Using a passport as a beermat, notebook or putting it in the washing machine are just some of the reasons why British holidaymakers are now spending millions each year on emergency travel documents (ETDs).

And the problem is on the rise: ‘avoidable’ cases have increased significantly in 2012-13, with ETDs issued for expired or damaged passports increasing by over 300%.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is urging people to save themselves the time, hassle and cost of buying ETDs by looking after their passport while on holiday this summer.

Obtaining an ETD can take several days, depending on local circumstances. You may need to obtain a police report, get passport photos, and of course get to and from your nearest British Consulate or Embassy. You may also have to replace any visas you need for your journey. And it can cost up to £200 to replace your passport These expenses can spiral if you need to rearrange holiday plans, so make sure you take out comprehensive travel insurance.

Will Middleton, Consular Director for Southern Europe, said:

“Our staff deal with people every day who require ETDs for a range of reasons. Some are victims of crime, but we also hear of passports being damaged carelessly, like becoming damaged after being hidden in the freezer.

“These are situations that could have been avoided and end up costing holidaymakers valuable time and money. We strongly advise people to look after their passport, keep it safe and check its validity well in advance of travel. Simple steps such as locking your passport in a safe if you have access to one and carrying a photocopy with you can help prevent problems later on.”