Preventing Theft While Traveling

Two things tend to go together at some of the most popular spots to visit around the globe – tourists and thieves. In this article, we’ll give you some tips for protecting yourself and your vehicle from petty theft when you travel.

While many popular tourist destinations are mostly safe in terms of violent crime, on the flipside – they are rife with theft.

Tourist destinations are hotspots for pickpockets and “grab and run” thieves. After all, the people who make their nefarious living this way, quite naturally, have to go where the getting is best.

Abroad, Americans are often easy to spot by their attire and are targeted simply because they tend to have some really good and valuable stuff!

Things to do before theft happens

As with many things in life, prevention is the best medicine. Making preparations before traveling can not only prevent theft, but also if theft does happen – can make the recovery process much easier and quicker.

Backup copies

Make photocopies or smart phone photos/scans of all your key documents before you travel, such as your passport, prescriptions (medicine and/or eyewear), car-rental paperwork, itinerary, airlines or rail passes, etc. Make sure to leave a copy with someone back home in case you need them to email or fax them to you, as well as, backup these documents in the cloud. It also doesn’t hurt to bring a couple of extra passport pictures along.

Also make backup copies of any data contained on digital devices you may be traveling with.


If you plan on taking expensive items with you, consider getting theft and/or travel insurance.

Have a plan or checklist to keep track of items

In reality, most items aren’t stolen while traveling, but lost. Developing a mental checklist routine or using an actual checklist can make sure you don’t inadvertently forget items when traveling, whether it’s on the plane, bus, taxi or hotel room.

It’s often best to leave items in your suitcase, rather than transferring them to hotel room drawers. Also have a routine and avoid placing things in odd places within the room. Be mindful of when you set anything down, especially small items.

Top tips for preventing theft from your person

One of the first things you can do is wear clothing that is difficult for pickpockets to access. An online search will easily find clothing that is especially designed for defeating theft. Many of these garments feature double closures that make it difficult for even the most skilled pickpockets to use sleight-of-hand to maneuver into your pockets, as well as, often have hidden pockets that have to be accessed from the inside.

Use secure bags

If you’re going to be carrying a purse or backpack, make sure to keep at least one strap around your body at all times. Where your purse with that strap around your neck and across your chest rather than hanging over your shoulder where it can more easily be pulled away.

If you sit down to eat, wrap a strap around your arm or leg, or even fasten it on the arm or leg of a chair, where it would make it difficult for a thief to easily grab and run. Clips that have to be undone are the best method to deter most thieves. Using purses or backpacks that have lockable, twist ties, clips or rings are best to keep these locked up tight and make it harder for thieves to gain entry. When thieves see these closure types, they’ll just move on and seek out something that provides faster and easier access.

Low-end luggage

Fancy and luxurious luggage is sure to capture the eye of potential thieves. Conversely, worn or cheap luggage is much more likely to be ignored by thieves.

Money belt

In lieu of security clothing that has secret pockets, a money belt can be worn under your pants or skirt, protecting your cash and anything else you don’t want to lose from pickpockets.

Keep values in your hotel room

It’s best not to bring expensive valuables, important documents or electronics with you when you are on the streets. These items are best left in your hotel room. Many hotel rooms have in-room safes which are an additional step you can take, but hotel room thefts by staff are rare.

The use of a decoy

One ingenious tip for people who care to go the extra mile is to have a decoy wallet and phone.

Decoy wallet

This works well if you are wearing anti-theft clothing, where you carry two wallets, with your decoy wallet in an easy to access pocket, and your real wallet in a safety pocket. The idea is that if someone were to forcefully demand your wallet, you can hand over your decoy wallet that contains only a very small amount of cash, say about ten dollars, and a “filler” credit card – one that is expired.

Decoy phone

You can do the same thing with a cheap, pay-as-you-go phone, one that only has a small amount of user credit on it, while hiding your high-end phone and a safety pocket.