Having peace of mind is a fabulous commodity when on a trip, especially if you're the paranoid type like me. Walking through busy markets, pushing your way through crowded train stations and late night walks back to your hotel make you vulnerable as a traveler and takes your mind away from your trip when you're concerned about your stuff. While crime against tourists is mostly petty theft and is rarely violent, it can definitely ruin a trip and potentially cost thousands of dollars in loss. In this post I'll provide you with travel safety tips for your travel documents and valuables, your money and your luggage.
Travel Wallet - When traveling internationally I bring a small wallet that has a zipper/pouch for coins, rather than bringing my normal wallet. This allows me to leave my bulky wallet with all of my cards at home and just bring what I need (an ID, a couple credit cards and cash). When it comes to cash, only carry around what you need for the day and leave everything else in the hotel safe (just remember to grab it before you check out... once we almost left $200 in cash in Granada, Spain, but luckily we went back for it before it was too late. Yikes!). If there isn't a safe or that's not an option, keep what you need for the day in your travel wallet and the rest secure in the bottom of a bag or in an inside luggage pocket. Ladies - I also always bring a purse that has a secure shoulder strap and a full closure zipper so that I can hold it close to my body and it isn't open to the public.
Money Belts - If you have to travel with your important docs like your passport or are carrying around extra cash, I suggest using a money belt. Yes, I'm talking about those dorky cloth pouches you stuff under your clothes, but the first time you end up stranded in another country without your identification, you'll wish you left your too cool attitude back at home. When you're up against crowded streets where professional pickpockets are eyeing your American passport like it's a ticket to their next big payday, you'll want to keep what's important to you as close to your body as possible. Be sure to get one that's thin and soft (silk ones are great) so that it's comfortable enough you can forget about it. Knowing someone has to stick their hand down my pants to get my stuff makes me feel pretty secure - but that's just me.
Travel Docs - Always make photo copies of your passport, ID and credit cards (front and back). Keep an extra copy of your ID and passport hidden in the back/inside section of your luggage and give a copy of everything, including your credit cards, to someone you trust who isn't on the trip. This way if you lose something or your credit cards get stolen, you still have copies to call your bank in order to report the theft or order new documents.
Luggage Locks - If you've ever watched a special on 20/20, you know that airport baggage attendants can't be trusted, especially internationally. There are TSA approved luggage locks that allow airport security to unlock them if they need to, but it will deter the common thief from taking advantage of an easy opportunity. It should also go without saying that you should never pack major valuables in your luggage. Instead, carry them on the plane with you - including electronics, jewelry, and even phone chargers.
Backpack Security - Bind your zippers together with a small carabiner clip. By adding a loop to your backpack zippers with key rings, twine, zip ties or bungee material, you can clip them together so that it deters thieves from snatching your stuff. It's an extra step for you to open your bag, but it gives you that extra peace of mind that your bags are secure. You can buy the small clips pretty cheap, usually where you'd find keychains/where keys are made (I just got a 3 pack from the 99 cent store). I put 2-3 on my backpack at once, usually clipping a couple together for extra security.