I'm Traveling Alone and My Phone Got Stolen!

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In this technological age where everything is electronic, what would happen if you traveled to a foreign country and your phone was lost, broken, or stolen?

I recently traveled to Panama by myself and thought about this type of situation very seriously. My last two trips involved a family member or friend, so at least there was access to a second phone. These trips were also domestic, so it would have been fairly easy to find a Verizon store if needed. 

I also reminisced on the good old days when we had to follow road signs, buy a map at the local gas station, or call the operator from a pay phone to look up and call a number. Even if we had no money, we could still call collect!

Many of us can easily recall our childhood phone number, but now that this kind of data is stored in our phones, many of us may not even remember the cellphone number for a family member or close friend. 

If you are abroad, you may not be able to replace your phone until you get back to the U.S. and, if you happen to be traveling alone, you would not have access to a friend or family member’s device. 

With those realities in mind, here are a few action items for your pre-travel checklist that may help you should you find yourself without a phone:

1) Write down the hotel information and keep it in your pocket, both the phone number and address. If your phone is stolen or damaged while you are on an adventure, at least you will be able to locate the hotel or communicate where you are staying.

2) If you have your travel itinerary saved in your phone or in an airline app, it is advisable to make a hardcopy.

3) If you have purchased any sort of travel insurance, writing down the policy number and the phone number for the insurance company can be helpful.

4) If you have any medical information or insurance contact information that may be needed, you should carry a hard copy of that as well.

5) Select a few emergency contacts–friends or family–and write down their phone numbers in case you need to contact someone for help.

6) If not only your phone, but documents, such as passports, credit cards, or other items you need for the journey, happen to be stolen, having copies of everything you have in your wallet may make the situation easier. If you make a hard copy of your passport, you’ll want to store it separately from your passport and not carry it on your person.

7) When making copies of credit cards, make a copy of the credit card number as well as the phone number for the credit card company. Some companies, like American Express, have concierge services that can be helpful.

8) If you have special tours or excursions planned, write down all pertinent information such as contact info, dates, locations and payment confirmations. 

9) You will want to have the phone number for your cellphone carrier so you can alert them and have them lock and erase the data. If you happen to have a computer you may be able to use “find my device” and do this yourself. Also keep in mind if you use your phone for business you will want to contact your IT department as there may be sensitive information on the device that needs to be wiped.  

10) Last, but not least, store all of this information in a suitcase or in the safe at the hotel–but don’t forget to keep the information for the hotel on you so you can find your way back there. 

Finally, here are a few tips from a colleague that has traveled the world:

“I use TripIt - the highest-rated trip planner and flight tracker, to organize my trips and just print out the itinerary, as it has all pertinent information automatically populated from the booking confirmation emails (dates, confirmation numbers, address, phone, etc). I add a copy of everyone’s passport and the backs of my credit cards and printouts of any travel visas or other required documents (plane tickets, rental confirms, etc) and a printed map of each of the places I’ll go. Once the paper package is in place, I scan it into the cloud so everything is easy to reprint if it gets lost or stolen.”

“You can always buy a cheap phone in another country and resync from the online backups (another good recommendation is make sure your phone backs up to the cloud). Apple phones are more expensive, but it may still be worth buying one overseas, as you are likely to have to buy a new one anyway and the value of having a phone with all pertinent info probably far outweighs any additional cost of the phone above what you would pay in the U.S. You may also be able to just log into the cloud and get any information you need from an old cloud phone backup.”

Here is some additional reading if you want more information on how to prepare for this type of situation: