You can be having the most wonderful time in the world on a vacation, but nothing turns it to horrible faster than losing your phone. In a situation where you’re in a foreign country and don’t speak the language, things can become downright disastrous.
What do you do when you misplace your connection to the world at large, and likely other people you’re traveling with? Could you have done much to prevent it beforehand? Now that it’s gone, how do you move forward?
We have solutions and tips for all of these questions. Whether you’re getting ready for a trip, or you’re already abroad, if you’ve misplaced your phone or worried you will, read on to see what to do in this worst-case scenario.
If you can, have a plan in advance
If you, or someone in your travel group, is often forgetful it’s better to have a plan in place in case of phone loss. If disaster strikes, it’s less impactful on the trip. This can mean taking precautions to not lose a phone in the first place, like getting a special travel belt or bag with a phone pocket, so it’s always near you, or setting alerts to remember to look for it.
Another option might be giving your phone to someone who is less likely to misplace it, or invest in a small tracking device, like a Tile, which can be attached to important items or bags and accessed via an app on your phone. The Tile can be used in reverse by tapping on it and making your phone beep, which can help you track your phone later.
In case you’re worried you won’t be able to fully prevent your phone’s loss, you can also bring a backup phone, which you keep in a suitcase that will be relatively stationary. If your original phone is lost, you can activate the new one and have a phone for the rest of your trip.
Another idea is investing in Verizon Total Mobile Protection, or your phone company’s equivalent program. This supports a total reimbursement of a new phone in case of loss or theft, and allows you to get expedited repairs or delivery of a new phone when you’re abroad.
Independent of your phone, there are also actions you and your traveling companions should take in case a loss occurs. Make sure you have backup print outs of tickets to events and modes of transportation so you don’t have to rely on e-tickets.
Have phone numbers and important passwords written down somewhere, so if you get another phone, or have a backup, it can be used to its full functionality quickly.
Perhaps most importantly, most phones now have built-in GPS trackers that you can activate to find your phone when you lose it. Make sure, long before you lose your phone, that these systems are turned on, particularly when you go on vacation. If you do lose your phone on a trip, it will makes things a lot easier, as you’ll see in the next section.
What to do immediately after losing the phone
The first thing to do once you’ve lost your phone is, logically, do your best to find it. If you’re with someone, or near some generous strangers, call the phone and see if you can find it via it buzzing or ringing.
If you can’t hear or feel anything, or if your phone is turned off, try going to the lost and found of your current location and see if anything turns up there. If the phone is still missing, or a lost and found wasn’t an option because you’re out in the wilderness somewhere, it’s time to turn to electronic means of locating it.
As we mentioned above, you may be able to use a Tile tracker in reverse to make your phone locatable. But most phones have GPS trackers located inside of them that make it even easier.
The GPS on iPhones can be accessed via the Find My iPhone app, accessible on a web browser or on other Apple devices with your iCloud login. On Android phones, typing “find my phone” in a Google search bar when you’re on a web browser and logged into your Google account can access the GPS.
In both cases, you need access to a computer, a tablet, or another phone. If you’re traveling with others, or if you can find a computer store near you, that should be doable. Both Apple and Android give you a map of where your phone is, or where it was last located if it’s off, or ran out of battery. (Note: you need to activate this function on your phone before it will work. Make sure you do before you go on vacation!).
That last location will usually only be projected for an hour after the phone’s loss of power, so make sure you act fast if this is your plan.
If the phone turns up in an unfamiliar location, alert police so they can catch the person who took it (you should never confront a thief yourself). If the phone doesn’t turn up, even with GPS help, it’s time to temporarily suspend service on the phone. You can do that on any phone or online via your respective phone service provider, so your phone can’t be accessed or used by others and rack up your phone bill.
Next, if you use a password manager, or can log into certain accounts your phone is logged into, change important passwords in case they were accessed before you could suspend the phone.
How to travel without a phone
Travel without a cellphone was done for centuries before, and it can be done again if you lose your phone. You just need to assemble a few things first, and do a lot more planning.
First, when traveling without a phone, paper will be your new best friend. As we said in planning ahead, it’s good to have print outs of things so you don’t have to rely on showing e-tickets on your phone, but now printouts are everything.
Ask your hotel about using computers and printing things from email or itineraries there. Make sure you have time to print your tickets at the airport, or to get a physical ticket at a train or bus station.
Invest in a map of the areas you’re visiting, and consider a basic language guidebook if you’re abroad. It’s all more than having to deal with a single phone, but hey, at least paper is light to carry!
Next, decide on meeting places and times with your traveling companions in advance before heading out for the day. Make sure plans are committed to, so you, the phoneless person, don’t end up stranded.
As part of deciding on meeting places and times, make sure you wear or carry a watch that isn’t a smart watch. Smart watches are cool, but since they tend to only operate when you have your phone, a nice regular watch will help keep track of your day. And stay on schedule for things without having to rely on your phone as a time keeping device, or for issuing alerts.
Losing your phone can make your vacation pretty rough, as you’ll have to worry about personal information being available to strangers. There are things you can do to make things easier on yourself in advance of a loss, though, to make it easier to handle.
Stick to our tips if you ever lose your phone on vacation, and your disaster will become a momentary inconvenience. You’ll be able to enjoy your trip, and maybe once you get your phone replaced, you’ll be able to be a little more careful going forward with it.