When I travel, I carry a piece of paper with my personal information on it. It has not been useful very often but, when it’s been useful, it’s been very useful indeed.
The golden rule here is that I won’t put anything down that I don’t mind losing. So passwords, credit card details, bank information, even my social security number are all out. Naturally, all the sensitive information would be very nice to have on hand; you can easily come up with scenarios where this information would get you out of some emergency. But, on balance, it is not worth the anxiety when you inevitably lose this piece of paper, let alone the damage if someone malicious actually gets hold of it.
Here is the pdf that I use to record my personal info:
The first section is for the key account numbers that I might need, again excluding everything that I might lose sleep over if it got stolen. The things you might consider here are:
- Frequent flyer numbers
- Insurance policy numbers
- Roadside assistance (AAA) number
- Passport number (this is a little risky but I include it)
- Drivers license number (a little risky)
- National ID or social security number (too risky for me)
It’s good to have a few phone numbers and email addresses written down, even though everything is automatic in your phone these days. Key contacts might include:
- Your own number
- Insurance company
- Roadside assistance (AAA)
- The number to call to report a stolen credit card
- The main line at work or school and a couple trusted colleagues
You might already have your vaccines organized on a green or yellow card but it is probably worth looking through that again and re-recording it. I was keeping my yellow card in a forgotten drawer and just assumed it was all correct and uncomplicated. When I finally had to get a bunch of shots for a trip in Africa, I learned that the card was full of imperfections and open questions – boosters I’d missed and dates that were hard to read and confusing. My doctor at the time wasn’t flustered and I guess it’s always like this but it’s still probably worth ten minutes of your time to try to organize your vaccine situation. I’ve included a few rows here to jot down your vaccination history. Obviously don’t throw away your green or yellow card.
I’ve also included a space for your blood type, which you can test at a laboratory or even at home these days. In addition, it might be good to write down prescriptions and dosages, including the prescription for your glasses if you wear them.
I’ve included some of the main emergency numbers in some big countries popular with travelers. International emergency numbers are a whole messy patchwork but you have a decent chance of getting an ambulance with one the numbers I’ve listed.
I write down my clothes measurements on this paper too – shirt, pants and shoes.
I included a few empty boxes that I use for whatever but mostly addresses, which I find I constantly need and can never remember.
Here is a version of the whole sheet with fake information.