Sometimes when I am making a presentation at an international training tour, I will pause to have a “commercial” for a passport belt; wearing one is my top travel tip. I have had to deal with many situations on tour, but I have never had to deal with a lost passport (knock on wood!). If you take steps to safeguard your group’s passports and if you are prepared to deal with a lost or stolen passport, then you can perhaps avoid a situation that can become a travel nightmare.
Safeguard Your Passport
Group leaders should teach their students how to safeguard their passports. Be proactive to decrease your chances of having to deal with a missing passport while on tour. I require all of my students to wear a passport belt, the khaki or light-colored kind. (My favorite ones are made by Eagle Creek and I order them from Campmor for $13 each. I get a 10% institutional discount when I place the order through my tour account at school.)
Group leaders can use passport belts as incentives for getting students to register early for a tour, they can collect money for individual orders, or they can pay for a group order through a fundraiser. I tell my students that I will never forgive them if they lose their passport on tour and that I will let everyone back home know how they ruined my perfect record for no lost passports. (Actually, those are idle threats and I can’t believe that I would be so mean as to do that, but as a group leader, having to deal with a lost or stolen passport would be a real headache and a pain in the you-know-where for me!)
What goes into a passport belt?
• Credit cards
• ATM/debit card
• Cash, American and Foreign
• Driver’s License (or photo ID)
• Copy of Birth certificate
The passport belts should be worn between the underwear and the outer clothing (pants, shorts, or skirt). Do not let the belt show and never wear it outside your clothing.
Wearing In Different Climates
I have worn my passport belt in all kinds of climates, the worst being summer in Asia. The belt will get soaked with your perspiration, so to protect my valuable “papers,” I will put them in separate, plastic bags. The thin, snack-size bags work the best and are often the right size for your cash. I learned this the hard way when I was in India and I had to use the hotel hair dryer to dry out my cash. As a group leader, I keep my tips and “group kitty” money (what I call the money my group raises together and what I spend on the group while we are on tour) in my passport belt.
My female students who like to wear low-slung jeans often complain about wearing passport belts. I will give them another option. They can purchase a passport pouch worn around their necks and under their clothing.
With all of the stricter airport security measures in place,
I tell my groups not to wear their passport belts when we are going from airport to airport. I ask them to place their passport belts in a deep, inside pocket of their carry-on bag or backpack. They will need to be able to get their passports out easily and quickly along with their boarding passes. After everyone goes through security, group leaders and chaperones should check with students to make certain they have returned their passports and boarding passes to the inside packet of their carry-on bags. Wearing a passport belt on the long flights might not be too comfortable. As long as it stays in the carry-on bag and not taken out during the flights, that should be fine.
Passport belts should not be put on in public. Go to a toilet for this or put it on once you get on the bus (with your back turned, of course). Passports should be taken out only when an official asks for it. On a tour of Eastern Europe, we had to show our passports when we crossed the border from the Czech Republic to Slovakia. If you are on an overnight train, you need to sleep with your passport belt worn underneath your clothing. Since I am the group leader of educational tours, I’m a firm believer in students learning how to become independent and responsible. Safeguarding your own passport and money is part of the tour learning experience. I practice what I preach. Whenever I travel, I wear my passport belt all the time. When I’ve stayed in hostels, I’ve taken my passport belt to the shower room in a large plastic bag.
Each morning, students should take out the amount of money they think they will need for that day of touring and put it in a secure pocket or a change purse. No one should be seen in public trying to dig money out of the passport belt. If you need to use an ATM card or credit card, carry it in a safe place outside of the passport belt and return it after you have used it, preferably in a private location like a toilet. No passport should ever be left in an empty hotel room. Keep the passport in your sight at all times, especially when you exchange money at a bank or exchange bureau.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2…