March 5, 2018–
Lucy asked, “Did you pull my passport out of the safe?” That question started a sharp jab of worry, which quickly rose to a full scale panic. “Nope,” I replied, “you must have it.” Except she didn’t. We started searching her purse, her backpack, her suitcase. Then the same for me, checked the safe again and the money belt and the neck pouch. Nothing! By this point the rest of the tour group was waiting in the lobby to go the airport. I took the tour leader aside and told him my wife couldn’t find her passport, and a look of alarm overtook his face.
Soon the hotel staff as well as our guide were thrown into action. Security came and we all searched our luggage and the room. Nothing!
Let’s face it, as we age most of our powers are headed in the wrong direction. And when it comes to traveling, at times a fairly anxiety producing activity in spite of all its other joys, declining abilities aren’t helpful. This article will focus on tips and strategies that can make your trips more fun and less stressful.
Don’t lose your passport
We won’t bore with the details, suffice to say you do NOT want to lose your passport in a foreign country. Getting a replacement means going through multiple bureaucracies and can take days to complete. You will have to visit a foreign police station and go to the American embassy. In our case we also had to get a complicated form from our hotel, and also visit the Indian visa office (a special experience). Also required was a new passport photograph, documents had to be copied and uploaded, all the while dealing with low level officials for whom urgency was not in their job descriptions.
So what can you do?
The first is what we will call document discipline. Start that by designating specific compartments for your stuff in your purse, backpack, luggage, and any money belt or neck pouch. If traveling with someone else, make sure you each know the other’s system. Here are the elements of our new document discipline plan:
1. Zipped compartments for travel docs. Important documents like passports, visas, tickets go in one compartment unlikely to be opened frequently. Money and credit cards go in another.
2. Documents go back to their compartment as soon as you use them. It is all too easy to jam something in your bag when, for example, you go through a security line. But you must resist that temptation, and replace it where it belongs. Every time in the same spot.
Other ideas for not losing stuff (or having it stolen) while you are traveling:
1. Copies. We made 2 copies of all travel docs, including passport, plus sent photos or PDFs to our emails. Then we exchanged them with a traveling companion, which proved to be helpful.
2. Telephone numbers of credit card companies to call if a card is lost or stolen
3. Keep PINs or passwords you can’t live without in a separate location and not easily identified
4. Join a tour or hire a guide or driver. If you are not going on a tour, hire a guide and/driver. That way, if something goes wrong, you will be so glad you have an agent that can speak the language and navigate the bureaucracy on your behalf. We know we could have spent forever going through all the steps without that help.
5. MOPHIDD2. One aid for not forgetting your stuff is to do what pilots do, use a checklist. It is kind of hard to use a paper checklist, so that is where a mnemonic or acronym can be useful. So when you leave your hotel room to check out, or after passing through airline security, you stop and take inventory, using the acronym. You will probably make up your own to fit your situation, but in our case, MOPHIDD22 stands for :
IDentification (passport, drivers license, visa)
2 (kindle and camera)
2 pieces of luggage (backpack and suitcase)
Airline security lines
Airline security lines are just about the easiest place to lose something important. The process is stressful to begin with, and then if there is a glitch, like you forgot to empty all your pockets or take off your belt, you can get so discombobulated you are almost guaranteed to forget something.
A good idea is to stop before the line and put everything in your pockets in an extra bag and put that in your carry on. Then, as you exit account for everything using your acronym. If we had done that recently, we wouldn’t have left our money belt at a security checkpoint (the look from the Indian security person was priceless).
It’s easy and human to lose things. As we age it gets even easier. But you can counter that by using discipline and other techniques.
What techniques work for you to avoid losing things and minimize the stress of travel? Please share them in the Comments section below.
Coming up soon – our Bucket List report on a dream trip to India (except for the passport fiasco!)
PS – Most of this article was written while waiting in the Indian Visa office!