Gullfoss Iceland

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I'm an expat whose goal is to visit every country in the world.

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10 Ways to Keep Valuables Safe While Traveling

Travel can be a wonderful experience that leaves you with many happy memories. However, sometimes things don’t go as planned. This can be caused by anything ranging from weather to flight delays/cancellations to being victims of crime or scams. While I consider myself to be a relatively well-seasoned traveler, I still always have a concern about how to keep my valuables safe.

Here are 10 ways to keep your valuable possessions safe while traveling:

1) Leave Unnecessary Valuables at Home

It can be tempting to think that you need to bring everything in case you might need it. However, do you really actually need expensive watches, jewelry, lots of money, and different kinds of pricey electronics for a holiday? All that does is make you into a magnet and target for thieves. Plus, not only does it weigh down your bag, it means you have to keep an eye on those items at all times, and this can result in you not being able to focus and live in the moment.

Think realistically and determine whether you can live without these items for a week or two. You might find that they are not actually needed hence you will have very little need to bring them with you.

In the past, I never used to follow this rule. I would always bring my laptop, phone, and iPad everywhere I went. However, I often found that I rarely if ever used the iPad. It simply took up space. Since the phone more or less does the same as an iPad, I no longer bring my iPad with me when I travel, so it is one less thing that I have to worry about when traveling. Plus, it does tend to make my bag a little lighter.

2) Purchase a Combination Lock

A combination lock is a wonderful way to keep your valuables safe. These can very easily lock a checked bag. However, it is important to make sure to not lock your bag at the airport unless you want it broken open by airport security. To avoid these issues, it is possible to buy TSA-approved locks that will receive no problems when they go through security and are loaded onto an airplane. However, be aware that while a TSA approved lock might be fine in the US, it might not be true for all other places. Regardless though, I strongly recommend having a combination lock and locking your bags whenever you’re out of the room since you never know what happens when you are out and away from your bags.

3) Avoid Using a Wallet

I always recommend not bringing a wallet if you don’t need it. A lot of them can be bulky, especially when packed with a lot of different things, and they are very easy to see since they often make outlines on shorts and pants. As a result, a wallet can be an attractive target for thieves, especially if it is kept in the back pocket.

Instead of using a wallet, I would opt for either a small money clip with the absolute essentials like maybe only one credit card or debit card or just keep money in your pocket without a wallet or money clip. However, if it is absolutely necessary to carry a wallet with you, I would recommend keeping a wallet with a very small amount of money in it. If something should happen, you can give that wallet to the thieves and lose only a small amount and not a huge amount of material like credit and debit cards.

4) Use a Money Belt

A money belt can be a wonderful way to keep valuables close to you while still being relatively inconspicuous. However, it is important to not pack it with too much otherwise it will be very easy for anyone to see you have something underneath your clothing since the shape of it is very easy to discern once it is packed with too much.

5) Avoid the Hotel Safe

While a hotel safe does provide a psychological factor of comfort and security, I think it is actually not a safe place to store valuables. In fact, many videos on YouTube have shown that hotel safes are actually not safe at all. They can usually be accessed via an override or opened up without ever having to know the combination.

Rather than using the hotel safe, I would personally recommend bringing only what is absolutely necessary with you and leaving most other valuables at home. I would also recommend using combination locks and keeping your valuables locked in a checked bag. If you use a combination lock, you will be the only one who has access, and you don’t have to worry about an unscrupulous employee overriding the system. Of course, if you forget the combination of the lock, then you will be out luck.

6) Carry What You Can Afford to Lose

It is never wise to carry a large amount of paper money, nor is it a good idea to carry a lot of credit cards, ATM, and debit cards. This rule tends to apply to most places regardless of whether you are visiting there or not. Even in my permanent home, I only carry what I can afford to lose. Whenever I am out and about, I typically do not carry an ATM card or credit cards. Instead, I carry only a small amount of cash just in case something happens.

7) Don’t Keep Valuables in a Checked Bag

Stories abound of people arriving either home or to their destination and find valuable items, such as cameras, electronics, or jewelry missing from their checked bags. While I truly believe that most baggage handlers are honest, I am not naive and know there are always some bad apples among the bunch. The only thing I ever tend to pack in a checked bag are clothes and toiletries. Anything that can be construed as valuable to a thief, I typically either leave at home or keep it in my carry-on where it is near me at all times.

8) Don’t Walk Around with Expensive Items

Thieves have the uncanny ability to pick out a tourist very easily. The more a person flashes expensive items, the higher the chance of them becoming a target.

I would strongly not recommend walking around with a camera around your neck or any valuables out and about. Of course, this is very much dependent on the place. In locations where a lot of tourists frequent and which have a high police presence, this is not typically a problem, but pickpockets might be around. However, if you should find yourself in an area where it is clear that not a lot of tourists go, it is better to keep valuables hidden. I would only take them out when photographing something, but even then, I would glance around the area and make the appropriate judgment call.

9) Dress Down

The more you blend in, the better chance you have of not getting noticed. Now, I definitely understand that skin color can and does play a factor in whether someone stands out in different countries. However, in most pluralistic societies with different ethnic groups and races, people will dress relativeley similar. I personally recommend following the cultural norms of a country when visiting. For example, where I live in the Middle East, shorts are not commonly worn regardless of the weather. Even though it can be very hot like a furnace, I rarely if ever wear shorts in public, and it often helps me blend in with the locals.

Another travel tip is to dress down and look somewhat ragged. You don’t need to wear the latest designer brands or fashion, and you don’t need to look homeless either. Instead, you’ll look quite average. Whenever I travel, I typically dress in somewhat ragged and older clothing that is not particularly unique or eye-catching but would be seen by many people as overwhelmingly average and run-of-the-mill.

10) Wear Your Backpack in the Front

Backpacks are indispensable. However, if you’re not careful, it is very easy for someone to either unzip the bag without you knowing, or they might cuting the bottom and extract items that fall out. The best travel tip that I can offer is that when in a crowded area like a packed train or large tourist area where pickpockets tend to congregate, I would recommend wearing your backpack in the front. The chance of someone trying to stealthily do something drops dramatically and keeps your valuables safe.

Ultimately, while it is quite unlikely to have a theft or other issue occur while you are traveling, anything is possible, and I do know people who have had items/money stolen during their travels. In fact, I remember being at the US Embassy in Paris, France to get more passport pages put in and talked to a mother and daughter who had 800 euros, passports, and a laptop stolen from their bag while they were at the Eiffel Tower. Apparently, neither had been paying attention, and some thieves took the opportunity to make off with the loot. While I cannot guarantee that nothing will happen during travels, these 10 tips can certainly help lower the risk of returning to your home with fewer items than you arrived with.

I’d love to hear some of the tips you use to keep your valuables safe while traveling.

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