#Don’tTellSteve has consequently become one of Sarah and my favorite phrases while traveling. For example, miss your train to Porto because you stayed out until 6 am and are in serious need of McDonald’s breakfast = #Don’tTellSteve. Usually, it is a harmless phrase used in reference to sisters having more fun than an overprotective father would approve of. More recently, a #Don’tTellSteve moment involved our mom accidentally sending her passport back to the States in Sarah’s suitcase which left us stranded in Krakow over a holiday weekend. Lucky for Ang, she raised a problem solver.
Here are my true and tested steps to solving such a disaster:
Step #1: Remain Calm
This will be the hardest part, but trust me no good ever comes from losing your head, especially at a time like this. Take a few deep breaths and maybe a shot of the local liquor to help you become a functioning human.
Step #2: Get internet access and a working phone
You will need this to look up the nearest Consulate or Embassy and call them. When you are on the phone with the Consulate/Embassy be kind and polite - they will be much happier to help you! Explain your situation and set a time to come in. While on the phone with them get an estimate for the time by which they expect your temporary travel documents to be issued - this will be good to know for Step #3. For us, it was a holiday and the Consulate in Krakow was closed, we were able to get a hold of someone by calling the emergency line for U.S. citizens on the Consulate’s website.
*If you’re in Europe keep in mind most phone numbers have a “+” to start, you can get this by holding down the “0”.
Step #3: Make any necessary changes to your travel plans
With this, the best place to start is calling your travel provider (airline, train, hotel, etc) and explaining the situation. Again, being nice will get you far in this situation and customer service reps are likely to sympathize. We were not able to book a different flight with KLM Airlines, but we did get a full refund on our flight after filing a claim on their website as instructed by our fantastic customer service rep! We used Kayak to rebook our flights which turned out to not be too much more expensive, especially given our one day notice.
* Travel insurance is a lifesaver here, any unexpected costs may be covered under your plan so be sure to check! Our go-to provider is RoamRight.
Step #4: Fill out any necessary forms
If you have access to a printer this will speed up the process. If not, the Consulate/Embassy will have extra forms there that you can fill out. They are very similar to a standard passport application and you will need to know your social along with some family information.
In addition to the forms, you will likely need to get a new passport photo taken. This is quick and relatively cheap. In our case, we were lucky enough to have a photoshop right across from the Consulate. If you aren’t sure where to go for this the Consulate/Embassy will be able to direct you, they deal with this kind of thing all the time!
Step #5: Be thankful!
After a (hopefully) short wait you will have your new travel documents. Your temporary docs may be enough to get you on a flight back home or a temporary passport to last you a year - it all depends on where you are.
How to prepare for the worst:
Make sure you have a photocopy of your passport!!! I cannot stress this enough as it will make the entire process go quicker and help the Consulate/Embassy track down your records.
Bring a spare ID and extra form of payment (debit or credit card, extra cash, etc). I always keep an extra form of ID and payment in a safe place in case of emergencies!
Create an itinerary. When disaster strikes it will be much easier to have all your travel plans in one place rather than have to search through your email for some flight information.
In conclusion, I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to all the staff at the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland for helping to make this minor crisis as low stress and seamless as they possibly could. You are all rockstars, and we don’t know what we would have done without you!
Always the best,