How to Be A Smart Traveler and Keep Your Luggage Safe

October 06, 2015

The holiday travel season is coming, and airports will be teeming with heavier crowds. If only there were a way to transport your body Star Trek style– to get someplace in a flash—and bypass airport security, lines, delays, cramped planes, cabin crew members who think they’re Grace Kelly or seatmates you wish were riding in cargo.

And then there’s baggage. Your stuff.  The late comedian George Carlin joked about having a place for your stuff.  Luggage is a smaller version of your stuff. Aim to travel like a minimalist, and you’ll have less stuff to worry about if you and your luggage part ways.  Since prevention is best, what you can do to keep your luggage safe when you travel?

Insider Theft at Airports

You’ve probably heard enough stories about insider baggage theft at airports. CNN cites that, from 2010 to 2014, passengers filed 30,621 property loss claims with the TSA. Most of the valuables had been packed in checked luggage. The other losses happened at security checkpoints. Total property loss claimed was $2.5 million. Hopefully, more sting operations will continue and catch inside theft on camera.

Report Airport Theft, However Small

Reporting theft is no promise that you’ll get your things back or that you’ll be reimbursed by the airlines, but you may help other passengers stay safer.  A pattern of problems with a certain luggage handler or TSA inspector will make the airport stop and take notice. Rashes of complaints may lead to an investigation.

Protect Your Luggage from Prying Hands on Planes

Make life inconvenient for thieves, and hopefully, they’ll move on to someone else.

If you tend to travel solo or like to nap in flight, who will mind your luggage during that snooze or trip to the bathroom?  With carry-on theft being what it is, you can’t let your guard down even on the plane.

Best advice: lock your luggage with the Tarriss SearchAlert TSA luggage lock.

Tarriss TSA SearchAlert Luggage Locks

Tarriss SearchAlert TSA Luggage Locks

This easy-to-use combination lock means no more fumbling for keys to unlock your bag. No more anxiety about losing your keys. Best of all, with a luggage lock, you can relax knowing your bag will be far less appealing to a thief, who will likely move on to an unlocked bag that’s easy to open.

Luggage locks can be a good deterrent. The main thing they do is make it inconvenient enough to steal from your luggage. With a TSA luggage lock thieves will move on to easier targets.

Another tip: if you travel with small and lightweight enough luggage (baggage with a soft shell and backpack straps can be ideal), you can take your bag with you or use it as a pillow.

If You Must Travel with Expensive Items, Pack Them in your Carry-on

If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t pack it and, whatever you do, don’t check it.  Leave your fancy watch at home.

If You’re Carrying Gifts…

Don’t bother wrapping them (unless you want to play Santa with a TSA agent since he just might unwrap it for you). Wrap gifts at your destination.  Better still: use gift bags. Best: buy gift cards. Travel light. Less stuff to worry about.

Keeping Your Luggage and Valuables Safe at the Hotel

Try to stay in hotels/hostels where you have the option to lock your stuff away. Research the facilities and check on this before you book.

Consider buying a Kensington lock for your laptop and other small mobile equipment. This cable-style lock resembles a bike cable lock. Just fasten the lock into a slot in the laptop, and you can loop it around furniture or a fixture.

Laptop Cable Lock

Kensington Combination Cable Lock for Laptops and Other Devices | Source: Amazon.com

Use the Hotel Safe. Hotel safes vary a great deal. Sometimes they’ll give you an envelope with your room number scribbled on it and that’s it. Other hotels have elaborate safety-deposit boxes like you’d find in a bank, along with multiple keys and layers of security. For most people’s needs, an in-room safe should be enough (note: some older in-room safes might not be large enough to hold your laptop (you may be out of luck if you own a 17” MacBook Pro).

Buy a luggage lock before your trip and, once you unpack your clothes and other items, you should have room to lock the larger things in your suitcase while you’re out.

A Hotel’s Liability for Theft or Loss, Even From a Hotel Room Safe, Can Be Less than You Think. Not every hotel will take responsibility (or even care) if your items are stolen. Call or email your hotel ahead and find out what their policy is for theft/loss. If you do lose something and report it to them, the first question they’ll ask: “Did you use the safe?” If you say “No,” they may not reimburse you.

If you must travel with valuables, you might consider a travel insurance policy.

How to be a Smart Traveler

Some Enchanted Evening, You May See a Stranger

This is not always a good thing.

Time is of the essence for thieves—whether they target you, your hotel room, your rental car, or whatever. Thieves want to get in quick, grab the lower hanging fruit, and get out. The element of surprise is what gets even savvy travelers victimized, and it only takes a few seconds.

Effective thieves and other antisocial personalities tend to be charmers with silver tongues who can sing birds out of trees. Many manipulative people have an almost clairvoyant ability to size you up, distract/charm you, and rob you.

So, during travel, when an overly friendly type brushes against you, beware: it could be a diversion. You’re blindsided. They’re grabbing goodies from your pockets.

Successful Thieves Wear the Tourist Costume

…since their favorite haunt is the tourist circuit.

Thieves and tourists both play the camouflage game and impersonate others.  Tourists want to appear as anything but an ape to the locals.  Not looking like a tourist is not always enough–as anyone who doesn’t look like a tourist (adjust for location) who has been robbed could tell you.

The Camera Scam

If someone asks you if you want them to take pictures of you with your camera, don’t fall for it. You hand them the camera, they’ll run off, and you’ll never see it again. If you need someone to take your picture, find someone to take your picture.

girl with smart phone

Say Cheese!

Protect Yourself From Thieves with These 7 Tips

1. Wear an RFID Money Belt

Want a comfortable, invisible carrier for your passport, credit cards, driver’s license, money and other items? The Tarriss RFID Blocking Money Belt will ease your worries about loss and theft during travel. The belt’s light-weight, soft material feels comfortable worn underneath your clothes.  The top zipper pocket has a mesh compartment—just the right size to hold your passport.  A second mesh pocket will hold your credit cards.

Tarriss RFID Money Belt

Tarriss RFID Money Belt

2. Sweet Revenge: The Fake Wallet

Carry a fake wallet that’s empty or a fake wallet filled with $5 and phony cards. If you get robbed, you can hand this over as a decoy and get rid of a thief.  Carry the real wallet in a more hidden place.

3. Use an RFID Neck Stash

While wandering through crowds, using public transportation, or walking in unfamiliar or dodgier areas, store valuables like your passport, credit cards, cash, even your smartphone in the Tarriss RFID Blocking Neck Stash. With electronic pickpocketing and identity theft being modern realities, RFID shields protect your credit cards, passports, and other types of contactless identity cards. Worn underneath your clothing, an RFID neck stash has adjustable straps and is easy to clean. You’ll have easy access to your valuables; a thief won’t.  Read more about the latest RFID gear to keep you safe from during travel.

Tarriss RFID Neck Stash

Tarriss RFID Blocking Neck Stash

4. Other Ways to Carry Money/Valuables

Whether you keep your money/valuables in a money stash, money clip, purse, murse, man bag, plain old wallet, or clutched in your hands, keep it out of your back pocket and within your view.

Keep it lean: no George Costanza-style wallet weighing you down. And don’t put all your money in one place.

5. Tag Your Luggage to Stand Out

Imagine those “Do not remove under penalty of law” tags placed on mattresses.  Make a distinctive one for your luggage. Then at the baggage carousel, it’s less likely someone can mistakenly think your luggage is theirs, with one of our custom tag templates.  The Tarriss Customizable Luggage Tags are a fantastic choice to find your style. 

Tarriss Customizable Metal Lugage Tags | Source: tarriss.com

6. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Don’t sleep in the subway, darling. If you get lost, study your map or smart phone in a discreet spot.

Mobile phones are  cigarettes for the 21st century. Phones are what we light up< now when we’re nervous, waiting to meet or hear from someone, or trying not to look out of place.

Extinguish your always-on iPhone and pay attention. Chastise your travel mates for obsessive texting and fidgeting while walking.

typing on phone

7. Rental Cars

Never leave anything in a rental car – even a lone phone charger can invite trouble.  Don’t hand your car keys to a valet parker if they are attached to any other keys (especially house keys).

Remember: Regular consumption of the news can make any destination beyond your front doorstep seem frightening

Don’t let fear control you…or you’ll end up spending your next trip in your room watching CNN instead of out enjoying yourself.

Written by Katie Anton