Pack This, Not That: Keep Yourself and Your Belongings Safe While Traveling

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INSIDER SECRET: Pack light and right, taking what you need to keep yourself and your personal items safe.

Staying safe when traveling is a broad topic, but today, I’ll be focusing on what you can take with you to keep yourself and your belongings safe, but first, heed this advice: Pack light.

Your “stuff” will be a lot easier to protect if you have less to keep an eye on. Packing light makes you more mobile too. Quickly picking up a lightweight backpack will be much easier than dragging along two roller bags, duffel and a tote. So consider taking less on your next trip, but make sure to pack all of the following items.

Pack light and right to stay safe when traveling. (Photo by Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Packing Essentials

Backpack lock or alarm

You should consider two situations when purchasing a backpack lock. The first is someone stealing your entire backpack, in which case you’ll want a cable lock to attach your bag to a fixed spot. The second is someone opening your backpack to take something out (you’ll need a mesh net or padlock). Depending on what type of trip you’re taking, choose the lock that’s right for you. A backpack alarm will also sound off if something tries to nick or open your bag.

Security whistle or personal alarm

These aren’t just for female travelers. Anyone can use a personal alarm/whistle when traveling or doing any kind of outdoor activity alone. If you feel unsafe, blow the whistle or sound the alarm, and hopefully, someone will come running. Or that brown bear you meet on a hike will run the other way. I personally love the Baubax travel jacket for a variety of reasons — and one of them is that it comes with a built-in security whistle that also doubles as a bottle opener (staying safe includes keeping hydrated too).

My Baubax travel jacket has a security whistle that doubles as a bottle opener, among other cool features. (Photo by Lori Zaino)

Copy of your passport

Keeping a copy of your passport in a safe place can protect you in case your original passport is lost or stolen.

Laptop lock and alarm

If you’re traveling for business or with your computer, make sure to bring a lock you can attach to something secure nearby. Some locks come with an alarm so you’ll be alerted if anyone starts tampering with your laptop or the lock.

Waterproof phone case

Safety isn’t just about people stealing your things. Most peoples’ phones are their lifeblood, containing cameras, calendars, navigation devices, social connections and more. If you’re planning a beach trip, buy a clear waterproof case or bag to keep it safe from water damage, sand, mud, etc.

Travel water purifier

Drinking tap water in certain countries isn’t always safe and could make you ill. Taking a water purifier ensures you’ll almost always be able to create safe drinking water for yourself — and perhaps waste less plastic at the same time by not purchasing bottles.

Money belt or other secret storage items

Hiding my money in various locations makes me feel a little neurotic, but also very much in control. Although using a credit card and not carrying cash makes sense when traveling within a country like the United States, you’ll need cash in many emerging countries. Using a money belt or other secret storage items like a scarf, dress, even undergarments with hidden pockets will help you store some added dough in some not-so-obvious locations.

There are lots of nifty accessories available that make it easy to hide your money. (Photo by Den Rozhnovsky/Shutterstock)

RFID blocking purse, wallet or bag

Keep your credit cards safe by storing them in an RFID wallet, purse or bag, which will protect against wireless identity and credit card theft.

External charger

This one may seem obvious, but remember when I said your phone is your lifeblood? The last thing you need is to run out of juice when you’re standing in a dark alley trying to order an Uber. Pack an external charger that’s small and lightweight enough to fit in your purse, bag or pocket.

Keychain flashlight

Lightweight and relatively painless to carry, a flashlight can help you find your way when your phone dies, when the fuse blows at your mountain-home rental or when you simply can’t see the lock well enough to open the door of your B&B.

First aid kit

Staying healthy is a big part of staying safe, so pack a first aid kit, which can be as hefty or as minimal as you’d like. Mine usually varies by destination: What I’d take to New York, a city which has 24-hour drugstores on every corner, is a lot smaller than what I’d bring to the jungles of Borneo, where it may take me 24 hours to reach an actual town.

At a bare minimum, the kit should include stomach medicine, bug repellent (especially in malaria zones), some over-the-counter pain relievers, bandages/bandaids, allergy medicine, feminine hygiene products, anti-itch cream, sanitizer and disinfectant, as well as any personal medication you take on a regular basis. I can’t tell you how helpful this has been during my own travels. You never think anything will happen and then you cut your foot on a rock at the beach, get a nasty blister from walking, get stung by a bee, or come down with a headache or a stomach bug. Medical needs are especially likely to arise if you’re traveling through an emerging country. If you bring prescription meds, make sure to also bring your actual prescription as it’s illegal to bring certain types of medication into some countries.

Don’t Pack:

Flashy items or lots of jewelry

This tip depends heavily on the style of trip you’re taking and where you’re headed. But after hearing the phrase “No des papaya” over and over again in Colombia, I asked a waiter what it meant. “Don’t flash expensive money and items around,” he explained, “or you end up making yourself a target.”

So leave your flashier items at home. An alternative to fancy jewelry or expensive wedding rings is silicone bands, which my husband and I often wear when traveling, leaving our gold bands at home.

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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