While there is no way to avoid every possible risk while you’re on the road, there are some things you can do to protect your credit cards, cash, and valuables when traveling for business or pleasure.
- Don’t carry all your cash with you
- Keep your purse zipped
- Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket
- Use an RFID blocking wallet or purse
- Buy a purse that is slash resistant (strap and body)
- Consolidate luggage and keep purses/backpacks in front of you
- Watch what you do on a computer, pad, or phone connected to a public network
- Don’t take unnecessary valuables on the road
- Buy travel insurance for holiday trips
- Scan all your documents (itinerary, credit cards, ID, driver’s license, passport, etc…) and upload that to a cloud based storage service that you can access from anywhere (Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox, etc…)
Now all of these tips seem pretty obvious, right? The thing is, you get into habits at home (where you feel safe), that can trip you up when you’re in a less familiar environment. So perhaps the best tip I can offer, is to start practicing safe travel habits before you get on the road.
- Don’t carry around more cash than you need for the day’s purposes. Even then, split your cash between your purse (or wallet), and a money belt worn under your shirt. If you have access to a safe that you can set a new combination for, you might want to leave some there as well.
- Don’t roam around with your purse gaping open. Trust me. I’m as guilty of this as the next person. It’s just more convenient to reach in and pull out whatever you need at the moment. I get it. I’ll make you a deal. If you try to break this bad habit, I will too.
- Ditto for the wallet in the back pocket. Yep. It’s so much easier/comfortable. I get that too. If a wallet in the front pocket won’t work, get a small cross-body bag. There are some darned sexy man-bags on the market. Just saying.
- RFID stands for ‘radio frequency identification’ – which means that there is personal (and financial) information available to passing strangers carrying a hidden card reader. Many of the chips on credit cards, IDs, passports are RFIDs. Even some hotel room keys are vulnerable. I’ve been using an RFID blocking wallet for years. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. If you haven’t already done so, invest in one.
- Purses, even sturdy leather ones, are vulnerable to the slash and grab. Pick pockets can brush up against you in a crowd, slash the strap with a razor and head off with your purse. Worse, they can slash the bottom of your purse, grab your wallet when it falls out, and you might not even feel it happening. Travelon is a good brand, but not the only one.
- If you don’t have a couple of items of luggage that fit together into a neat rolling package, you might want to invest in that. Taking five or six small bags (rather than one carryon suitcase and a large tote that slides over the suitcase handle) means you have to keep your eye on all those bags. Small bags are easier for a stranger to pick up and walk off with when your head is turned. When you’re walking around, it’s better to have a cross-body purse that hangs in front of you. Backpacks are a bad idea because we tend to wear them on our back most of the time, which puts them out of sight. This makes it easy for an expert thief to unzip compartments and pull things out. If you want to use a backpack, try to hold it in front of you in crowds and on public transportation.
- It’s easy to drop your guard when you’re sitting in your hotel or AirBnB room. But surfing on a network that isn’t secured (no public use network is secured) means everything you do on your computer is a risk. That means no online shopping, bill pay, or reservations requiring a credit card. In fact, it’s probably best not to use a computer on an unsecured network at any time. Hackers can connect to your computer on the network and plant a tracker program that will send your personal information back to them indefinitely . This is where a personal VPN makes sense whenever you’re away from home or the office. Find one that has a reasonable reputation in terms of bandwidth, reliability, and availability wherever you are planning to go. (I recently signed up for 3 years of NordVPN after trying their 7 day free trial at a total cost of $107 USD and change. Unfortunately Amazon doesn’t like all that data privacy so I have to turn it off when I shop.)
- I know you want to look all cute and polished, but don’t bring a bunch of expensive jewelry with you unless you don’t mind losing it. You might be safe, especially if you wear it all the time. But a bunch of obviously expensive jewelry will make you a high value target to thieves. Better to be a boring non-target. Similarly, don’t bring extra camera lenses unless you’re a pro and absolutely know you’ll use them on the road. Don’t bring your expensive DSLR unless taking pictures is a major source of pleasure for you when you travel. The cameras on smartphones are pretty terrific these days, and they’re a whole lot lighter. As far as entertainment and connectivity is concerned, don’t bring every Kindle, pad, computer, etc… you own. For one, they’re heavy. For two, you’ll be annoyed if they’re all stolen. Travel insurance has limits. Figure out what you need to keep you entertained, and bring one device to do it all. Two max. It’s better to bring a recharger that holds extra juice than two eReaders or similar devices so you’ll have a backup.
- Usually business travel for an employer will come with a certain amount of on-the-road support, so this advice is more for pleasure trips. If you’re flying somewhere, get the trip insurance. It’s not that expensive and it will help if you get sick, if you are robbed, or you lose your phone or wallet.
- Having quick access to a digital image of your credit cards and identification can make a theft or loss much less awful. Being able to go into an Embassy and download electronic copies of all your vital documents will expedite the creation of new ones. The telephone numbers on the back of credit cards make it easy to put a hold on the old card number and get new cards over-nighted to your hotel.
I hope I haven’t made you paranoid… just a bit cautious. Every trip should be full of happy memories and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Having your purse or identity stolen should not be one of them. Any war stories of your own to share? Drop them in the comments.