how to keep your documents safe on the road

Adventure or off-the-beaten track travel, especially for those who haven't done much backpacking before, can be a little daunting. With so many unknown and new experiences in a foreign land, it's normal to worry about the worst case scenarios and 'what ifs'.

However, for most of us, these awful things we spend time worrying about before getting on that plane are actually, thankfully, pretty rare. With a little common sense, preparation and awareness of your surroundings, the majority of travellers will stay safe and out of serious trouble.

Yet, petty theft, simple hospital visits and dealing with stifling bureaucracy are not unknown on the travel circuit. And it is for these sorts of exceptional and unexpected moments that we continually stress the importance of being prepared in advance, such as understanding how travel insurance works.

Before setting off on any trip, an essential part of our preparations is to take the time to make a document folder. Although we'd rather spend our pre-trip time exclusively reading inspirational blog posts, planning our wanderlust-filled route and making sure that we've got just the right amount of photogenic outfits packed, dedicating a few hours to organising for the less fun aspects of travel is hugely important. Here are our top recommendations for keeping your documents safe and accessible on the road.

Having all your essential travel information backed-up and readily available – organised, itemised and containing all that you need to help out in a jam – will be a godsend in the aftermath of a robbery, accident or loss. It will save you lot of time and frustration in your efforts to resolve the situation and get back to having the time of your life.

Although the list may vary for short and long-term trips, these are the most important documents for any traveller to have copied and secured remotely:

Emergency contact sheet | list the phone numbers of your next of kin, insurance claims helpline, stolen bank card helpline, relevant embassy and/or consular assistance details for the country in which you're travelling.

Insurance policy | the full policy often runs to dozens of pages so it isn't sensible to take a paper copy with you.

Copy of your passport ID page | These can be required at various junctures and we always recommend keeping a printed out passport photocopy with you at all times. Having a high-quality scan easily accessible means you can easily print one out once you inevitably lose the paper version, or it becomes too tatty to be useful.

Similarly, having a copy stored remotely will help tremendously in the event that your passport is lost or stolen.

Copy of any visas | In some countries and for some nationalities, this may present less of an issue but, if you've gone through the process of paying for a short or long-term visa for your stay, then you definitely need to keep a scan of that somewhere. If your passport goes missing, then don't count on a country making it easy for you to stay or to find proof of your visa in their system.

Vaccination record and certificates | From personal experience, we know how difficult it can be to remember what vaccinations you've had over the years if you lose your proof or jab record.

Further, a number of countries require evidence that you've had certain vaccinations ( i.e. yellow fever), so having an electronic copy of your record and certificate, in addition to your originals, is advisable.

Medical information | For those of you who have specific allergies or medical requirements, then it's a good idea to have this to hand (less so for you, but more for others in case something goes wrong). Include any and all relevant medical information – including allergies, medical conditions and the meds you take.

Proof of onward travel | Whilst the majority of borders we've encountered don't request it, proof of onward travel is something that a few countries simply demand from tourists. Having a copy of any flight and bus tickets to hand could mean the difference between being granted entry to a country – and not.

Proof of purchase | Carrying any big ticket items on the trip that are covered by your insurance? It might be an idea to carry copies of the receipts in case you need to file a claim whilst still on the road.

how do i store my documents on the road?

Traditionally, a folder stuffed full of paper copies of these essential documents would have been the way to go, and, for things such as copies of our passports and an emergency contact sheet, that's still our preferred approach. However, with space in our daypacks at a premium and most of these documents not being required 99% of the time (and usually only in an emergency), it no longer feels like the best method.

Previously, we considered emailing ourselves copies of everything, but that poses the additional dilemma of locating a reliable internet connection when you're in a jam, in a country which may not necessarily have a great infrastructure. Having the documents stored 'off-line' on your mobile phone can be a good short-term option but on this long-term trip alone, both our phones have died unexpectedly, plus they're the most commonly stolen thing from travellers. So, as soon as your phone goes, you'd have to start the backing-up process all over again.

Instead, we've found that using a USB stick is an excellent and secure way to store and back-up our important travel documents electronically.

It removes the requirement to find an internet connection meaning you can quickly and easily access all your travel documents after plugging it into any computer. Its portability also means that we can take it along with us in our daypack on those multi-day treks excursions when a bulky paper-document folder just isn't feasible due to limited space.

In addition to backing up your important documents on a USB stick and with certain paper copies, whilst you're still at home we would recommend making a duplicate version of all your travel documents and leaving copies with family members or close friends – or even giving it to them on travel-themed custom flash drives. If something terrible happens and they're contacted, they will be able save a lot of time and uncertainty by having all your relevant information to hand and start getting busy helping you out of a sticky situation in some far off land. 


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This article is sponsored by USB Memory Direct.

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