at home (along with copies of your credit and debit cards) with a trusted friend, give a copy to your travel companion and keep an extra copy in your purse or day bag.
- SCAN IT! Keeping an electronic copy of your passport is a good idea, or you can even take a photo of it with your smart phone. Also, make sure to email it to yourself so that it exists in a place other than your hard drive.
- BE DISCREET! There are many specific passport carrying products out there that some travelers swear by. Below I’ve outlined what I’ve tried and what ultimately works for me.
The Money Belt. Put your passport, cash, cards, etc. in this mini fanny pack style bag and wear it under your clothes. I used this product for all of 10 minutes before I tore it off and carried it in my purse like a wallet. It was awkward and uncomfortable and simply wasn’t working for me. When I travel, I like to blend in and not draw attention to myself and this type of carrier would make that very difficult – nothing screams “tourist” quite like a money belt. Needing to lift my shirt and dig in my money belt every time I buy a coffee doesn’t work for my style of travel. That being said, I have a good traveler friend who swears by this product and will never use anything else. She’s found a way to make it work for her, and has never had her passport lost or stollen.
The Neck Wallet. Same idea as the money belt, except it hangs from around your neck, ideally underneath your clothes. When I studied abroad my sophomore year of college, this is the product I used to carry my passport, cash, cards, etc. While it looks as though this product has been redesigned since 2003 (it used to velcro at the top and flip down accordion-style) the idea of lifting your clothes in anyway in order to find your passport doesn’t work for me. I used to wear it like a dorky cross-body purse which, of course, defeats the purpose of hiding it. Also, the nylon strap would be easy to cut with a pair of nail clippers.
The Runnur. I haven’t not personally used this product, but I have seen it and have watched product videos. Essentially, The Runnur is a combination cross body purse (or murse, seems pretty popular with the dudes) and cargo short. It’s a wide strap that goes across your body and has several pockets for everything from keys to bottle of water to, of course, your passport. The Runnur has a lot of fans and cheerleaders but – having never worn one – I have a few concerns. One, if you only need to carry your passport and some cash, this is a really big piece to wear for all of that. Two, I think I would feel like a Miss America contestant wearing this thing around town. Three, the product video recommends keeping a bottle of water in the back to anchor it. Anchor it? Personally, I wouldn’t want to add more weight to my bag just to keep it from shifting.
The small cross-body purse. This is what I use when I travel because it’s feminine, small enough to fit in a bigger bag (great for when you travel with just a carryon) and it doesn’t scream “tourist!” A few years ago a friend gave me this particular bag, made entirely of zippers. It’s artsy and fun but, more importantly, because the strap is actually a zipper, it can’t be cut off of me with a pair of scissors. I’m able to fit a lot in this little bag – an oversized wallet with my passport – or a copy, cards, cash, a camera, a small journal with a pen, sunscreen and a tube of chap stick. There’s also room for a pair of sunglasses and my iPhone. The best part of this bag is that I don’t ever take it off. It’s small and unobtrusive enough to keep on while sitting at a restaurant and when riding on public transport (my favorite way to learn a new city, but also a great place for pick-pockets) it’s flexible enough to shift to my front so I can keep a free hand on it. What’s more, the zippers on this bag can lock together with a luggage lock, further easing deterring thieves when I’m on the move.
The important thing to remember when picking a mode of transport for your passport and other valuables is that everyone is different so what works for me may not work for you. You want to be comfortable, no matter how you carry your valuables, so test it out by walking for a day around your town before boarding the plane. You’ll know within the first hour if it’s working for you!
I’m sure I missed some… do you have a creative way of carrying your passport while you travel? Share it with me!