10 tips to protect valuables from travel theft

by Ned Levi on August 22, 2008

Cash stolen at TSA security checkpoints, belongings taken from checked-in luggage at airports or cruise terminals, jewelry stolen from hotel rooms or cruise ship staterooms, handbags slashed and stolen while strolling down a promenade — are making travelers victims every day.

A client told me her diamond stud earrings were stolen from her carry-on bag in the overhead bin on a flight to Paris. A friend told me while walking in Rome, a thief slashed the strap of her handbag, and ran off with it. These thefts were preventable.

1. Never pack valuables in checked-in luggage. Pack them carry-ons, or better yet, carry valuables such cash, wedding rings, and all your ID information, etc. on your person, whenever possible.

2. Don’t need it? Don’t bring it. My client should have left her diamond earrings at home. The rhinestones she wore on the plane were good enough for the whole trip.

3. Pack items in see-through bags in your carry-on. Be careful at airports and cruise ship terminals that now have TSA-like security. In case of secondary inspection, this safeguard generally stops TSA from directly handling your possessions, from slipping small items into their pockets or losing them on the floor.

4. Pack contents of your carry-on in layers. It will be easier for the TSA screeners to clearly see the belongings in your bag, thus avoiding a secondary screening.

5. Don’t throw anything loose into a TSA bin. This includes your change and cell phone. Instead, put the items in a zippered pocket of your jacket, or in a baggie before putting them in the bin.

Take a look at my post at TalkingTravelers.com for more preventative measures which augment some excellent suggestions by Tripso editor, Chris Elliott.

6. Try to place your carry-on directly above or in front of your seat. Keep it locked and keep an eye on it. Put your personal item, with all your valuables, under the seat in front of you to better protect it. Lock it too, if you can, and consider other ideas from lock manufacturer, Travel Sentry.

7. At the baggage carousel, keep carry-ons with you. Don’t put carry-ons on the floor and walk away to retrieve a bag from the carousel.

8. Use your room safe aboard ships and at hotels for valuables when not carrying them — passport, cash, iPod, camera, travel documents, etc. If a hotel safe is available, most consider it even safer than the room safe. For items that won’t fit, look into purchasing a PacSafe; an adjustable high-tensile stainless steel locking device that can be locked to a fixed room fixture, such as a bed frame.

9. Be careful at hotel fitness centers and pools. Leave valuables in the safe. It is hard to keep an eye on them when exercising, swimming or under a nearby shower.

10. Don’t leave valuables unattended on tour buses. While often told belongings may be safely left in the bus — don’t believe it. When leaving valuables in the bus, at a minimum, put them in a locked carry-on. If they are really valuable, take them with you.

Beyond the travel theft problems discussed above, ID theft is an ever increasing problem for travelers. Next week I’ll discuss that growing problem.

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  • http://www.singleparenttravel.net John F

    Good common sense tips. Not sure how airport and cruise security it TSA “like”—I thought it “WAS” the TSA!

    Looking forward to next week’s column!

  • Steve Cousino, CTA

    Good post, Ned! Much of what you relayed was common sense – amazing how much that gets lost when we travel! Can’t wait to read your ID theft article.

  • Frank

    9. Be careful at hotel fitness centers and pools. Leave valuables in the safe. It is hard to keep an eye on them when exercising, swimming or under a nearby shower.
    ==============================================================

    HUGE mistake to leave your wallet in the “hotel room” while you’re at the hotel gym. After staying in a BWI hotel during a layover, 6 months later I was contacted by a bank asking if I had opened credit with them.
    Yep, IDENTITY FRAUD/THEFT. It took me several years to stop all the madness. Opened accounts. Shopped on the internet. Wrote checks all over town. etc. etc. Followed my credit REPORTS closely and most of the inquiries were from the BWI/DCA area.

    “”"NEVER, EVER LEAVE YOUR WALLET UNATTENDED” even in what you think is a secured hotel room.

  • Frank

    You would think this NEVER HAPPENS, but I see it ALL THE TIME.

    Female passenger boards…..puts bag overhead, throws the purse on their assigned seat, and then, heads to the lavatory, leaving the PURSE unattended.

    I always comment: “Dont do that!”……TAKE IT WITH YOU.”

  • http://www.srilankan.com/en-US/Home/flights-male-maldives Direct flights to Maldives

    I never pack valuable items in my baggage, and use to carry those in my hand bag. For extra precaution from theft I use number lock travelling bags. So no one could open it unless entering the secret code.

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