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The Amazing Race’s Amazing Passport Plot

As we’ve mentioned before, some of us at National Geographic are fans of the globe-trotting television series The Amazing Race. In this season’s premiere, passports played a starring role.

A team of former Vegas showgirls stopped at a gas station in Los Angeles to get directions to the airport. After driving off, one of them realized she had lost her passport. The showgirls eventually drove to the airport in the hopes of being reunited with the lost passport. And a reunion did take place! Someone found the passport, found out it belonged to Amazing Racers, and drove it to LAX.

Sounds like Producer Manipulation to us! But it does raise an interesting question. What should you do if you find a lost passport? Or if you lose your own passport? We asked Christopher Elliott, National Geographic Traveler’s consumer advocate, for advice.

If you find someone else’s passport:

The State Department’s web site says to mail it in a sturdy envelope to this address:

U.S. Department of State
Passport Services
Consular Lost/Stolen Passport Section
1111 19th Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036

If you’re the unlucky loser of a passport:

If you’re in the States, there are passport services that can get you a new passport in 24 hours.

And if you’re an American who’s abroad?

This is where an ounce of prevention really does help. Take a picture of your passport, import it as a JPEG to your computer, and send it as email to yourself—now you have a record in your inbox. That is said to be helpful if you are out of the country and need to apply [for a replacement passport] at the U.S. consulate or embassy overseas. You at least have proof that this is you, you are a U.S. citizen, so it’s said to expedite the process.

What if you’re old school – can you make a photocopy of your passport as a record of it?
As long as you don’t keep it with your passport, that’s okay! —Marc Silver