Theft-proof vacation travel

Theft-proof vacation

Empty pockets; Theft-proof vacation

Just about now, millions of people are thinking about summer travel. For many, it will be foreign travel. Novice or expert, it doesn’t hurt to review a few travel safety tips. Thefts everywhere are on the increase. And you want a theft-proof vacation, right?

Make these theft-thwarter tips a practice whether you’re far away or not so far, and you’re much less likely to become a sad statistic.


•Count them often and watch that everything is loaded into your taxi. Sometimes they’re not.
•Keep an eye on them in the hotel lobby; anyone can walk in and grab them when you’re not paying attention. It happens.
•Assess the risks of hotel lobby luggage storage before taking advantage of the service. Is it a locked room? Are they just in a heap in the lobby? Is there free access to them?
•Be aware that carry-on allowance may be severely limited on flights originating outside of America. Roll-ons allowed within the U.S. may be required to fly cargo on foreign flights. Choose a lockable carry-on, or keep a canvas tote handy to shift your valuables and necessities into if your bag is taken away for cargo.


Theft-proof vacation. The young pickpocket tries to nab the phone one-handed under his paper. (Frame grab from video.)
The young pickpocket tries to nab the phone one-handed under his paper. (Frame grab from video.)

•Do not leave valuables sitting exposed on a café table. Thieves can swipe smartphones as swiftly as a magician.
•Don’t flaunt it, or your iPad. These are highly valuable swipeables, and “Apple-picking,” when these electronics are snatched from users’ hands, is becoming more frequent and more dangerous.


Cover your fingers as you enter your PIN.
•Do not become distracted by activity around you. Fake fights are sometimes staged, or you might be asked for assistance.

Hotel Rooms

Theft-proof vacation. Hotel bed
•Do not carry your electronic card key in its folder marked with your room number.
•Check outside window access before leaving your window open when you’re gone or asleep. Do a hotel room security check.
•Always make sure your door closes completely when you leave your room.
•Remind yourself to empty the safe with a note in your shoe.

Public Transportation

•The moments of entering and exiting crowded public transportation are your most vulnerable and a thief’s most rewarding.
•If you’re in a crowd, be particularly aware of your valuables. Suspect bumps or jostles: they may be a distraction technique.
•Do not leave your bag unattended on a train. Do not leave it on luggage racks at the end of the carriage. Be aware of it if you place it on an overhead rack.
•If you’re pickpocketed in a crowd, try demanding the return of your item. It might mysteriously hit the floor. Shout out, too, on the off chance an undercover police officer is nearby.

Theft-proof vacation. A Lisbon pickpocket demonstrates
A Lisbon pickpocket demonstrates how he steals a wallet.
Theft-proof vacation. The pigeon poop perp squirts fake bird droppings on his mark, then points it out and offers to clean it off—while he cleans the victim out.
The pigeon poop perp squirts fake bird droppings on his mark, then points it out and offers to clean it off—while he cleans the victim out.


•No, they’re not safe for valuables.
•Yes, buttons, zippers, and velcro give a fraction of a drop of extra protection in that they take the pickpocket an extra second.
•Use under-clothes pouches to store your stuff safely. Or try Stashitware, underpants with a safe pocket.
•Remove valuables from the pockets of a jacket before hanging it on the back of a chair.

Old Tricks

•Escalators: Recognize the Pile-Up-Pick. The person in front of you drops something just as the escalator ends, bends to pick it up and causes a pile-up. As people compress in the crash, the person behind you picks your pocket.
•Helpful cleaners: Heads up if you hear “something dirty got on you—let me help you clean it off.” He’ll clean you out.
•Electronic equipment surreptitiously offered on street corners is tempting, but you’ll walk away with a block of wood, and wonder how it happened. Heads up on the bait-and-switch scam.
•You cannot win pavement wagers. The three-shell game, three-card monte and others are designed to extract your money. The operator is in complete control and fellow players are shills.
•If you buy art or furniture to have shipped home by the store, take a picture of it just to be sure you get the right items. The very act of photographing seems to increase your odds.

Theft-proof vacation. Four pickpockets at work on a crowded tram.
Four pickpockets at work on a crowded tram.

Bottom Line
•Don’t attract thieves by looking like a wealthy tourist. Don’t wear flashy jewelry. Or replicas—the thief can’t tell your Rolex is fake or your jewelry is costume. Leave it in your hotel.
•You can never obtain 100% total security, but aim for a compromise that is comfortable for your travel style.
•Remember: the idea is to increase your awareness and decrease the opportunities for an unfortunate incident.

Have a great summer and a theft-proof vacation! And happy travels!

© Copyright 2008-2013 Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

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