How to protect your travel documents

From your passport to airline tickets, driving licence to travel insurance details, losing any important documentation while you’re away can be a real inconvenience. So it’s important that you keep everything safe and accessible for the duration of your holiday.

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 24 August 2022  | 3 mins read

Key points

  • Make hard copies and electronic copies of important travel documents in case they get lost or stolen
  • Send yourself emails of scanned documents, or upload them to cloud storage so you can access important information when you need to
  • Send copies of important scanned documents to a trusted family member or friend who can send it to you if required

How to protect your travel documents

1. Make copies

Though most things are done online these days, if you do prefer to travel with printed documentation, then make two copies of everything. Keep one set in a zipped plastic bag in your suitcase and another set in your carry-on bag.

2. Electronic storage

Even if you prefer to carry hard copies of documentation on your travels, it’s wise to scan everything and keep electronic copies as well.

That way, if anything goes missing or gets stolen, you’ll have the back-ups at your fingertips.

Once scanned, you can either email the documents to yourself, store them on a USB stick or upload the copies to a secure server such as iCloud or DropBox. Most online storage systems (cloud services) offer some free space - often up to about 15GB.

3. Protect your documents from damage

Keep your papers and passport in waterproof zip-up plastic document bags to protect from spills or humidity on your travels.

4. Keep them close

If you have to take your documents out and about with you, consider:

  • Pickpockets target travellers, so it’s important to keep your valuables and documents secure, particularly around tourist attractions, train stations, public transport, museums and restaurants
  • Keep your documents in internal zipped compartments in your bags
  • Wear a money belt to carry your passport

5. Put them into secure storage

If your hotel room has a safe, then store your documents in it. Otherwise, keep your documents in a bag that locks.

6. Leave copies with a family member or friend at home

Send copies of your travel insurance, itinerary, booking confirmations, passport and credit card information to a trusted close family member or friend, so they can easily access them should you need it.

What documents should I back up?

It’s a good idea to electronically back up every document you may need on holiday, including:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Driver’s licence
  • Credit card information
  • Travellers’ cheques
  • Travel tickets
  • Itinerary
  • Reservations
  • Travel insurance documents
  • UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or the older European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
  • Emergency contacts list
  • Medical prescriptions
  • NHS Covid pass
  • Car rental booking

How to backup your documents

Backing up your documents means that, if they get lost, you’ll be able to access copies of them quickly.

You’ll need to take clear photos with your phone or tablet or scan the documents.

Some phones have inbuilt apps that can scan documents - for example the Notes app on iOS and the GoogleDrive app on Android. Or you can download a free scanning app such as Microsoft Office Lens or SwiftScan.

When taking scans or photos, make sure you position your phone or tablet directly above to avoid shadows, so that all information on the document is clearly visible.

With things like your credit card, remember to scan the front and back of the card, which contains emergency contact details if your card is lost or stolen. When backing up your passport, scan the page with your name, passport number and other important information.

After you’ve taken scans or photos, you can:

  • Email yourself copies and download them onto your phone or tablet. You could also email copies to your family at home
  • Load them onto a USB stick
  • Upload them to a secure storage server such as iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or DropBox. Saving the documents somewhere separate from your phone or tablet means that if your gadgets get lost or stolen, you’ll still have access to electronic copies

What if I lose my passport?

If you lose your passport or it gets stolen when you’re away on holiday, contact the local police to report it. They should give you a police report, which you’ll need to keep to show to your travel insurance company if you make a claim.

You should then contact the closest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate who can cancel the passport. You can also do this online.

You then need to apply for an emergency travel document which can be used in place of your passport to get home. You may need an appointment at the Embassy, High Commission or Consulate to do this. Take along any relevant paperwork (this is where scans or photos of your lost passport can help).

Travel insurance will usually cover you for the cost of getting the emergency travel document, plus any other expenses you incur.