4 Things Travelers Should Never Lose

PHOTO: Losing your passport while traveling can be very frustrating.David Sucsy/Getty Images
Losing your passport while traveling can be very frustrating.

There are a lot of things passengers should never lose. No. 1 is probably their cool.

A recent example of cool (or grace under pressure) was displayed by passengers stuck on a very hot Allegiant plane in Las Vegas, idling on the sizzling tarmac with no air conditioning.

How hot was it? Some fainted, others vomited but many more made light of the ordeal with a cheerful sing-along to, "I Believe I Can Fly." Naturally it made its way to YouTube.

So don't lose your cool, but don't lose these four things, either. I include a bonus item at the end that should always be guarded extra carefully.

For more travel news and insights, view Rick's blog at farecompare.com.

4 Things Travelers Should Never Lose

1. Your driver's license

It doesn't have to be a driver's license. Safeguard whatever ID you use at airport security. Without it, you've drawn the Do Not Pass Go card. Or have you?

According to the TSA, if you lose your license or other ID, it's not the end of the world (well, not until you have to brave the sullen crowds at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles to get a replacement). Just show up at the airport a little early and explain what happened. You may undergo a more rigorous screening and you will undergo questioning. The good news is you almost invariably will be allowed to proceed. But don't make this a habit.

Tip: Many folks who fly weekly and are prone to misplacing ID often use their smartphones to store photos of important documents; they also upload them to the "cloud" for just such a rainy day.

2. Your passport

This is definitely trickier. If you lose your U.S. passport before you travel (or it's stolen), you might have time to get a replacement if you hurry. But first, report it. You'll be on record in the event identity thieves try to make use of it.

Then, contact the National Passport Information Center to make an appointment to visit a passport agency, and there are 25 of these scattered around the country. Bring your lost/stolen report form along with a completed application for a new passport. The U.S. State Department website -- a terrific resource for all things passport -- provides contact information for the information center and will help you locate the nearest passport agency.

Once you've got your new passport, make a copy of it and take a moment to jot down (or add to your phone) the contact information for the embassies or consulates in the cities you'll be visiting.

If you lose your passport overseas, go to the embassy or consulate with as many travel documents as you have, including any ID, travel itinerary and copies of documents (and it will speed things along if you show up with a new passport photo). A police report about your loss is not mandatory but may be helpful. Note: You may not be able to get assistance if your loss occurs over a weekend or holiday, unless it is considered a life-or-death emergency.

3. Your valuables

Word of advice: Don't. Don't bring valuables so you don't have to worry about losing them. If you must bring those expensive earrings, I suggest you wear them or keep them on your person in front pockets that close securely or in purses that are held in front of your body. Never put valuables in checked-baggage, as most airlines will not cover such losses, and don't leave anything pricy sitting around your room, either. That's what hotel safes are for. Do not flash cash and do not make a show of your latest electronic gizmo.

If anything is lost or stolen, report it immediately to the local police. Paper trails may be useful for identity theft and insurance purposes (if, in fact, your items are covered in another country). Who knows? You might even get it back.

4. Your phone

Treat your phone like your wallet. Today's smartphones are loaded with important documents, from airline boarding passes to pre-paid tickets to the Uffizi or the Louvre. First of all, back it up -- and there are a million ways to do this (just search "back up smartphone" or iPhone or whatever device you use). Makes sure you can easily access the back-up material in case your phone is lost or stolen.

If the worst happens, report it to the local authorities. Yes, they get a lot of these reports and, no, it might not do you any good, but see "paper trail," above.

Different phones and devices have different safeguards and "how to track me if I'm lost" capabilities. Know the protection your device offers and utilize it accordingly.

Here are a few "don'ts" to prevent phones from disappearing:

     Don't leave your phone sitting on the bar or restaurant table, even if you get up for just a moment. Take it with you.

     Don't leave it in an easily accessible part of a purse and then hang the purse on the back of your chair. You're just asking for it.

     Don't hand it over to that kindly stranger who offers to take your picture. It may be perfectly innocent, but it may also be the last you see of your phone (or camera).

Bonus: Your marbles

There are a lot of travel-related scams out there; don't lose your marbles and fall for them. Like those romantic emails purportedly from someone you met overseas ("Darling, I was heading to the airport to visit you when I had an accident, please wire money") or the infamous "grandparent scam" that targets older folks with phone calls ("Grandma, I'm in jail in Europe, please wire money"). The State Department website has the lowdown on these, too.

Traveling doesn't mean your common sense should take a vacation. Sure, go ahead and sing, "I Believe I Can Fly." Just don't try it in real life.