Air travel is stressful. A small mistake like arriving late or a forgotten reservation is typically manageable. Losing access to your passport in a foreign country, however, is a different story altogether.
The headache of contacting your country’s foreign embassy, and going through the hurdles required to make your next flight without a passport, is an experience you will remember for years to come.
Never put your passport in your carry-on luggage.
Carry-on luggage, by definition, seems like a safe place for your passport. After all, you are going to carry your luggage onto the plane where it will be with you in case you need it, right?
The airline has assured you that you are allowed to have a carry-on bag on your flight. Well, with a majority of airlines charging for checked baggage and travelers looking to save money, the space in overhead bins is not as plentiful as it once was.
In a time when baggage fees were not as expensive or ever-present as they are now, travelers brought appropriately sized suitcases in addition to their carry-on.
With these fees increasing, those same travelers are incentivized to bring a carry-on luggage item along with an oversized backpack to avoid paying extra for their flight. Once on the plane, they store both items in the overhead bins, meaning there will be less space for others.
Your carry-on may not stay with you on your flight
There is a high likelihood then, with this seemingly disappearing overhead space, that you may need to gate check your carry-on that you’ve packed full of “essential” items. Most of the items in your carry-on are there to make flying more enjoyable.
Arriving at your destination and finding out you don’t have your neck pillow will not ruin your day. Arriving at your destination and finding out that your checked bag containing your passport has been delayed, is less of an inconvenience and more of an emergency.
A bag being delayed or sent on another plane is not the only concern.
Gate checking a carry-on bag containing your passport can lead to serious complications even when the airline’s systems are operating as intended. When your bag does accompany you on your plane in the cargo hold, there is still a chance that you will not have access to your bag prior to the security checkpoint.
You may not have access to your passport when you need it most
If you are crossing international borders, it is very likely that Immigration will be your first check-in after disembarking from your flight.
In most airports, you go through Immigration, baggage claim, and then Customs. Without access to your checked bag prior to Immigration, you will be missing an item essential to continuing your trip.
Layovers can also prove problematic for similar reasons. On a layover, your bags are usually transferred to your next flight in an effort by the airline to make life easier for you. This is a problem if there is another security check prior to boarding your connecting flight.
Your passport will be on its way to your destination, leaving you behind to deal with a grumpy TSA agent.
Where to store your passport when flying
The best practice when traveling with your passport is to keep it on your person at all times. This prevents any chance of you not having your passport when you need it most, and means you have one less thing to worry about on your trip to paradise.
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