Traveling is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but it can also bring a lot of stress and anxiety. One thing that can add to these negative feelings is worrying about keeping your valuables safe while on the go. Whether it’s your passport, jewelry, or bank information, losing any of these items can ruin an otherwise perfect trip.
Fortunately, with a bit of preparation and some common sense, you can keep both your physical and digital valuables secure while traveling. In this article, I’ll share some tips and tricks to help you protect yourself from thieves and hackers, as I have done for 8 years already. So read more to find out how to keep your valuables safe while traveling – all with a touch of humor to make the process more enjoyable!
Staying safe while away is something we are all worried about, as we would rather enjoy our vacation than fill in paperwork at the police officer. But to do this, we have to be prepared and to be aware of our surroundings. You kind of need to learn to “read the room”, the room being the whole area where you’re traveling. Learn this and a few tips I’ll share below, and you’ll be good to go.
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Table of Contents
How to keep your money safe while traveling
1. Don’t keep all your money in one place
When you also have cash on you, it’s best to spread it in 3-4 places, so that in case you do lose one or are pickpocketed, you are not left without all of your money. If you trust your hotel, leave some money in your locked luggage or in the safe, and keep the rest with you spread in a few places. You can use a money belt, a bra belt, a zippered pocket you can always focus on, or a secret, internal pocket in your backpack.
2. Be aware of usual scams
This is one of my favorite tips, as I hear people SO often being tricked into actually giving away their money. Maybe it sounds exhausting to be on alert all the time, but you have to keep your guard up if you want to keep your valuables safe. Just do a Google search for “usual scams in <destination>” and see what it comes up with, it’s as simple as that.
3. Be mindful of the ATM you’re using
Have you ever used an ATM and wondered if it’s a “real” one, or it’s a trap? Yeah, me neither, I’m always aware of fake ATMs or the ones with extremely high commissions. To be on the safe side, try to always use an ATM that is part of a bank’s building. Those have less of a chance to be fake, tempered with, and have cameras, so no one will try to do anything around those.
4. Check the ATM from tempering by moving the card reader a bit
There are some parts of the world where it’s a common risk that ATMs are tempered with. Instead of avoiding these places, maybe learn how to check the integrity of a card reader. Move the card reader a bit, check the tiny hole where you introduce the card and if it “swallows” your card, don’t leave the machine. Just stay there and call the bank or the police and they will find a way to help you.
5. Cover the PIN when you insert it
It may seem trivial, but covering the PIN may be the simplest thing you can do to protect your money while away. Also, be aware of people that are staying too close to you when you’re using an ATM, and ask them to go further if you don’t feel alright. If you feel you cannot tell them to keep their distance, don’t use that ATM and either go inside the bank or use another one later.
6. Don’t show off big amounts of money
If you have just taken a “brick” of bills from an ATM, put it somewhere safe really quickly, even before leaving the ATM altogether. Don’t just keep it on display for everyone to see, and be very aware of who’s watching when you withdraw money. Being discrete will take you a long way in this situation.
7. Don’t withdraw all at once
If you will have access to an ATM later during your trip, don’t withdraw the money for your full 2-week vacation at the beginning. Instead, take as much as you think you need for a few days, and you can adjust over time. This way, if you do lose some money in one way or another, you won’t lose a big batch, and you don’t have to take back any unused bills at the end of your trip either.
8. Use your card as much as possible
If your destination has this available as a service virtually everywhere, choose to pay by card instead of paying cash. You can use an international card like Revolut for this, and it makes things so much easier for you. Not carrying money is definitely the safest way to protect your money while away.
9. Keep small denominations of cash on hand
Having smaller bills means you won’t have to break large ones unnecessarily and draw attention to yourself as a tourist with a lot of money. Plus, if someone tries to rob you, you’ll only lose a little instead of everything at once.
How to protect your valuables while on the go
10. Have an Apple Tag in your luggage and FindMy iPhone/Mac enabled
This tip has been around since there was a huge increase in lost luggage after the pandemic. Having an Apple Tag somewhere in your locked luggage and FindMy iPhone or Mac enabled will help you locate your items really quickly, no matter if you lost them or they were stolen. This makes your job of retrieving your stuff way easier and you will get them back sooner.
11. Have multiple cards with you
In addition to having cash spread all around for safety, you should also have more than one card, and not keep them all together. In case you lose one or you are being robbed, you will still have a way to pay for stuff after you blocked the one that was compromised.
12. Get a lock
Or more, to be honest. It’s better to have a TSA-approved lock for your main bag and a combination lock for day-to-day use, as the bad guys can get a TSA key as well, thus making your lock useless. It doesn’t have to be a fancy lock if it’s for day-to-day use, as these sorts of robberies are mostly opportunistic, so they are just looking for an easy target, not to pick your lock for hours.
13. Get an anti-theft backpack
Especially if you have expensive devices with you, get an anti-theft backpack with lockable zippers, sturdy fabrics that cannot be slashed through, and secret compartments to hide a stash of money into. You will feel way better with it and you can have it for longer as they’re usually high quality.
14. Buy a special rolling suitcase
When choosing your check-in bag, pick a rolling suitcase that’s not the classic black so people don’t take it by mistake at the conveyor belt. It is known to happen, and it’s not fun for anyone. You can get a luggage tag as well and this way you can be sure to spot it right away. Check out this detailed review of my absolute favorite rolling suitcase.
15. Have travel insurance for your items
Having travel insurance is one of the top things I recommend to anyone willing to listen to me, for so many reasons. But apart from it being a great idea when it comes to potential health issues you might encounter, it’s also smart to do so to protect your belongings while traveling. There are various options on the market, but I recommend this one as it has the best price for the quality delivered, and you can read my full review if you want more info.
16. Always check before you leave a place if you have forgotten something
Make it a habit to check behind after you leave any place that’s not your home. When leaving a restaurant, the train, airplane, or hotel room, make it a habit to take one more look right before leaving. You will definitely notice if you’re missing some items if you do so, and it’s a good habit to have even when not traveling.
17. Use the safe at the hotel
If the accommodation offers you this option, use the safe provided in your room or at the reception. Don’t forget to check it before leaving though, as you’re probably not used to having a safe so it’s an easy one to miss. Put a reminder if you need to, or have a checklist with all your items at hand and you won’t forget anything in there.
How to hide your documents when traveling
18. Get a scarf with a hidden pocket
While I would rather keep my passport at the hotel, it’s a legal requirement to have a method of identification when out and about. With a fancy item like this cool scarf, you can have all you need with you without even having a purse, and you get to look chic while keeping your passport safe when traveling.
19. Have two modes of identification with you abroad
If you own a passport and a national ID or driver’s license, don’t leave your home without both, but keep only one with you when out of the hotel. This way, if one gets stolen or lost, it’s easier for the embassy to provide you with helpful documentation if you have the other one with you as well.
How to keep your data safe while abroad
We have arrived at my special chapter and maybe you cannot see me, but I’m wiggling my tail here. I love sharing this part as not everyone is aware of the risks of not taking care of your data. You might think that your email account is not that important or your data on some random site is not dangerous, but read further and tell me at the end if you think this is not important.
20. Use a VPN
Especially when traveling to areas where free access to the internet is not part of their routine, using a VPN is how you can ensure you can access everything you might need. Making you seem like you’re logging in from a different country can be useful for several things, but keeping your data safe is the one you should care about the most. NordVPN is one of the most used ones in the world, look into it and see if it’s a good fit for you.
21. Don’t use the same password everywhere
For people working in IT, this one is a no-brainer, but I’m sure there are SO many people in the world that keep using 12345678 as their password for everything. While emails are getting harder to crack every day, other websites are not. If you have the same password on some random website as you have for your email and banking app, you can give everyone access to all of your accounts if they manage to crack the random website.
Don’t forget that your email is also a gateway for almost all of your other passwords and accounts. Have you ever used “Forgot your password?”? Think about it: it just sends an email to confirm your identity. And if that email was hacked because you had the same password as you have for your Target app, then anyone can basically use any of your accounts, including banking, Amazon and God knows what else.
22. Use a password manager
Having complex passwords is something we all know, but no one does. Why? Because we’re human, and we cannot freaking remember complex strings formed by random letters, numbers, and special characters, and a different one for each app we use. Realistically speaking, no one can do this. So, what are we, forgetful people, to do?
Well, we can use a password manager like LastPass you only have to remember one complex password and all the other ones will follow. You can have a simple account with just your passwords, or a bigger one for your whole family, and this will make your life so much easier and safer. Say goodbye to passwords like “qwerty123456” and save your sanity as well!
23. Use a strong password for your laptop
Even if you feel that your laptop is always safe, have a password for it, no matter how annoying it is to type it every time you need it. When on the go, close your laptop instead of keeping it in sleep mode as this is how most of your data gets encrypted. This way, if your laptop is lost or stolen, at least they cannot use anything from it like your last logins to post on social media on your behalf or your Amazon account to order God knows what for God knows who.
24. Enable two-factor identification for everything
OK, hear me out. This one is avoided by so many people as it sounds super complicated, when in fact is one of the simplest ones to implement. What it means is that when you will try to log in or make some actions (like sending money or making reservations), you will need your password for the account and one more way to prove it’s you.
You can choose an authenticator app on your phone, a code sent by SMS or to your email, a push notification or face ID on your phone, or any other way to prove that it’s you. If you have this enabled, even if your password gets compromised in some way, no one can break into your accounts as they won’t be able to reproduce the second way of identification. Moreover, with some of these methods, you are actually notified that someone has entered your account by using the password, and you can get in and change your password as quickly as possible.
25. Be aware of phishing emails
While most people already know the famous Nigerian prince that wants to send you money, phishing emails have evolved with time and even the smartest people can fall into this trap. I know very smart and aware people that have fallen into a fishing email trap and it was not fun. So, try to protect yourself as much as possible.
Do an online search and find out a few signs that an email has the potential to be phishing. Always be aware of links and attachments in emails, and look carefully at emails that seem to be sent by Booking or other travel-related companies. Phishing emails rely heavily on your trust and they reproduce the emails of famous brands with ease, so hover over any links you receive and try to connect with the brands through other ways as well.
26. Limit usage of public Wi-Fi networks
Hey, free wi-fi is free wi-fi, and I’m the first one to use it but don’t use these networks for sensitive information like banking info. Checking a map is most probably fine, or sending a quick email, but these networks are very open to the general public so they offer very limited protection. If you want to check out other free apps to use when traveling, I have a great post covering just that!
27. Never ever use a network you don’t know
You know when you open your wi-fi setting and you find 10-12 networks around, and you’re just looking for the ones without a password? Yeah, stop doing that. Unless it’s a network you can assume is legit, like Mcdonald’s or an airport wi-fi, the other ones might be risky to use. A wi-fi network called AppleUser123 should not look like a good option for you, OK?
28. Use a good anti-virus
Especially if you’re usually booking things through weird websites, you know, the ones without the green padlock at the site bar (in my opinion you shouldn’t ever make any payments to these websites but maybe it’s just me), have a good antivirus to keep you safe. It only takes a small file to be transferred to your computer and you can lose everything on it and be asked for a hefty ransom to get your data back. So, always use an anti-virus on your computer and make recurrent scans to be sure it’s kept safe.
29. Backup your pictures and important documents on an external hard drive
You don’t need a fancy hard drive, you can buy anything with enough memory to hold your most precious pictures and important documents. Truth be told, I have two external hard drives: one at home that’s basically a way for me to declutter my laptop, and another when on the go, to put all the GoPro pictures and the ones from my phone so I can have memory available for the next day. Well, on this second one, I also have a copy of all of our important documents, just in case I need to use them in case of lost ID.
30. Save everything online as well
While a hard drive can be stolen, a good password cannot so save everything you care about online as well. Especially when it comes to documents and pictures, use a service like Dropbox or Google Drive to store them safely and enjoy the benefits of being able to access them at any time.
How to keep your banking data safe while traveling
While I’m the first person that will tell you to register for all the online ways of spending money, I am also the one to tell you how to keep your banking information safe while on the go. Having limited access to resources is not a fun place to be while away, so check out these tips on how to avoid getting digitally robbed when traveling.
31. Don’t store your credit card data anywhere
Do you know how Booking and all other major platforms ask you if you want to save your details for future purchases? You might think “Wow that’s so nice of them, they want to make my life easier!”. But the thing is, you never know who has or will have access to this data. If they have a data leak, and it’s been known to happen even for big companies, then your credit card information is right there, waiting to be used.
You can wake up one morning and your money is long gone, transformed into Bitcoin, and sent to a weird guy in a country I don’t want to name. So the next time you are asked if you want to store your credit card info, answer with “no”, and sleep better at night knowing your money is safe in your bank.
32. Don’t share credit card details
It has been known to happen lately, and it’s worrying as well, but apparently, even accommodations from Booking have asked users to send credit card details, photos of credit cards, or money to be sent to a private account, without having Booking involved in the transaction. This is an extremely dangerous thing to do so please be aware and never do this online, OK?
33. Use Revolut for online bookings
I mean, I know I’m the biggest fan of Revolut and maybe you’re so over it by now, but hear me out. Instead of using your main bank account, the one that hosts all your money, why not use a card where you can put exactly the amount you know you need for a particular online booking? This way, if the booking is a fraud, you will only lose the amount on Revolut, and not your full account.
34. Use a one-time card for your one-time expenses
This is also a perk of Revolut, but check your bank account options maybe you have some similar service you can use. Especially if booking through shady websites located in various areas of the world, pay with a single-use card created in Revolut. It takes about one minute to create one, and you can throw it away right after usage, without anyone being able to recreate that connection to your account.
35. Use an RFID wallet
OK, this is a simple one, but repeating it won’t hurt. Have RFID enabled on your credit cards and an RFID wallet (or blocking sleeve) so your data cannot be collected while on the go? Realistically speaking, you can spend a few good minutes right next to a shady person on a train somewhere and you won’t even notice they’re stealing your data.
36. Have a wallet available on your phone
Enable this option on your phone with either Apple Pay or Android Wallet, but make it ask for your face ID or fingerprint for each payment. This way, you can use it even if your physical card is not available anymore, but no one can use it if they steal your phone. Better yet, block this option and enable it for individual payments and you will be more relaxed.
37. Be able to block your cards from your phone
Maybe you’re the type of person that doesn’t like having banking apps on your phone. I don’t like it either, but having them set up from home is so useful. The moment you realize your wallet was stolen or forgotten somewhere, you can immediately block your cards with just the press of a button, and you can even notify the bank and they can track everything that’s happening with your cards. Pretty handy, right?
How to keep your valuables safe at the beach
Back in my days…sorry, I’m aging myself so badly right now. But really, we used to go to the beach, leave all of our stuff there, and stay for hours in the water. We would just ask the people nearby to check out our bags from time to time. Truth be told, we had a bottle of water, a towel, and maybe a few bucks in our bags, so who would have cared enough to try and steal it?
Things are different now, as we all have more items with us, and more expensive ones as well. I hope no one goes to the beach with their laptop and tablet, but your phone, keys, and some cash you usually have with you, no matter what. So, how do you keep your stuff safe when out for a swim?
38. Get a waterproof case for your valuables
This cheap item is amazing when going to a public beach, as you can take the hotel room keys, some money, and your phone with you in the water. You want to do a few tests when you enter the water, to be sure it’s safely closed, but after that, you can swim and snorkel as much as possible.
This is also a nice idea if you’re going to public pools often, so keep it in mind at home as well. Still, when using public pools, you might think that this waterproof bag is better, as it can hold more items, not only the basics.
39. Hide your valuables in a “dirty” diaper
OK, you’re gonna love this I’m sure. Buy a single-use diaper and a piece of chocolate. Then, put all your valuables inside the diaper and learn how to fold it so that it looks like it has some serious diaper content inside. Smudge some chocolate on the side for added value. Now, put it in a small garbage-looking bag next to your beach tote on the beach, and be sure no one is going to touch that nasty-looking thing ever.
How to avoid pickpockets while on the go
When I went to college at 18 years old, my mother told me to be very aware of pickpockets. Coming from a small town, and going to the big city, this was good advice, and I’m proud to say I was never pickpocketed in my 10 years of living there and 7 years of traveling in various areas of the world. Read these tips on avoiding robberies and pickpockets while traveling and be like me!
40. Get an anti-theft cross-body bag
While it might not look stylish enough, a cross-body bag is harder to snatch, so keep this in mind when making your fashion choices for any day bag you use when away. Also, choose one that has lockable zippers and is slash proof and you’re sure you’ll keep your valuables safe while traveling.
41. Keep your purse in the front at all times
Especially when staying in line or in crowded areas like tourist spots and public transportation, keep your purse in front of you at all times, and keep one hand on it as well. Even if you cannot see it due to the number of people around, you can still feel if anyone is trying to check the inside of your purse without asking for permission.
42. In crowded public transportation keep your bag between you and a wall
Similarly to the previously mentioned tip, put your purse between you and a fixed item like a wall or a window if you’re in a crowded means of transportation. If this is impossible because you have somehow gotten right in the middle of the freaking train car, then keep your hand on the zippers so they cannot be opened easily, and always look the people around in the eyes, to make them aware that you’re watching.
43. Don’t keep small valuables in pockets without zippers
How my brother got pickpocketed one month after going to college (he did get the same advice from my mom, he just happened to be out of luck) was by someone that just put their hands down his very airy pants and took his phone with ease.
This happened while he was getting into a bus, and when you climb stairs your pockets are even more vulnerable, and the guy didn’t even get on the bus. He just took the phone and got off in less than 10 seconds. This would have been impossible with at least a zippered pocket.
44. Find ways to prevent a snatch-and-run
While you may have your belongings in your eyesight at all times, try to also tie or use one of the handles of your backpack to connect it to your chair in a restaurant, for example, to be sure no one can snatch it with just a simple movement. It’s a simple thing you can do but it ensures you cannot lose your day pack very easily.
45. Don’t show off your belongings like expensive jewelry
Especially when traveling in poor countries, it’s best not to show off your expensive items. Being poor is not an excuse for burglary, but it does happen more often in impoverished areas so do your homework before you decide. Small pieces of jewelry like your wedding ring are not an issue, but big items that can be easily snatched from your neck or ears should be avoided.
46. Keep a decoy wallet with you
Try to find that old wallet of yours somewhere in your house. Add a few dollars and an old card in it and give it if you are mugged at gunpoint or with a knife. It’s easier than fighting them for your real wallet (which you should never do, your safety is more important than any belongings) and they will leave immediately and leave you alone.
47. Don’t focus only on your phone on the streets
I know you need to look at your maps app, and I know you have to look down at your phone from time to time. But I also know that it can be snatched really easily from your hand, and I know that especially at night, you cannot see anything else around you due to the light of your phone, making you basically blind. So avoid using it so often that it makes you unaware of your surroundings.
48. Just go away, you’re probably right
If you have a feeling that you cannot explain that you are in danger, just go away, you are most probably right. Your body gets lots of sensations from multiple senses, and cannot process all of them in tangible feelings quickly enough. This is why you can just feel the danger before you really see the danger. So trust your gut, there’s really nothing for you to lose if you do.
49. Lock your car doors right after entering
If you are on a road trip, get used to locking your car doors right upon entering. Even if you stay in the car and don’t drive away immediately, locking the car doors is a good thing to get used to doing, especially if you have valuables on the passenger’s seat. Just imagine how easy it is for someone to open the door and steal your laptop from the passenger’s seat without you having the option of fighting back in any way.
50. Only use reputable taxi companies
Look up online which are the trusted taxi companies at your destination and check the driver if you’re using Uber or Lyft. Also, upon entering the car, act like the door has not been closed properly and check if you can open it from the inside (it won’t open if it has the child-proof system enabled). Of course, always send your tracking data like the registration number to someone at the beginning of your trip, and make sure the driver knows about this. You can keep yourself and your values safe by applying these ideas.
How to keep valuables safe while traveling – The takeaway
In conclusion, keeping your stuff safe while traveling may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. By taking necessary precautions such as using lockable bags, carrying only essential items, and being mindful of your surroundings, you can safeguard your physical belongings.
Additionally, protecting your digital data and banking information is just as crucial as securing your tangible possessions. So don’t forget to enable two-factor authentication, use virtual private networks (VPNs), and limit public Wi-Fi usage to keep cybercriminals at bay.
I’m super happy to have thought you how to keep your valuables safe while traveling. Let me know in the comments if you have any other tricks you know about, I’m happy to add more to this list and keep more people safe while traveling.