As a family who travels a lot together, we recently experienced a travel debacle of great magnitude. Call it bad luck, a huge failure, blunder, disaster, crisis, whatever you may. It was horrible.
With two small children we were traveling from the US to India. We had a stopover in London and due to extreme exhaustion, being distracted by small children and having too many bags, our most valuable possessions were stolen. Without sharing too many of the painful details, our bag with passports, visas, money, credit cards, laptop, phone, and many other important documents- including originals was stolen from right beneath our noses! We were in a foreign country and because of the magnitude of the loss, we were stranded in London for 12 days.
From someone who has just been through the crisis of losing all their most important stuff, here is my advice.
#1 Don’t Let Panic Paralyze You- Let it Drive You to Action
There will be a time for you to sit down and mourn the loss of your things, money, travel plans, etc – but it is not right now. Get busy. For us, we never expected to have all of our most important documents stolen, but we quickly jumped into action and prioritized which things needed to be taken care of first. Imagine the worst thing that could happen and take care of that first.
The first 24 hours are the most crucial any time you go through a crisis. Within hours of our stuff being stolen, our list panned out like this:
- Buying local SIM cards for our phones
- phone calls to credit card companies to cancel cards
- going to the police station to make a report
- trip to the US embassy to apply for emergency passports
- trying to track down iPhone, computer via FindMyiPhone (although this rarely ever works, we tried it anyway)
- trip to Indian consulate to inquire about getting replacement travel docs (visas/residency)
- contacting close friends and family to let them know what was going on.
- extending AirBNB stays, getting groceries, explaining the crisis to our kids and preparing to stay put since we knew we couldn’t travel
- contacting work and letting them know of our crisis and about the work responsibilities we would be missing. In our case it was delayed reports that were due, overlapping travel plans with a colleague and meetings that were going to be missed.
#2 Do Not Carry Cash
The era of cash is dead. There is no real reason to carry more than $200 cash, ever.
Make sure you have good credit cards and the phone numbers of your credit card companies readily accessible. Be sure to spread credit cards throughout several carry ons so you have a backup if one of your bags gets stolen (like ours did!) Have various methods of payment set up on your devices (Apple Pay, PayTM, etc)
#3 Do Not Play Hot Potato with Bags
Have a plan with your travel partner of who is responsible for which bags.
We always do this but somehow deviated from that plan due to sleeping children and exhaustion. We had an excess of bags and simply couldn’t keep track of all of them. It was taking us multiple trips up and down the stairs to bring them all up to our various places of residence. It was just too exhausting to carry all this stuff around and that certainly contributed to our nightmarish scenario.
#4 Do Not Blame Your Travel Buddy
Bad stuff happens to everyone. Blaming your travel buddy (spouse, business partner, friend, relative, etc) is not going to help anything. Neither is continuing to blame yourself. I can’t tell you how many times during our crisis we said “I wish that I would have…” Just stop. You can’t change anything now.
#5 Do Not Underestimate the Importance of Documents
We all know that making regular backups of our computer and phone is a best practice, yet we rarely do it. If you aren’t good at doing this, buy a service that does it automatically for you like DropBox or iCloud. Make paper copies of everything important and keep copies separate from your originals. Keep copies of important documents in your home where someone trusted can access them in your absence.
Take it from us, documents are the worst thing you can lose. Protect them with your life.
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