How to Keep Your Valuables Safe at Home and Abroad When You Leave for Your Next Vacation
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How to Keep Your Valuables Safe at Home and Abroad When You Leave for Your Next Vacation

There are a bunch of things you can do to lessen that chance that you will become a victim when you travel

June 10, 2019

When you go away on vacation, you really don't want to be worrying about your valuables. Taking them with you is pretty risky, especially since you're distracted by the new sights and sounds. But leaving them home can have risks, too. Regardless of whether you leave your valuables at home or take them with you, you should always be protecting them from theft when you take a vacation.

Don't bring it if you don't need it

Why would you want to go through the trouble of taking valuables you don't need on vacation? Not only does it take up extra space, it's one more thing you have to watch while you're trying to enjoy yourself. And even if it isn't stolen, you run the risk of losing it in an unfamiliar place. Far too many people bring expensive jewelry with them that they don't need. So, the best thing is to leave it at home if you really don't need it. If you do need to bring it, make sure your travel insurance will cover lost or stolen personal property.

Don't get all flashy

If you have ever lived in a big city, you've probably known at least one person who dressed in rags and changed into professional clothes upon getting to work. The thought there was to present an unappealing target to would-be thieves. You should be thinking along the same lines while traveling. We're not saying to dress in rags, just be mindful of what you're doing. If you flash a fancy watch or large ring, you'll attract attention, even if the items are cheap knock-offs. Some things you might think are alright to do might not be a good idea depending upon where you travel. Using your smartphone in public might be alright here, but in less affluent countries it can be a sign that you have a lot of money.

Divide your money

If you take $1,000 with you on vacation and you are carrying it with you, what happens if someone picks your pocket? All the money is gone. It's always a great idea to have at least a little bit of cash with you when traveling, but you should be dividing before you get underway. If you put half of your money in your wallet and the other half in another pocket, you are lessening your losses if someone is able to pick your pocket, rob you, etc.

Are you the money person when traveling with your family? Divide the money between family members. If each person is carry some of the money, the risks of a total loss are lessened considerably. Do the same with bank cards. If all of your banks cards are in the same place and something happens, they're all gone. Instead, keep one card in your pocket and another card in your purse or wallet. Avoid carrying anything in a back pocket, instead placing the items in a front pocket that is easier for people to reach. If you are worried about being robbed, consider investing in an inexpensive hidden pouch that you can place under clothing.

Consider getting a duplicate ID

How many times have you taken a flight with your one and only license or ID card? How would you board your return flight without it, presuming you don't have a passport available? While you aren't doing much in the way of protecting your valuables by getting a duplicate ID, you are protecting your investment for the plane ticket back home and ensuring that if anything is lost or stolen you can get home without much worry. Don't even think about getting a duplicate passport. The State Department doesn't like that idea.

Keep a duplicate ID in your luggage, which costs only $13 in North Carolina and can be ordered online. If you are traveling domestically and your ID is lost or stolen, you have a backup to use for boarding your flight home. If you don't end up needing it, that's great! Keep it in your luggage anyway. It can help your luggage get back to you if the airline loses it. To make sure you always have it, keep the duplicate ID in your luggage, even when not traveling.

The safe might not be safe

Like most travelers, you probably think that safe in your hotel room is a secure place to store your valuables. But that's wrong. Quite a few hotel employees have access to that safe, and you don't want to tempt someone into taking your valuables or medication. If you must secure an item at your hotel, ask if the hotel has a central safe where your item can be stored, which few people can open.

Don't sleep in public

It can be tempting to catch a quick cat nap during a very long trip, especially if you have had trouble getting to your destination. But sleeping in public is not a good idea. It only takes a second or two for someone to take off with something valuable.

Hold on to valuables

Don't place any valuables or bags on the seat next to you, under your seat, etc. Don't hand any bags to your driver to place in the trunk. Thieves can make off with your bag in a hurry, even if you think it's safe next to you. And there's always a possibility that the person who is taking your bags to the trunk might not really be your driver, who can take off in a flash. If someone is offering to help you with your bags, politely decline.

Being alert really does help

If you appear unfamiliar with your surroundings, you're going to stand out to thieves and present a more attractive target. As you walk, stay alert to the people around you. Many thieves will avoid making you a target if you seem to be paying attention to your surroundings and looking at people, which means you can identify them. Engaging other people as they approach with a friendly greeting can also significantly decrease your odds of becoming a target.

If you do become lost and need to use your phone or look at a map, get away from the street and go into a store or coffee shop. You'll be less noticed and it's a great excuse to sit down or buy something.

Don't advertise on social media

It happens all too often. Too many people can't help bragging about an upcoming trip, so they post travel dates and other plans on social media. That's like leaving a note for would-be thieves that your home won't be protected during these specific dates and times. So stay off social media, especially if any of your posts are public, until after you get home.

It can be tempting to post photos while you are away, but depending who gets 'tagged' you can be letting a lot of people know that you aren't home. But it doesn't end with thieves you don't know. Depending upon who your friends and family are, you could be inviting someone close to you who doesn't have your best interests at heart to stop by your home when you're not there. Even if you don't post any information about where you are, it can be easy to get your geographical location from a photo, which thieves can use to find out just how far from home you really are.

Don't be tricked into lowering your guard

Some thieves are creative with their attempts to get you to let down your guard. Some might approach you on the street with compliments about you or your clothing. They may try to engage you by offering to apply a cosmetic, for which you might have to remove something valuable. Or they may tell you something is on your clothing, one of your bags is open, or a bag is ripped. In any case, these tactics are designed to get you to let down your guard long enough for them to make off with something you remove.

Don't let people follow you

It sounds simple, but many people don't pay attention to who might be following or overhearing conversations. If you are an attractive target, thieves may follow you around for days, trying to pick up clues to your identity and where you are staying. They want access to your hotel room, where they know any valuables will be.

If the thieves don't try to gain access to your room by force or coercion, they may pretend to be you in order to get access, Good hotels will escort those who have no proof of identity to the room. But some simply hand over a new room key without hesitation. This can be especially problematic with overnight staff, who are tired and don't want to do very much. This happened to our staff when we traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a consumer conference. Imagine waking up to see a hand inside your door trying to unbolt the security latch!

In any case, check for any obvious signs that someone might be following you around or back to your hotel. If you are suspicious of anyone, don't hesitate to report the person to local law enforcement, who will want a description of the individual. Everyone has a phone with a camera these days, so don't hesitate to take a photo of the person. Taking a photo might be all it takes to scare the person away.

Use Hotel Room Security Latches

Too many people don't take the few seconds to engage the security latches on hotel room doors thinking that nothing will happen while they are inside. But you are protecting not only your valuables but also yourself from uninvited guests. A hacker may bypass the electronic lock. Your room key may be stolen. Staff may accidentally assign your room to new guests. Hotel staff may even target specific guests and provide information and access to an accomplice.

If a security device on your door is broken or ineffective, insist (nicely) on being moved to a new room or having it repaired immediately. Unless completely booked, most hotels will move (and even upgrade) you. If there is an obvious safety problem, such as a door that won't latch, some hotels that are fully booked may even make arrangements for you to stay at another nearby hotel.

Look into travel insurance

Most people think that homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or credit card coverage will protect them in the event of a theft or loss while traveling. Most don't provide this coverage, and it's very often skimpy coverage at best when it is offered. So look into getting travel insurance if you are traveling with some valuable items.