Travel safety tips: Keep travel safe, valuables secure

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Michael Hodgson

Traveler at HI Travel Tales
Born to British parents in Canada, Michael Hodgson had been schlepped back and forth across the pond since he was a toddler. In college, he took the big leap and spent a few months in Kenya – and never looked back. His biology major somehow led him into a writing career, focusing on the outdoors, hiking and gear testing. Building on his lifetime of travel with travel writing was a natural, although he still loves to seek out the wilder side of a mountain – or a city -- for a good story. Michael also is a partner in a consulting business ( built on a passion to help specialty businesses and brands succeed both domestically and internationally.
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Traveling to somewhere new and unknown should be exciting, adventurous and memorable – hopefully for all the right reasons and not because of crime or an accident. While there is no way to guarantee your health and safety when traveling (not even possible at home), you can ensure your travels are as secure, stress-free and happy as possible by following these 10 travel safety tips:

10 essential travel safety tips

1. Register your travel plans – The U.S. State Department operates the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (called “STEP” because for some reason the government needs to have an acronym for everything). As a part of that program, U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals can register so the U.S. Embassy can get in contact, for example, in the case of a natural disaster, civil unrest or a family emergency.

2. Leave an itinerary with an emergency contact at home – This is super important if you are traveling alone, but a good idea for all travelers. Leave a detailed itinerary of your travels with a trusted friend or a family member and check in with them occasionally – establish ahead of time how you’ll check in and how often (likely more if you are in more “questionable” areas). It can be as simple as a text – “I’m ok, leaving X and heading now to Y.” If you don’t check in for some reason, they will be able to notify authorities after a reasonable amount of time after not hearing from you.

3. Scan a copy of your passport – Make a copy of your passport and then place the photo or scan in the cloud – iCloud, Dropbox, etc. – and keep a copy on your phone. That way, if for some reason you need to show your ID and you don’t have your passport handy, or if your passport is lost or stolen, you have access to your details.

4. Be sure you have appropriate health and travel insurance – Never assume you have sufficient health or travel insurance no matter how good your personal health plan or premium credit card is. Know what you are covered for and then purchase appropriate travel insurance options to protect yourself. Learn all about what travel insurance will be best for you with our Travel Insurance 101 guide. And take steps to ensure your health will be protected and you will be covered if something happens by reading our guide Travel Health: Tips to ensure you are traveling healthy.

5. Know what the local emergency numbers are – Before you leave, learn the local emergency numbers where you will be traveling. Save those numbers to your phone and also keep a copy of them in your carry-on. Know the address and phone number for the nearest embassy or consulate. The U.S. State Department has a downloadable PDF with emergency numbers for all countries in the world.

6. Purchase and use theft-proof luggage and bags – Thieves can steal your valuables with a quick slash of a knife cutting a bag strap, using a tool to force open zippers, or simply by bumping into you and scanning your pockets or bag with an electronic device that steals your credit card and identity data. Theft-proof gear makes it very difficult for thieves by using RFID blocking, secure zippers, special mesh that prevents bag slashing and more. We have tested and recommend Pacsafe camera bags, carry-on bags and luggage. If you continue to use other bags, at least lock them with TSA-approved locks or zip ties; ensure you have ID on your bags, but be certain your name and address are not visible by passers-by.

Recommended Anti-Theft Gear

Pacsafe Venturesafe X30: Versatile anti-theft adventure backpack

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Pacsafe Travelsafe X15 anti-theft portable safe

As an increasing number of electronic devices, computers and cameras get toted along on our travels, the more we have come to see the value in packing along a little extra security for our valuables. Security that comes in the form of a Pacsafe Travelsafe X15...

Pacsafe Camsafe Z16 anti-theft camera laptop backpack

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HITT Tip: Luggage tags are required and plain smart, but not all luggage tags are created equal — far from it. Over the years, the HI Travel Tales team has had its share of luggage tags ripped off by hungry machinery and over-eager handlers. Do not rely on the silly paper tags the airlines supply. Even if you use the highly recommeded nearly unbreakable steel cable key rings, the tag can also get ripped off the steel (yes, we’ve had that happen too), leaving you with a pretty little cable loop and no ID. Can’t win for losing here. So we highly suggest an investment in a luggage tag that is SUPER STURDY, such as the BRITE I.D. Luggage tags made of Plexiglas with said steel cable or another tag made of something that can’t tear or even of metal.

7. Keep your data secure – Public Wi-Fi networks, crowded hotel and airport lobbies, popular shopping areas, favorite eateries and bank ATMs are some spots viewed as target-rich environments for criminals seeking to abscond with your personal data – important passwords, bank accounts, and even your identity. Protect yourself by reading our 10 tips to protect your digital security.

8. Bag the bling and blend in when travelingRead our story How to blend in while traveling to learn the importance of not standing out and screaming “I am a tourist” to every potential criminal who might wish do you harm. This also means DO NOT flash your cash, valuables, passport or credit cards in public. And do not wear of even bring along your best jewelry or bangles that alert ill-intended passers-by that you may have a pocketful of cash and goodies too.

9. Remain vigilant in hotels and eateries – We know the hotel is fabulous and the pool or bar beckons, but first, locate the emergency escape routes from your room in the event of a fire or other emergency. And always confirm visitors, even hotel staff, with the front desk before you open your door – thieves have been known to pose as hotel staff to gain entrance to a room. At eateries, especially if you are outside near the sidewalk or street, do not casually hang bags on the back of a chair or put them on a chair or anywhere where a passer-by could grab and dash before you can put down your fork.

10. Be aware of your surroundings at all times – Don’t walk around blindly, or ignore a gut feeling that something is not right. To learn more, read our story Stay safe when traveling in trying political times, but please travel!

More Travel Safety Tips

9 tips to help you keep your valuables safe when traveling

Knowing how to keep your valuables safe when traveling should be top of mind for every tourist, traveler and adventurer. The loss of a computer, camera, mobile phone, tablet, identification, jewelry or money can happen in the blink of an eye. And such a loss can ruin...

How to blend in when traveling

How to blend in as a traveler is the wish of many, but how to achieve that traveler’s nirvana can be baffling. There you are, standing in line at a store in a different country thinking you look just like the locals, then the cashier takes one look at you, and addresses you in English. What?!?

Camping, Hiking and Travel Safety Tips for Women

As a woman, traveling alone or with another female companion can be a very rewarding and exciting venture. To maximize the positive side of the outing and minimize the hazards, consider the following travel safety tips for women. Before you go,...

DISCLAIMER: The content of (HI Travel Tales) and any resources published by HI Travel Tales are meant solely as suggestions and advice for you to consider. You and you alone are fully responsible for any determination that your health and safety, as well as the health and safety of others around you, is not at risk by following the suggestions, advice, or travel safety tips published on this website. You are advised to consult with your physician before undertaking any health or fitness advice offered by (HI Travel Tales) and its writers, editors and publishers.

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