There are few scenarios that can turn an exciting trip into an awful one in the blink of an eye, like losing your passport. Passports are one of the most important documents students carry when they study abroad. They can’t return home without them.

Scary as the scenario sounds, it happens all the time. For example, BBC News found 160,050 British passports were reported lost or stolen between 2008 and 2013 – the majority of them in Spain.

For another, the United States Department of State website has a page specifically dedicated to frequently asked questions about lost or stolen passports. If your passport is lost or stolen, here’s what their official advice states:

  1. Get a passport photo. You will need this before anything else.
  2. Gather up the other documentation you will need. This will include:
    1. Some proof of United States citizenship, whether it’s a birth certificate or a photocopy of your missing passport
    2. A form of identification, like a driver’s license
    3. Your travel itinerary
    4. A police report, if available/applicable
    5. A DS-11 application for a passport
    6. A DS-64 statement regarding a lost or stolen passport (You can also fill out this statement online.)
    7. Money – normal passport fees will apply unless you’re the victim of a serious crime or a disaster
  3. Make your way to the nearest United States Embassy or consulate and report your passport as lost or stolen.
  4. If you have to leave for the States fairly soon, make sure and tell someone working at the embassy or consulate. They’ll do their best to make sure you have everything you need in time to go home.

It’s a fairly straightforward process, but only if you’re ready to go through it in the first place. Not every student going abroad for the first time would think to bring a photocopy of his or her passport or enough money to make an emergency replacement. Make sure you have those items stashed away in case of emergencies – it can happen. A smart place to stash them is online in services like Dropbox, with a tight password.  It might be smart to even bring a regulation passport-sized photo and have it ready to go.

There are also precautions to take to keep passport loss or theft from happening in the first place:

  1. Don’t wave it around. Keep your passport discreet so it will be less likely to be stolen.
  2. Only take it out when you need it. Stow it in the same place every time.
  3. Don’t store it in your checked luggage. Luggage can get lost, so can your passport.
  4. Don’t store it in an exterior pocket. A passport in the back of your pants is much more easily lifted than one in your jacket’s inside pocket.
  5. If you want to leave your passport where you’re staying, be extra careful. Store it in the hotel safe, not your room safe.
  6. Keep a copy of important documents with your emergency contacts and in online storage like Dropbox or iCloud.

Passports are just one travel category where an ounce of prevention can prevent a pound of worry. Get our Travel Safety Checklist to make sure you and your loved ones are going into the world confident and prepared.  We should all know how to depart smart and have rewarding safe journeys.