Fact: The government loses things

Recently, I’ve had several friends lament stories of replacing paperwork submitted to the government, never to be returned.

It’s so bad that one of those friends may not be legally married — for the last 19 years! — as she cannot confirm that her Jamaican marriage certificate was ever recognized by the providence of Ontario. She does know they lost the first copy, and when she sent the second/last one she had…. and never heard back…. they just hoped for the best. A possible return/relocation to the U.S. has shined a big fat light on this problem.(update – resolved! And married! lol)

More common and less dramatic stories include the passport office failing to return a birth certificate. Apparently, it’s easier to prove you were born in the U.S. than it is to prove you were married in Jamaica. Let this be a lesson to you.

Relinquishing important documents is a necessary, and uneasy, part of many processes. Before you ship off the sole, ragged copy of your birth certificate, take the fifteen minutes to what it would take to get a backup or replacement.

An ounce of prevention, and all that…

Let’s get real for a minute

Bad things can happen on your dream vacation. There. I said it. It’s ok, you’ll get through it.


If you plan. It’s easier to plan and prepare in advance than it is to react and recover outside of your comfort zone.

When we went to Europe in ’99, Trisha and I did a lot of planning. As a professional photographer, she was incredibly concerned about her camera. And rightfully so. Because it got stolen.

Not kidding.

We know it was taken from under our noses in the McDonald’s inside the Barcelona train station. We don’t know who took it, or exactly when it was taken. What we do know is that anything someone wants to take, they will. (We also know that if you get robbed at 11:45 pm in the Barcelona train station, you will spend the first 25 minutes at the police station getting yelled at for being at the train station so late. Sigh.)

Before we left the States, Trisha got extra insurance on her camera. Extra? Exactly. Many insurance policies don’t cover international travel. So if you are traveling with costly items you don’t want to pay to replace, investigate your insurance well in advance. And if something happens, be sure to get a copy of the police report. Even if it’s in Spanish.

When you start your packing list, ask yourself: will I really use it? Can I afford to lose it? Is it worth the risk?

While you’re meeting with your insurance agent about your property, you may also want to explore supplemental life insurance for your vacation. I’ve never gotten travel life insurance, but it may be right for you. Any number of factors could make it the right choice in the future.

In addition to insurance, there are a few things which you should get together in preparation for mayhem. Domestic travel requires less planning, which isn’t surprising. Here are a few items which you should consider gathering to leave with someone trustworthy (and whose name and number can be found in your baggage and in your cell phone)

– A list of your credit card numbers, with expiration dates, and their billing/contact numbers.
– A copy of your itinerary, with flights, hotel and transportation. If you know it, someone else should know it. If you don’t, try to give realistic estimates.

– Everything mentioned above.
– A photocopy of the inside of your passport. (If you have extra photos, good on ya. Leave those too!)
– Copies of all the prescriptions you’re taking with you AND any you’re leaving at home which you may need in an emergency or delay (including glasses/contacts).
– A copy of your homeowners/supplemental property insurance.
– A copy of your medical insurance cards.