- Travel

Important Documents Every Traveler Should Carry

Even with careful planning, emergencies can occur while traveling. Whom would you call if you became ill on a trip? What do you do if you are the victim of a crime? Where would you go if you lost your passport?

Before you begin your journey, be sure to have the following documents and make extra copies! Start a traveling file and keep copies of all your important documents in it at home. Take copies of the policies you’re bringing with you and place them in your carry-on or money belt.

Insurance Documents

Health Insurance: Keep a copy of your insurance policy, contact phone numbers, and policy numbers. Make notes on what is covered while you are away from home.

Travelers Insurance: If you use travelers insurance, keep copies of policies for quick reference. These policies can include trip interruption or cancellation insurance, travel life insurance, baggage replacement, and travel medical coverage.

Credit Card Insurance Coverage: Many credit cards will provide travel insurance for a variety of situations such as lost luggage, lost or broken items, and even life and medical coverage if your trip is paid using the card. Know what your credit card covers while traveling, and keep a copy of the policy.


If you are a frequent international traveler, keep your passport up-to-date in case of last minute trips. Some countries require that your U.S. passport be valid at least six months or longer beyond the dates of your trip. It can take several weeks to receive or renew a passport. Make two copies of your passport, keep one for your travel file, and take one with you while traveling. A copy of your passport will help agents to replace it if your passport is lost or stolen.

Credit Card Numbers and Contacts

Write down the card numbers, expiration date, and contact phone numbers of all credit cards and phone cards, and travelers check replacement numbers. Make two copies, one for your travel file and one to take with you. Inform your credit card company that you will be using your card to make purchases in a foreign country. Many credit card companies have security controls that will invalidate your credit card if the card shows “out-of-pattern” buying such as foreign purchases. Having the credit card company putting a hold on your credit card can be embarrassing and time consuming to straighten out.

Emergency Contact Names

You should have a list of names and phone numbers of family and/or friends that can be contacted in case of an emergency. Make at least 3 copies and carry one on your person, one for your home file and one for your carry-on.

Medical Records

Make sure your health insurance covers you in foreign countries. If you have a specific health condition, have your doctor make a copy of the condition and possible treatment to carry with you in case of emergencies. Make an extra copy and carry this on you in case you become incapable of taking care of yourself.

Health Considerations

Have a list with the name and phone number of your doctor in case of emergencies.

If you require medication, take enough extra in case of extended stays or loss of baggage and pack your prescriptions and medications in your carry-on luggage. Your medication may be considered illegal in foreign countries so check with the embassy website of the country you will be visiting for listings of medications that you may need to take. 

Location of U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Before you leave the U.S. write down the address and phone number of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Registering at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate makes your presence and whereabouts known in case of an emergency. During a disaster overseas, American consular officers can assist in evacuation if necessary. But they cannot assist you if they do not know where you are. A country where there are no U.S. officials, you should register at the U.S. embassy or consulate in an adjacent country and leave an itinerary.

Information on your welfare or whereabouts may not be released to friends or family at home without your written consent. Remember to leave a detailed itinerary and the numbers or copies of your passport or other citizenship documents with a friend or relative in the United States.

The American Citizens Services has offices set up at U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world to assist Americans abroad in emergency situations, including arrests, death cases, financial or medical emergencies, and welfare and whereabouts inquiries.

Most of us will never deal with major emergencies while traveling; but, when an emergency occurs, it can be critical to be prepared.