Thieves are smart. They target travelers because travelers have money. But you can outsmart a thief — all you have to do is make it tough for them to take your stuff.
One good rule of thumb is to act like a squirrel: Hide your money and travel documents in several different places, not all in one stash. Many travelers recommend bringing a dummy wallet when you travel, which is an old wallet filled with expired or fake credit cards and some small bills. Here are a few more clever hiding places for valuables while traveling.
Money belts and neck wallets — those flat, cloth pouches that fit under your clothes — are the traditional ways to carry money safely while you're traveling. They're meant to escape the notice of pickpockets and muggers, and the newer ones even have RFID blocking to keep your credit card and passport information safe. The problem with wearing one is that you end up fishing in your pants or under your shirt for cash, which may attract a thief's attention.
There are many other discreet and clever hiding places for valuables and cash in your clothing and on your body. These include:
We can't say it enough: Never, ever put valuable items or cash in your checked luggage. One government report found that more than 380 Transportation Security Administration officers were fired for theft between 2003 and 2012, travel expert Peter Greenberg reports. The thefts included iPads, cash, computers, and cameras. Former TSA agent Pythias Brown, who was convicted of stealing valuables worth more than $800,000, told ABC News it was easy to steal from luggage, even bags with TSA-approved locks.1
For your carry-on or personal luggage, you may want to invest in a bag with built-in safeguards to hide and protect your valuables. The Ultimatesafe travel backpack from Pacsafe promises to be virtually theft-proof. Its straps incorporate steel wire to deter bag slashers. Its zipper pulls attach to security hooks to thwart pickpockets. And turn-and-lock security hooks allow you to attach your bag to immovable objects. There's even a zippered pocket in the waistbelt.
If you're looking for a smaller theft-deterring purse, Travelon makes a cross-body bag with a locking main compartment, cut-proof shoulder strap, rear zip pocket and extra-strong Velcro closures.
This is a classic traveler's conundrum. You want to bring your camera, phone, and cash to the beach. But how can you enjoy yourself in the water if you're worried about someone grabbing your stuff? You may be tempted to ask a stranger to watch your things, but that friendly-seeming local may take the opportunity to steal your valuables.
To discourage thieves, tie your bag to your beach chair so it's not easy to grab.2 You can even purchase a locking travel bag, like the KYSS Bag, which includes a retractable security chain.
Inventors have come up with some clever hiding places for valuables at the beach, such as the TanSafe. It looks like an ordinary SPF-25 sunblock bottle, but it's a watertight container that can hold your phone (smaller models), credit cards, keys, and cash. Similar products perfectly mimic soda bottles and water bottles.
If a thief lifts your entire beach bag, however, that sunblock safe won't do you any good. One of the oddest — but still effective — hiding places for valuables is a disposable diaper. Take your phone, cash, and keys and roll them up inside a diaper, then fasten the adhesive tabs. Voila: a hiding place no thief will touch. You can leave it on your beach towel, so if your bag is stolen your valuables will remain safe. There are a few caveats, however: This works best for travelers with kids, obviously, and there's always the chance someone will toss the diaper by mistake.
If you just need to hide your cash and room key, consider SlotFlop Sandals. These are unremarkable-looking flip-flops for men and women that have a hidden compartment big enough to store six credit cards. Or keep your valuables close while you swim with a waterproof case that hangs around your neck or attaches to your swimsuit. Good Housekeeping reviews several waterproof travel cases here.
Sometimes, your stuff gets stolen despite your best efforts. That's why travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance includes reimbursement if your luggage is lost or stolen while traveling. Keep in mind, too, that your homeowner's or renter's insurance may include coverage for your possessions while you're traveling. And if you're the victim of theft, the travel experts on Allianz's 24-hour hotline can help you report the crime, get money in an emergency and replace vital travel documents.