Can't Phone Home
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What to Do If Your Phone Is Lost or Stolen While Traveling

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Can't Phone Home
AntonioGuillem/istockphoto

Can't Phone Home

It's easy to think it'll never happen to you. We all rely on our phones — how could anyone lose theirs? Well, according to technology strategy company Asurion, 1 in 5 people will have their phone lost, stolen or damaged this year. That's 2.2 phones per second. Especially while traveling, that can be a major annoyance and even ruin plans or lead to identity theft. So, we scoured the internet and talked to Kaitlyn McInnis, a travel expert and journalist, to find out what you can do to prepare for a potential phone loss while traveling and what to do if it happens.

Preventative: Back Up Your Data
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Preventative: Back Up Your Data

When was your last backup? If you don't know, it's time to back up your phone today or right before you leave on your trip. A more recent backup means that if you do lose your phone, it won't mean losing your data. If you have backed up, then "things like your photos and emails are all saved on the cloud," McInnis says. While the exact method for backing up will depend on the type of phone you have, you can usually navigate there through your phone's settings. If you don't have enough memory to do so through the cloud, you can purchase more storage space, just to be safe.

Preventative: Put a Passcode on Your Phone
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Preventative: Install a Phone-Finding App

Whether it's "Find My iPhone" on Apple or "Find my Device" on Android, set up a free phone-finding app or service before you go, which usually just entails giving your carrier permission to track your phone if you log in through another device and request tracking. It won't take long and will hugely help if something happens. There are also apps like Tile that work with both Androids or iOS devices to track your phone if it is lost.

Preventative: Add a Medical ID
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Preventative: Add a Medical ID

By setting up what iOS calls a Medical ID or what Android simply calls an emergency contact, you allow access to your personal information from the lock screen. You can even designate an "emergency contact," who a potential good Samaritan/phone finder can contact if they find your phone. Set up this feature via your settings.

Retrace Your Steps
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Retrace Your Steps

If you do lose your phone, first retrace your steps. It's "not the end of the world" to lose it, says McInnis, but retracing your steps is an easy way to retrieve your phone if it's still there.

Call Your Phone from Another Phone
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Call Your Phone from Another Phone

Of course, a phone-finding app could help at this point. But, the old-fashioned method of calling your phone from someone else's phone could help you find it or help get the attention of someone nearby who can help you find it.

Text Your Phone
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Text Your Phone

If you have text previews on, it makes it much easier for a helpful stranger to aid you in finding your phone. Send a text with some contact information in case someone else finds it before you do.

Report It Lost
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Report It Lost

If things seem hopeless, contact the police station and your carrier. Your carrier can turn it off for you, and the police station can help if someone turns it in.

Wipe Data
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Wipe Data

Worst case scenario, it's important to be able to take your data off the phone. If you're not going to be able to recover your phone, at least you can protect your privacy. You can set up a setting where your phone will erase all its data after more than a certain number of failed passcode attempts, or if you have a "find my device" app set up, you can erase it that way once you log on to a computer or someone else's phone. Or, contact your wireless carrier.

Use Your Resources
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Use Your Resources

"Don't let going tech-less ruin your trip," says McInnis. "Your hotel will happily print any confirmations you need (like museum tickets or your next boarding pass)." And, an understanding Airbnb host might do the same.

Try Navigating the Old-Fashioned Way!
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Try Navigating the Old-Fashioned Way!

Google Maps is pretty helpful, but if you're phone-less, "look at it as a new challenge," advises McInnis. "Pick up a paper map, settle into a cafe with some highlighters, and reacquaint yourself with the art of cartography."

Exercise Caution
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Exercise Caution

How wonderful if a good world citizen reaches out to return your lost phone! That said, exercise the same cautions that you would any other time you're meeting a stranger — go with a friend or at least let someone know where you'll be and make the meeting in a public place.