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A cautionary tale from a train journey in France

This week Lorraine offers tips on what to do when the unthinkable happens on your trip

I know this week I promised to write about my river cruise experience but I thought this was more important to share with you first. 

Recently, while travelling through France with a small group, one of our guests fell victim to an exceptionally clever thief - a reminder that such misfortunes can happen to anyone, anywhere. Our guest had securely placed his backpack in the overhead rack and settled into his seat amidst the typical bustle of boarding the train. With no one paying special attention to the individual sitting behind him, it seemed like just another passenger settling in.

However, as our guest later reached for his iPad, he discovered, to his dismay, that his backpack was missing. The seat behind him, previously occupied, was now empty. It turned out that thieves ( well known to the train managers) on the train had used hooks to stealthily pull bags out of sight and make a quick exit. Inside the stolen backpack were not only his iPad and camera equipment but also all his essential travel documents, passport and copies.

This incident not only interrupted our guest's journey but also turned it into an unexpected and costly ordeal. To return to Canada, he now faced a long process: a trip from the south of France where we were on a dream river cruise to Paris, a $145 passport fee, and additional expenses for travel to and from the embassy, potentially altered flight plans, and extra hotel nights.

This experience serves as a stark reminder and a basis for my comprehensive guide on how to prevent, prepare for, and respond to travel disruptions caused by theft. Here are our essential tips to help safeguard your journey and respond effectively if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Part 1: Preparation in advance

Share a Copy of your passport

Before departing, it’s wise to share a copy of your passport with a trusted family member, travel agent or friend. This backup can be invaluable in case your passport is lost or stolen, as it will help verify your identity and expedite the replacement process.

Carry a copy of your passport

Always carry a copy of your passport separate from your actual passport. This can be useful during interactions where you don’t need to present your original document and adds an extra layer of safety against theft.

Purchase appropriate travel insurance

Opt for travel insurance that includes coverage for trip cancellations or interruptions due to passport theft. This will help cover additional expenses if you need to extend your stay or travel to a different location to obtain a new passport. Not all cover this but read the fine print always. 

Use tracking devices:

Place an Apple AirTag or any similar tracking device in all your bags. This technology allows you to monitor the location of your belongings via your smartphone, providing peace of mind and a quick response if something goes astray.

Take a picture of your bag and even the place you put it may be useful too. 

Prevention tips for onboard security

Travelilng by train or plane often involves the juggle of handling personal belongings in confined and frequently changing environments. Here are several preventive measures to help ensure your items remain secure throughout your journey:

  1. Secure your bag with a strap: If you need to store your bag away from your immediate sight, use a strap to connect it to your seat or directly to yourself. This makes it much harder for someone to remove the bag without your notice.
  2. Avoid floor storage: Never place bags, especially purses or laptop bags, directly on the floor where they are easier to snatch unnoticed. If you must place something on the floor, secure it to your leg or seat with a strap.
  3. Keep luggage in sight: When booking your train seat, choose a location close to the luggage storage area. Being able to see your luggage can deter potential thieves and gives you a visual check that your belongings are safe.
  4. Plane travel considerations: Always try to keep valuable items with you in your personal item under the seat in front of you. If using an overhead bin, never place your bag behind you where it's out of your line of sight. Instead, opt for space directly above or ahead of your seat to keep a closer watch on your possessions.
  5. Stay aware of your surroundings: Especially in busy terminals and stations, be mindful of the people around you and be cautious of any unexpected interactions or distractions. Thieves often work in teams where one distracts you while the other makes the theft.
  6. Use locks on your luggage: Secure your luggage with TSA-approved locks when flying, and similar secure locks when traveling by train. This can deter thieves from targeting your bags during transit or when left in overhead compartments or luggage racks.
  7. Travel light: The less you carry, the easier it is to keep track of your belongings. Try to pack only what you need and consolidate items into one or two bags that you can easily manage and monitor during your journey.

What to do if your Canadian passport is lost or stolen

1. File a police report

Reporting the theft to the local police is vital. This report will be necessary when dealing with the embassy and insurance claims. It serves as an official record of the incident.

2. Contact the Embassy immediately

Inform the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate about the theft. They can guide you on the immediate steps to secure your identity and begin the passport replacement process.

3. Download and complete the necessary forms

Access the Government of Canada’s official website to download the required forms for reporting a lost or stolen passport and for requesting a new one. Fill these out meticulously to ensure there are no delays.

4. Express mail the documents to the Embassy

Send your completed forms and any additional required documents (such as a copy of the police report and identity proofs) via express post to the embassy. This ensures that your application is received promptly and can be processed without delay. Keep a copy as our documents never arrived so we had to give them in direct at the embassy in person.

5. Visit the Embassy for document collection

Once your new passport or emergency travel document is ready, visit the embassy in person to collect it. Ensure you bring all necessary identification to verify your identity.

6. Report stolen credit cards

If your credit cards were also stolen, contact your bank immediately to cancel them and prevent fraudulent transactions. This step is crucial to protect your financial security.

7. Seek assistance from your local MP

If you encounter complications during the passport replacement process, contact your local Member of Parliament (MP) in Canada. MPs can often provide guidance and support, making the process less daunting.

In the unfortunate case of our guest who fell victim to theft on a train in France, Keith and I immediately sprang into action. This is the commitment we uphold whenever we travel with our guests. We quickly took care of all the necessary paperwork, reached out to his family members for copies of essential documents, and coordinated with the embassy. After mailing the documents we also did a second set of documents and headed to Embassy in Paris which was the only possible place in France to get an emergency travel document. Due to the long journey from the South of France where we were on a cruise, Keith and our client stayed in a hotel and arrived in the embassy right at opening time. They made the most of their day in Paris while they waited and took a hop on hop off bus to see all the sights of this beautiful city. Then at 3.15pm they got a call, It was ready! Yay. Mad dash to the train station. The ship Riverside Ravel, waited in port for them and even picked them up! 

This , to us is all part of the job. I stayed back to keep the other guests entertained and all ended well and he was able to fly home with loads of lessons for future travels. 

It's moments like these that truly underscore our dedication to ensuring our travellers' journeys continue as smoothly as possible, no matter the hurdles we might encounter along the way.

I truly hope this never happens to you but I hope my tips go some way towards helping you prepare for your next travel adventure. 

Next week I will share my river cruise adventure with you- the good stuff minus the theft and believe me it will be worth waiting for. Sailing in pure luxury along through the southern France countryside and I may even share a special booking code with you too if you want to do the same! 

Thats all for now. Message me here for any info on travel and to book with me. 

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