published Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Phillips: Missing ID, lost papers can roil travel plans


by Ellen Phillips

Q: I know how important travel documents are in these days of heightened security, but what happens when they’re lost? My family and I are vacationing in August and want to be sure our documents remain safe. —Sam Security

A: Dear Mr. Security: According to USA Today, technology actually eases the (mislaid) document dilemma. Because we have fewer documents these days to worry about (i.e. no paper plane ticket), other avenues are open when we find ourselves in a fix. For example:

• Airline tickets — Well, of course, you say; I have my driver’s license for identification, whether I obtain a boarding pass or not. But what if you’ve misplaced your license and you’re unsure if any other document will do?

USA Today tells us any government-issued ID may do the trick, such as a library card issued by your county or a credit card with a photo. Obviously, it’s up to the TSA official to let you by with these substitutes.

(I always travel with a color copy of both my license and passport in case an unfortunate loss occurs.)

Another great tip is to contact your state government to issue you a second ID, normally costing about $10, which is awfully cheap for peace of mind.

• Passport — While traveling, be aware about the hotline numbers of travel agencies and embassies. Having a copy of the hotline numbers will provide you with easier access to their offices in case you want to ask anything about your lost passport or when following up your application for a temporary passport.

Additionally, be sure to report the loss to local law enforcement.

Before proceeding to an embassy or consulate, you should have your proof of identity ready so they can issue you a temporary passport.

The best packet is a copy of your passport details kept in a separate place, to include your full name, date and place of birth, passport number and date and place of issue.

In this way, it will be easier for them to verify your details at the embassy. In certain circumstances, you may have someone from your home email or fax you some of your documents for identification such as your birth certificate, marriage license or other documents that establish your identity.

This is why it is nice to leave copies of these documents with your family or friends back home.

Better yet, you can make electronic copies of these documents by scanning them and saving these files in your email to avoid costly overseas transactions.

If there are no other problems with your documents, the process should be smooth and easy.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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