Travel is all about having fun, seeing new places, and letting go of stress of your daily life. Unfortunately, travelers are also a huge target for crime. Tourist areas are some of the most popular for pickpockets, thieves, and other predators, but if you educate yourself about personal safety and security, you're much less likely to become a victim.
Here are 10 tips for keeping yourself and your family safe when you travel.
1. Notify Friends and Family of Your Itinerary and Check in Regularly
This is especially true if you are planning on traveling outside of the United States, but is still a great idea if you are traveling domestically. Always email your itinerary to an individual that you trust before you leave for your trip, and set up pre-scheduled check-in times throughout your trip. This ensures that if you do not check in for a long period of time, someone will know to alert the authorities.
2. Separate Valuables and Lock Up What You Can
A good rule of thumb is to only carry with you what you need for that day of travel. The rest you can lock up in your hotel safe. If you are going to keep valuables like your Passport, ID, cash, and credit cards on your person, be sure to use a travel belt and keep valuables in a few different locations. That way if you happen to be pickpocketed, you won’t lose everything and can recover much more easily. Some travelers even use dummy wallets and phones when in crowded areas to trick thieves.
3. Educate Yourself About the Safety of Your Destination
Bad things happen everywhere, but it’s obvious that a lot more bad things happen in some areas. Before you set out for your travel destination, do some research to determine which parts of town are generally considered safe for travelers, and which you should steer clear of. An easy way to find this information is to do a simple Google search!
If you are traveling domestically, one of the best resources is the FBI Uniform Crime Report, which outlines the safest and most dangerous areas of the United States. If you’re traveling abroad, check out International Travel Alerts & Warnings from the U.S. Department of State.
4. Make Sure Your Lodging Are Safe and Secure
It goes without saying that any hotel or lodging you stay in during your travels should be free of bed bugs, fire safe, earthquake safe, and have a sturdy door that locks. While you can certainly inspect and check for these things when you arrive, you can also do your research before you book to avoid having to find a last-minute place to stay.
Pay close attention to online reviews on places like AirBNB and Hotels.com, and visit travel forums. You can ask locals and frequent travelers specific questions here and get candid feedback.
It’s often safer to book in an established hotel chain if you will be in a metropolitan area, so it’s wise to book with one of our Exclusive VetRewards Hotel and Resort Partners. You’ll not only get the best price, but will also have access to our VIP Customer Service should something not be up to your standards.
5. Don’t Flaunt Your Possessions
Do your best not to tip off would-be thieves by flashing your valuables and sensitive documents in public areas. If you use an ATM, be very discreet and immediately put away the money you withdraw. Only use your laptop in your hotel or other trusted locations, and be careful about using your smartphone in public areas unless you have a secure spot to stash it. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or flashy accessories - the more expensive you look, the sweeter of a target you’ll appear.
6. Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Secure sensitive documents like your passport and credit cards by using RFID blocking sleeves or a RFID blocking wallet. This prevents electronic pickpocketing (called RFID skimming).
Your smartphone probably also contains plenty of sensitive information. Before you leave for your trip, update your device to make sure your software is current on all security patches and clean up your phone to remove any saved passwords, cached data, or pictures that could get into the wrong hands should you lose your device.
If you don’t have a device password, make sure to add one. Backup your data so that if your phone is stolen, it can be restored. Also, beware of public wifi - hackers can easily use these networks to steal personal information like bank account, email, and social media logins.
7. Bring Safety Gadgets
Investing in a few affordable safety gadgets can save you the headache and heartache of becoming a victim of crime when you travel. While you don’t have to go overboard, it’s smart to invest in a few smart Bluetooth travel locks to help you locate lost or stolen bags, a GPS tracker for your laptop, and a Pacsafe day pack or camera case to prevent thieves from cutting your strap and making off with your valuables.
There are also some pretty effective portable door locks out there for added security at your hotel, and personal security alarms that make a racket and flash attention-grabbing lights when you press a button. Explore your options and pick a few security gadgets that suit your budget and security concerns.
8. Bring Digital and Printed Copies of Travel Documents
If you’ve ever been stranded after a robbery with no identification, money, or phone, you know how important this is! Before you leave for your trip, make sure you make copies of all of your identifying documents - especially if you are traveling internationally and you’ll need your passport to re-enter your home country. It’s also a great idea to set up an emergency evacuation plan, just in case you have to cut your trip short.
9. Get Vaccinated and Bring Back-up Medications
If you are traveling abroad, be sure to research which vaccinations are recommended for the areas you’ll be traveling in. Not only do you want to make sure you don’t become ill, but many countries will not allow you to enter without the appropriate vaccinations.
Always bring more medication than you think you will need, and store prescription drugs in multiple locations just in case one of your bags is lost or stolen. It can be hard to replace your prescription and over-the-counter drugs while traveling.
10. Get Travel Insurance
Purchasing quality travel insurance and travel emergency medical insurance plans before travel is always wise. While it’s hard to think about, bad things do happen and you want to be prepared for the worst. Travel insurance can save your trip if you miss a flight, lose your baggage, or become seriously ill while you are away from home.
VetRewards TravelProtection can help with many sticky travel situations, with Worldwide Travel Assistance, ID Theft Recovery, and Emergency MedEvac Insurance that will fly you home from anywhere in the world for free. At only $20 per year, it’s well worth it if you will be traveling over 100 miles from home. Get more information on our TravelProtection benefits by visiting the TravelProtection Page.