In today’s tech savvy travel world, one may think there is no longer a need to pack paper for that next trip. Sure, all those techtastic mobile devices, travel apps and cloud services can provide practically all the travel details you need while traveling. But what if that mobile device dies just as you need your electronic boarding pass? Or your handbag is stolen, along with your passport? What if that travel app crashes or no cell signal is available, rendering your stored travel information inaccessible?
It’s true. With today’s mobile technology, you don’t need to bring reams of paper travel documents. Many can be left unprinted, simply stored on a mobile app or in a secure cloud service. However, there are several essential documents worth packing a paper copy of. They won’t take up much space in your bags, but they may just save your travel day!
My Essential Paper Travel Documents
Here are 11 essential travel documents I still pack in paper format. These are my “just in case” documents for unexpected computer, mobile device or app failures, lack of wi-fi or cell service, or lost or stolen documents. Several would be challenging to replace if the original is lost or stolen while traveling. Not all of these documents may relevant to your specific trip, but for those that are, you should consider packing a back-up paper copy.
1.Copy of Passport & Travel Visa
You hope it never happens, but a lost or stolen passport can wreak havoc on your travel plans. Having a copy on hand that proves who you are if the original has gone missing can minimize serious travel interruption. Don’t forget to also make copies of any travel visas!
2. Copy of Driver’s License
For the same reason as a passport, the loss of your driver’s license can create all sorts of unwanted travel issues. Having a copy of your driver’s license tucked in your bag may be the difference of keeping your trip on track, or derailing it. If the country you are traveling to requires an international driver’s license, make a copy of that as well.
3. Printed Airline Boarding Passes
Not all airports accept electronic passes, airline app glitches happen, and mobile device batteries die. Then there are those debilitating system-wide airline computer failures all over the news lately! All are reasons to print your boarding pass. You may not need it, but who knows when tech might fail. If an airport or airline computer system goes down, a paper boarding pass may be the fastest – or only – way to board that plane.
4. Printed Railway Passes
Copies of railway passes are another essential document worth stashing in your bag. You’ll be happy you did if you misplace the original, a computer or mobile device glitch happens or electronic passes or tickets aren’t accepted. It will be much easier at the rail ticket office if you can provide evidence that you are the owner of a rail pass.
5. Copies of Hotel & Car Rental Reservations
You finally arrive at the car rental desk or the hotel check-in counter. Sadly, your mobile device is dead, rendering your reservations inaccessible. Yes, your reservation will most likely be found with just your name. In that rare instance it isn’t, or if the rate doesn’t seem to be the same as what you booked, that copy may salvage your reservation, and your rate!
6. Copies of Medication & Eyewear Prescriptions
Sure, you’ve probably packed plenty of your required medications, contact lenses and your eye glasses. But are you prepared for that accidental spillage? Medication left behind at the last hotel? Your glasses falling to the bottom of a murky lake? You will be if you’ve packed copies of essential prescription medications and eyewear.
7. List of Emergency Contact Information
Tuck a piece of paper with essential emergency contact information into your wallet or hand bag. It won’t take up much space, and could come in quite handy. Include key family or friends, medical doctors, house sitters, and whoever else you might contact in an emergency. Don’t forget to include the nearest embassy when traveling internationally.
8. List of Travel Destination Contact Information
Create a “cheat sheet” with essential travel contact information, including your airline’s customer service number, hotel address and phone number, tour guide or agency point of contact, and any other important contact information you might need while traveling. Tuck it into your wallet or handbag for expedited access if needed.
9. Printed Travel Itinerary
Packing a printed copy of your daily travel plans is always a good idea. It doesn’t have to be full of details! Just a one-sheet synopsis of each day’s main event and relevant contact information will suffice. You may not always have immediate access to information stored on your mobile device. Note: You can combine #8 and #9 into one document.
10. Proof of Health Insurance
Hopefully you will never need to pull out proof of health insurance. But medical events happen. People get sick. Medical attention may be required. Be prepared to show proof of health insurance where ever you travel.
11. Proof of Travel / Trip Insurance
Bought trip insurance? Sure hope you don’t need to use it! But if you do, you’ll be happy you packed along a copy of relevant information, including insurance company name, your policy number, and who to contact if need be.
Where to Keep Those Copies?
Copies of essential travel documents should be kept on your person when traveling to and from your destination. They won’t do any good if they’ve been packed away in a checked bag, especially if that bag is delayed or misplaced. To lighten the paper load, some documents can be combined, like #8 and #9, #10 and #11.
Once at your destination, lock up the copies in a room safe. If a safe is not available, hide them. Just remember to retrieve the copies when you leave! And don’t leave your travel documents sitting out in plain sight. Lastly, as tempting as it may be, do not leave the documents in the trash when you head home. That includes used boarding passes. Vital personal information could be stolen by unscrupulous people.
Just not a fan of bringing a few sheets of paper with you? Leave copies of critical travel information with someone you trust back home, or in a location where they can be easily accessed in an emergency. Just remember. Not having the essentials with you can add valuable time as you wait for them to be retrieved and uploaded to you.
Another option is to store essential travel documents in a secure cloud storage service, a secure mobile app like DropBox or MustBin, or on a USB drive. Screen shots are also an alternative. But more on electronic storage options in another post!
What Paper Do You Travel With?
Planning for something that probably won’t happen is a must for my own sense of security. Though I have never needed the paper copies of our passports or drivers’ licenses, it’s comforting to know that if the worst happens, I have the documents to help recover. On the other hand, I have needed to retrieve scripts because of glasses flying off a speeding boat and medication left behind at a previous hotel, proof of insurance for illnesses on vacation, and copies of reservations for debates over booked car rental rates. It happens!
So that’s my list of paper travel documents I won’t leave home without. How about you? Do you have travel documents that you bring copies of whenever you hit the road? Do share! Oh, and print this post to remind you which documents you should travel with!
Read more about my other travel essentials posts at:
- 6 Digital Ways to Keep Essential Travel Documents Safe, Secure & Handy
- 15 Essential Travel Apps I Won’t Leave Home Without