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I had my passport stolen once.
It was being kept in a rectangular pouch with some cash and, most importantly, a USB drive of all of my recent travel pics. The pouch was brightly colored and sitting right on top of an open bag I kept beside me on a bus ride. I was enjoying the ride and looking out of the window at the gorgeous Guatemalan countryside when someone must have picked the low-hanging fruit from my bag. I didn’t even notice it was gone until I reached my destination and had no ID or money for a hotel that night. It felt like my own fault because I was a naive traveler.
It’s a poignant memory for me. It sucked. I lost a full day of precious travel time at the American Embassy trying to get get a new passport, it cost me over $200 to replace on-the-spot, I had to scrounge around and eventually call relatives for help to find a place to sleep that night, and, worst of all, I was a little more wise to the negativity in the world.
I hope that doesn’t happen to you!
The fact that you’re even curious about how to keep your passport safe while travelling shows you’re a wiser traveler than I was. I’m happy to share my new habits and those of other full-time travel families!
How do I keep my passport safe while travelling?
Advice from men and women who travel full-time with their families
“I keep mine on me and then a copy of all in our room along with the kid’s originals. If I were going on longer trips where I’d rent a house or something I’d probably just keep all originals and copies in the rental.” –Jade
“We bring duct tape and tape them into unsuspecting places in our room.” –Mindy
“We keep ID on us and passports in a safe in our room. If you get mugged or lose your wallet you’ll want a backup to get back on a plane to go home.” –Abigail
“I carry only a copy with me unless it’s strictly required to carry the actual book. I leave the passport in my locked luggage at the hotel. I don’t use hotel safes as it increases the chance of forgetting it when you check out.” –Luis
“I’ve emailed myself a copy, have a copy on my phone, have a printed copy somewhere nearby, and leave the passport in the room when I’m out.” –Rebecca
“I carry copies on my (also backed up on Google Drive), and then keep them in our dirty undies. If someone is going to rifle through dirty underwear on the floor, then congrats! You can have them.” –Morgan
“Also keep a photo on something accessible from any web browser. And have your emergency contact back home be able to have access to it!” –Bitsy
“For me it depends on where I am. Often, I leave them somewhere safe in the hotel or whatever room I’m in. Usually I use an actual fireproof safe. I have heard that some places will not accept any ID from a foreigner except a passport and that I had better keep our passports on me at all times in case of emergency (in those countries).” –Faith
“If I can’t lock it away, which is my first choice, then I carry it with me.” –Autumn
When polled, 50% of travelers say they lock their passports away. 43% leave it unlocked in the room, and only 7% carry it with them at all times.
If you find yourself staying in an unsafe or communal residence and you’re concerned about leaving it in the room, here are some ways to keep your passport safe from being mugged:
The original anti-theft backpack
We personally bought and use the XD Design Bobby Anti-theft Backpack after hearing horror stories of theft gangs working together to cut and steal your bag or purse. We love this backpack because it’s loaded with safety features! The zipper is lockable, the material and straps are cut-proof, it’s water repellent, and has hidden pockets for phones, money, or passports that pickpockets will never be able to access.
There are a lot of anti-theft backpacks available right now, but we felt best buying the original. We are product developers, too, and know that the original always takes the most pride and care to make the best product. When we’re talking about the safety of our identities and all of our expensive equipment we aren’t willing to take any chances!
Travel Money Belt
Money belts have been used for decades to help people feel safe when traveling! We have a set in addition to our anti-theft backpack for days when we don’t want to carry the backpack.
The idea is simple: the money belt has one or two slim pockets and attaches with a belt around your waist. You can carry non-bulky items inside (like bills, a credit card, or passport) and tuck it under your clothes. If it’s kept slim enough professional muggers won’t even know you’re wearing one, and if they do notice they’ll have to full-on grab you to try to get to it, giving you time to get away or call for help.
When shopping for the best travel money belt you’ll want one that is slim, wide, and padded for comfort. We chose these ones:
Portable Travel Safe
A portable travel safe is pretty much what it sounds like: a safe you bring with you to a new hotel and use to store important items then bring back home with you. This is a good idea if you like to use a safe, as many hotels and AirBnBs around the world don’t provide one.
A good portable travel safe will be lightweight, easy to conceal in any environment, and cut-proof. I like this one. It’s disguise as a book makes it easy to hide in a room, and it’s the perfect size for passports and cash.
Travelling is meant to be fun! There are plenty of things you can’t control, like weather or crowds, with the potential to ruin your day. Don’t let something you could control bring you down, too!
If you’re at all worried about keeping your passport safe while you travel follow this advice and then go enjoy your trip!
If you’re planning a family trip pin this article for later to remember the best advice!