1) Apply for a passport. There will soon be few trips Americans can take without one, so don’t be caught unprepared. Now is the best time to apply, before the rush begins again in January for summer travel. They won’t be getting any cheaper either, so there’s no hurt in getting yours now.
2) Snap some passport pictures. These needn’t cost you an arm and leg at your local Walgreens or photo studio. Check out Less Than a Shoestring’s proven tips for taking and printing passport pics yourself. Not only handy when you decide to apply for your passport or you need to have one replaced in an emergency, they are often required when applying for travel visas or for transportation (discount) cards abroad. Don’t forget: don’t smile! (Check out biometric guidelines around the world (US, UK, Finland).)
3) Photocopy your passport. A good copy is essential for speedy replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Put one in each of the suitcases you regularly use (serves double-duty in case you lose your passport OR your luggage), tucked in an internal pocket, then forget about it. For good measure, scan your passport; depending on your paranoia level, keep a copy in a web-accessible email account, with someone you trust, or on the portable media holder/player you’ll be carrying.
4) Make an essential contacts sheet. Put together a Word or Excel document with the collect calling information for your credit card companies, insurance company and bank. Print out and keep with your passport copies in case of wallet theft, blocked ATM usage or a medical emergency.
Smart tips for what to do when emergencies strike abroad can be found here.