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“Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.” -Jeff Cooper
How often do you consider your safety when you travel? Have you ever felt unsafe when traveling? Have you ever been a victim of a thief in your travels?
I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, but travelers are targets for ne’er-do-wells wherever we go but the good news is that we don’t need to be paranoid while we travel.
Let’s face it, if a thief wants something bad enough, they will try to find an opportunity that gives them an advantage. The idea is not to give them that opportunity and being vigilant and prepared will make you less of a target as you travel.
These are tips we follow when we travel that can help you to avoid mistakes, pick-pockets, and thieves that could make your trips memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Secure your luggage
Let’s start with, what color is your suitcase? Is it black like nearly every other suitcase on the baggage claim carousel? If your suitcase blends in with the crowd, you could run the risk of a simple mix-up at baggage claim. Consider choosing a suitcase that is unmistakably yours? This will help to prevent someone accidentally picking up your suitcase thinking it is theirs or you grabbing someone else’s bag when you’re blurry-eyed and in need of a nap after a long-haul flight.
Make sure to attach a sturdy luggage tag with your name and contact information marked. In fact, I would recommend more than one tag or identifying marker, just in case one meets its end on the endless conveyor belts in the underbelly of the airport.
Never, ever pack valuables, money, or medication in a checked bag. If you do, you are certain to experience a sad arrival at some point in your travel adventures either from loss or theft. If you do choose to pack valuables or just want to secure your belongings, a suitcase lock is advised. However, be sure that your lock is TSA-approved.
Consider limiting the valuables you carry with you as you travel
Whenever possible, it’s smart to limit the valuables you carry with you. Doing so is the best way to make yourself less of a target. However, if you have to travel with items that are of value to you or worse, someone else, look for options to secure your property such as locks for your bags, consider locking your valuables in a locker if it’s an option, or secure them in a hotel safe.
Don’t attract the attention of thieves. Leave your expensive, branded clothing at home and wear minimal jewelry. Flashing your designer sneakers, an expensive watch, or big diamond ring can just invite trouble.
Secure your backpack or carryon
If you’re carrying your valuables with you in a backpack or carry-on, it’s a best practice to keep your bags secured or with you throughout your trip. Don’t think that your bag can’t be tampered with if it is just in an overhead bin, left in a hotel storage space while you explore and wait to check-in, or maybe your flight was so full there was no room for your bag and it was checked at the gate at the last minute.
When your bags are out of sight for any reason and you are not vigilant, your valuables are vulnerable. Consider keeping your bag with you at your feet especially if you might sneak in a nap during the journey. If you’re like me and you need that space, especially on a long-haul flight, and you decide to put your bag in the overhead, let me recommend securing your valuables in the compartments of your bags that can be locked.
When you’re distracted, sleeping or your bags are out of sight, that is the optimal time for someone to tamper with your bags. Don’t give them that chance. Keep your bags close.
Cash and credit cards
As we travel, we are very careful with any valuables we carry. However, we are even more cautious with our cash and credit cards. These are common-sense tips we follow with regard to our money:
-Carry as little cash as you can.
-For the cash you do carry, don’t carry it all in one spot. For example, my husband and I will split our cash, each of us carrying small amounts.
-Secure cash close to your person in a lanyard wallet, a belt with money pockets, in a hidden, inside pocket, or a small cross-body purse under your coat or secured against your body.
-Men, don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket. That’s just asking for trouble.
-Keep your credit cards in RFID sleeves.
-Keep all forms of money on your person and not in a bag that you will put down or sling over your shoulder.
-Depending on your credit card or your bank, if you are traveling abroad, be sure to notify your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling before you leave. Some credit card companies will freeze or close an account if suspicious charges are being made in foreign countries. Your credit card company can notate that you called and alerted them of your travel.
-If you opt to travel with a credit card, be sure to use an actual credit card, not a debit card that is attached to our checking account.
-If possible, consider carrying a credit card that you only use for travel. A card that is not attached to your bank account and other bills can be easier to monitor on the road for potential fraud.
-When you are paying for a meal or a purchase, minimize what you remove from a bag or purse for payment. Don’t pull out all of your cash and sift through it. The more you pull out, the more chance you have to lay something down, drop it, or worse-you are now a target for a thief that may notice you.
-When you take your credit card out to use, don’t let it out of your site and put it away first before you sign the receipt or before the shuffle to leave the restaurant kicks into high gear. In the U.S., we are used to our credit cards walking away with the server for processing but in some countries, the server processes the transaction at the table. This is highly preferred!
-If at all possible, watch your credit card transactions online, in real-time, as you travel to ensure you have not been a victim of fraud.
-Carry no more than two credit cards as you travel. If you have an issue with one card, you will have a backup.
Securing your passport
Don’t forget your passport!!! We have luckily never had trouble with our passports but we have traveled with friends who have. Let me assure you, losing your passport is not a fun experience! With that said, I can’t emphasize enough that your passport should be strictly guarded.
The best way to lose your passport is while you’re at the airport. The shuffle through security is a sure way to lay it down or stick it in a pocket and have that exhilarating moment of panic.
Before you leave home, make sure that you have copies of your passport and carry them separately from your actual passport.
When you have your passport out, pay attention, be mindful, put it away as soon as possible even if you’re standing barefoot in the security line being rushed through screening. I don’t let anyone hurry me along before my passport is securely in its proper place. No questions asked. I can’t encourage you enough to get into that kind of habit.
As you travel, keep your passports on your person at all times.
Pay Attention to what you are doing and to those around you
When you are in a beautiful place, enjoying the vacation of a lifetime, it is understandably easy to get caught up in enjoying yourself. Of course, you want to enjoy your vacation but it is equally important to not get so distracted that you put down your camera and walk away, never to see it again (a fellow traveler had this unfortunate experience).
If you are on a crowded bus or subway, keep your backpack or personal items in front of you and not on your back. Better yet, put it between you and your companion. Thieves take advantage of tight spaces, close contact, and distraction.
I hope these are helpful tips that will keep you safe as you travel. Please know that I am not a security expert but these are the precautions we have used to safely travel for many years. I also subscribe to Mr. Benjamin Franklin’s wise words, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
If you have any other tips that you use as you travel, be sure to share them in the comments!
As always, safe travels!