When Travel Gets Messy

Sometimes a trip is exactly as you’d planned. Everything goes smoothly, and there are no issues whatsoever. That’s the dream and how we wish it could always be! Other times, you may be drinking coffee on a beautiful day in Chicago and suddenly your purse is nowhere to be found. Your phone, driver’s license, and all your cash and credit cards are gone. What then? Unfortunately, this happened to me just over a week ago. I have a few tips about what to do when travel gets messy.

1. Stay Calm

It’s so easy to work yourself into a frenzy. Take a breath and think about what to do next. For me, that was turning on find my iPhone to see if there was even a potential of recovering my phone. We actually managed to track it down and it was buried in a flowerpot near Millennium Park in Chicago! My best guess is that they didn’t want to be tracked and had plans to come back for it later. This can also serve as a reminder to make sure your phone is backed up. You never know when that will be necessary.

2. Try To Remember What You Had In Your Bag

Think through what cards were in your wallet and what you need to do to report them as stolen. I logged into my banking apps on my phone and reported them stolen. I was able to request replacements to be sent to my home address. Depending on how long you’ll be traveling, you can request a replacement card to be delivered to your hotel.

Common Items

  • Credit Cards: This is a great time to remind you to come up with a pin code that cannot be guessed based on your other personal information. Thankfully mine was totally random, and my bank notified me immediately when the thief attempted to withdraw money from an ATM and used the wrong pin. Date of birth is a common guess, so change your pin now if that’s what yours is!
  • Debit Card
  • Checkbook: This is a tough one to have in your bag. Call your bank and see what they can do for you. I ended up closing my account and opening a new one. The bank can also issue a stop pay if you know what check numbers you had in your bag.
  • Driver’s License: You’ll be able to tell your local DMV that your license was stolen when you go in to replace it. It may even be an option for you to replace online.
  • Vaccine Card: Call the location where you received your vaccine card and request a new one. If you received your vaccine at Walgreens or CVS they will be able to search your records in their system at any location and issue you a replacement.
  • Medication: Notify your pharmacy is there’s anything you need replaced immediately. They should be able to transfer the script to a local option so you can pick up your prescription.

3. File a Police Report

I didn’t call the police, but I did file an online police report quickly to make sure it was reported and that I had that paperwork for myself as well.

4. Make a Money Plan

Probably the most stressful part to think about. If you’re traveling with someone, that’s easier. Make sure you keep track of expenses and settle up when you get home. If you’re traveling solo, call your bank and see what options they give you. You may be able to request a cash advance through your credit card as well.

5. Prepare For Your Journey Home

I emailed TSA that evening to see what I needed to do to make it back to Kansas City later in the week. Since I had no other form of ID, no credit cards, or anything to prove my identity, I was advised to arrive for security screening earlier than I normally would. The process was straightforward, although it did take quite a bit longer.

My experience involved working with a TSA supervisor who asked me a series of questions. While he asked e the questions he was on the phone with someone who was simultaneously fact-checking me. It was a little nerve-wracking, but nothing you shouldn’t be able to answer if you are answering questions about yourself. I then went through additional screening where the TSA officers looked through my bag after it went through the X-ray machine. You could alternatively have someone send your passport to avoid the extra hassle! Here’s a list of Acceptable TSA IDs.

Additional Tips

  • Set up and know your apple id if you have an iPhone. I would never have found my phone otherwise. This experience also affirmed my apple watch purchase as I was able to use it to notify my bank that an ATM withdrawal attempt was not me.
  • Make copies of all of your important documents prior to travel.
  • If you don’t have to take your car keys with you, don’t. This was one thing I didn’t have to think about thankfully since I was dropped off at the airport. If you do have your keys with you, try to leave those in your hotel room in the safe.
  • Apple Air Tags: I have ordered these and put them inside my purse, and attached to my car keys. They’re helpful at home as well! They allow you to use the “find my” feature for items other than your Apple products.
  • I will be traveling with two separate wallets in the future. One that is my main wallet, and one with an emergency form of ID, cash, and an extra credit card that will be kept in my hotel room in the safe. Seperate your valuables and only keep what you need with you.
  • Go through your purse & wallet before a trip. Take out anything that may not pertain to your trip. And know what’s in your wallet. Consider traveling with just the necessities instead of all your membership cards from home.
  • Prioritize things in order of importance. Nearly everything is replaceable, and it makes it so much easier to look at the situation from that perspective. What needs your attention first?

Don’t Let Fear Keep You Home

Whether you’re traveling or at your local mall, there’s always a chance for something to go wrong. Don’t let the fear that something could go wrong stop you from going on your next trip! This happened within two hours of arriving in Chicago, the very beginning of a five-day trip. I went on to have such a great time in Chicago! A city that I’ve loved exploring for many years. I’m writing this post on a bus on my way to Cape Cod. It took a week for me to replace the items that were taken, and I am on to the next adventure. Travel does get messy sometimes, but we continue to learn, grow, and never stop exploring despite the messiness. That’s just part of the journey!