On the last day of our vacation in Paris, my parents and I decided to take the metro to the airport. Just as the doors were closing, a group of men who had just stepped on suddenly jumped off. We quickly checked our pockets and my dad realized his passport and credit card were gone.
Thanks to a lot of luck, and an extremely kind United States Embassy employee, he was able to get a temporary passport and fly home. Needless to say, no one wants to find themselves in a similar situation. If you’re planning to travel this spring or summer, these tips and products will help you keep your valuables safe.
Traveling to another country involves carrying a variety of important documents, the most important of which is your passport. This is your lifeline when entering and exiting countries. You might also be required to have a paper visa in some countries.
Other important documents you’ll likely need when traveling include your driver’s license, health insurance card, medical documents, travel insurance details, and transportation tickets. Many countries currently also require proof of your COVID-19 vaccine, along with proof of others as well.
One of the best things you can do to prevent a major headache is to make copies of all of these documents before you leave the country. Keep digital copies on your phone or computer (ensure the images are password protected) and keep physical copies somewhere safe while you are abroad. You can keep them in your suitcase at your hotel or in a safe or lockbox at your accommodation.
Having copies of important information will make it considerably easier to get a replacement if the originals are lost or stolen. (One of the reasons we made our original flight home after my dad’s passport was stolen was that he had a copy of his in his suitcase, which made the reapplication process much quicker.)
Of course, the best scenario is to not lose your things in the first place. Avoid keeping important documents in your pockets or easily accessible compartments of a bag or purse. The safest thing to do is keep these documents as close to you as possible.
Slip your IDs, cards, and passport into a neck wallet that can be worn under your clothes while you’re out and about. For extra protection, put everything in a waterproof plastic baggie before tucking it into the neck wallet to avoid water damage from a sudden rainstorm.
Losing a chunk of money is stressful at home, but it can be overwhelming in a foreign country, especially when you’re dealing with a language barrier and don’t know where to get help.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash with you. If you must withdraw a large amount of cash for your trip, only take what you need during the day and leave the rest in your hotel. When using ATMs, choose those at banks or in crowded areas that are less likely to be hacked.
Although cash is sometimes necessary, it’s usually safer to stick to card payments when you can. One credit card is easier to keep safe than a large wad of cash.
Many smartphones allow you to upload a credit card to be used as contactless payment, which means even fewer things you’ll need to carry around. Just keep in mind that many small businesses in less developed countries won’t accept contactless payments.
Like your passport and important documents, you’ll want to store your money securely and close to your body. The neck wallet above works well for credit cards and cash, but it may be annoying to use if you need to get in and out of it often.
Some other creative ways to store cash include swapping out your regular belt for this travel security belt, which features a hidden zipper compartment where you can store a decent amount of bills and change.
For a super-subtle way to hide cash, roll up a few bills and stick them in these pocket scrunchies. They have a secure zipper pocket to hold some emergency cash.
Many travelers rely on a purse or backpack to haul their stuff around during the day. Bags are frequently targeted by pickpockets, who can unzip a pocket and steal your wallet before you even realize what’s happening.
The best way to keep your bag and everything in it safe is to be aware of the item at all times. (Notice a common trend here?) Don’t put anything valuable in your side pockets or any pockets that are easy to access. If your passport and wallet aren’t close to your body, the best place to keep them is in an inner pocket of your bag that would be difficult for a stranger to access.
Fortunately, there are some great bags on the market that are designed to frustrate pickpockets. This anti-theft purse is made from slash-proof material and has a cable-reinforced strap that can’t be torn from your body. You’ll also find a locking zipper in the main compartment of the purse and concealed organizational slots for credit cards and travel documents.
If you prefer to carry a backpack, this affordable option features lockable zippers and a small anti-theft pocket that sits securely against your back.
Most people think about their luggage getting lost, but baggage theft is also a potential issue. Be aware of your luggage at all times, whether you’re at the airport, on a bus, or trying to find your hotel in a new city.
Opt for suitcases that don’t have pockets on the outside. These not only give thieves one less way to steal from you, but hard-shelled luggage will keep your belongings safer as you travel. Also, make sure to clearly mark your luggage so it’s not taken by another traveler accidentally.
It’s always smart to lock your luggage when it isn’t being used. It won’t keep a determined person out of your bag, but it will deter thieves who want an easy target. Be sure to use a TSA-approved luggage lock that will allow you to send your secured bag onto your plane without a TSA agent cutting the lock if they need to check something inside.
If you want to play it extra safe, opt for a zipperless hardshell suitcase. This option features a sturdy frame and a TSA-approved lock built into the case.
Want to deter thieves even further and make your suitcase as undesirable as possible? Wrap the entire thing in a brightly colored lockable luggage strap. The design will make your bag stand out (which is something bag thieves tend to avoid), and the lock will add one more layer of protection.
Keeping small valuables, like your phone and wallet, safe is one thing. But what about larger items, like cameras and laptops?
To state the obvious, the best way to keep those items safe is to leave them at home. It’s worth thinking twice about your packing list. Leave anything that isn’t completely necessary for your trip at home.
If you must take larger, more expensive items with you, stay in a hotel or private Airbnb, so you can lock up before you head out every day. Regardless of where you stay, a bag protector is also a good idea. This accessory serves as a portable safe and allows you to secure your valuables to an immovable part of your room whenever you’re away.
No one wants to lose their valuables while traveling. Fortunately, with the right gear, and by taking a few precautions and always being aware of your surroundings, you can avoid any major headaches on your vacation.