WalletBefore I begin, this post is not designed to be an online missing item poster.  Sure, I’d love it if, miraculously, someone reading this would come across my wallet one day.  However, that’s not the point.  My goal is to simply help anyone else that might find themselves in this terrifying nightmare; I lost my wallet in Miami’s busy Concourse D with thirty minutes left before boarding.

This is what you need to do the second you realize that you no longer have your wallet; “Airport Edition.”

If you’ve never lost your wallet, especially in the middle of a busy airport, you probably think you know exactly what to do.  You probably think you’d remain calm and relaxed.  If you do happen to lose your wallet, I guarantee you will freak out and immediately beat yourself up for it.  It’s going to happen.

The problem is, no one expects to lose a wallet.  Just as no one expects to get in a wreck or have their house burn down.  Unfortunately, when either three if those events happen, they always seem to happen at the most inopportune times.  That’s exactly what happened on a recent layover in Miami.  I hopped off my inbound flight from Tampa and made my way to the St. Louis gate.  I was pretty eager and excited to get back home.  I was going to be sitting up in First Class too, and it turned out my mother was good friends with the crew.  Everything had been going great the entire trip.  Thirty minutes before boarding, everything just came crashing to the ground.  I realized that I no longer had my wallet in my possession.  The two hours that followed consisted of nonstop sweating, phone calls, and crawling on terminal floors.

Here’s what you need to do if you lose your wallet while at an airport.

*Parts of this post may only apply to US residents*

What To Do After You Lose Your Wallet While Traveling; Step-By-Step

Step 1: Prioritize and Organize

It’s extremely important to stay as organized as possible.  To successfully limit your chances of someone using your credit cards, using your identification, or to raise your chances of finding your lost wallet, you need to stay organized and prioritize.  Prioritize what needs to be done.  Are there credit cards you need to cancel or do you want to first try and find the wallet?  Once you’ve outlined your plan to either cancel cards and pick up the pieces or trace your steps and find it, begin to take action.

Step 2: Trace Your Steps

Unless you have multiple cards and forms of identification in your wallet or other important documents/information, I’d recommend you make an attempt to personally find your missing wallet.  Airports are full of resources that can aid in your search for your missing wallet.  Most airports (if not every airport) have one or more lost and founds that you can physically visit, call, or file a claim with.  Airlines also have lost and founds.  I lucked out and was able to deal with some of the nicest and most professional American Airlines employees in the company.  From the ground crew to the cabin crew, everyone did their best to help me relocate my wallet.  If you think you might have lost your wallet on a previous flight, ask the nearest gate agent to call the gate you arrived into.  If you can’t find it and can’t find any leads on a possible location, move on.  Call it quits and understand that it’s probably gone.  In order to make my flight home, I myself had to come to the realization that my wallet (along with everything else in it) was gone.

Note: If there’s probable cause to assume your wallet was stolen or if you had valuable goods or large sums of cash in your possession–file a police report with airport police.

Step 3: Cancel and Move On

This step is probably the most important.  After I had realized that I could still get on my flight home as I still had my boarding documents, I decided that it would be best just to get home.  Note: If you lose your wallet, identification, and/or credit cards, get on the next flight home–you do not want to exit the secure area.  Doing so could result in days of being stranded away from home.  I knew that if I decided to stay in Miami, any chance of finding my wallet was limited, and I’d be spending the night in the airport as I didn’t have a way to get a hotel room or re-enter security.  Once onboard my flight home, I canceled my credit and debit cards and took inventory of everything that I remembered was in my wallet.

Replacing-a-Lost-or-Stolen-Passport-1261By taking inventory, I was able to go down the list and evaluate the risks associated with losing each item.  First, I canceled credit and debit cards.  Credit and debit cards are easily canceled (and can be put on a hold if there’s a chance of relocating your wallet).  They also pose one of the greatest risks when not in your possession.  Second, I addressed my missing driver’s licenses.  Unfortunately, Missouri requires you to visit the nearest DMV to replace any ID card.  Some states will allow you to get a jump start on the process online.  Use this website to determine how you should go about replacing a United States Driver’s License or ID Card; http://www.dmv.org/.  US Passports pose a greater risk and should be reported as missing (or stolen) as soon as possible.  You can do so by calling the U.S. Department of State at (877) 487-2778.

Finally, I addressed the other contents of the wallet.  Some cash gift cards allow you to report them missing or stolen and even put them on a hold.  There’s absolutely nothing that can be don about gift cards from shops, gas stations and restaurants.  Typically, student IDs, parking passes, and loyalty membership cards are easily canceled and replaced, but my require you to pay a small fee.

Step 4: File Lost Item Claims

If you decided to cancel everything and call it quits, you might decide to bypass this step.  I, however, decided that it was still a good idea to file a few lost item claims.  All major airport and airlines allow you to file lost item claims online or over the phone at no cost at all.  I filed a lost item claim with Miami International Aiport, Tampa International Airport, and American Airlines Lost and Founds.  Both MIA and TPA lost and founds email me daily while American emails me every so often.

Lost and Founds typically keep an eye out for your lost item for thirty or so days.  You will receive a notification on any relevant leads or if the item as been found via phone, text, or email.  This step is probably the easiest and most comforting as it provides hope that people are on the lookout for your lost wallet.

Step 5: Move On

Moving on might be hard, especially if you kept membership cards, credit/debit cards, photos, boarding passes, photo IDs, etc. in your wallet.  For others, it might be as easy as waiting a few days for new cards and buying a new wallet.  In my case, I still have to visit the DMV, and I’m eagerly awaiting my replacement cards.


503163578_product_4Losing my wallet has been an interesting experience.  From the extraordinary customer service to the lack of sympathy from my parents, I’ve had a wide array of responses. Unfortunately, it appears as if my wallet was stolen rather than misplaced so I likely won’t be seeing my blue leather Jack Spade wallet anytime soon.

Most importantly, I feel secure and safe.  I took all precautionary measures in canceling cards and filing claims with the correct departments.  Now, it’s become more of an inconvenience, but that’s what I get for being a tad careless.