How to Avoid Getting Your Stuff Stolen While Traveling

Olivia Christine, Costa Rica

There’s no greater buzz kill than being robbed while on a relaxing vacation. In almost 15 years of global traveling, I have been lucky enough to avoid theft in even the shadiest of places.

Here are five steps you can take to keep your property safe and avoid theft!


1. Be Aware

The most important rule, yet very few people follow it. Be aware of your surroundings. Yes, I know that beautiful view of the mountains at sunset is photo worthy, but don’t forget about your bag while trying to get the perfect shot.

Observe the people around you and make sure you are alert when traveling alone. Your peripheral vision is a blessing, so USE IT.  If you feel like something isn’t right, then don’t continue on.

When I feel like someone might be following me or observing my every move, I choose alternate routes and sometimes even stop abruptly. Usually they'll realize you are suspicious and move on to their next target. I recommend going into a café or store where there are more people around; this lessens the chance of anyone bothering you.

2. Pack Light

The best target is the stressed target. Carrying more baggage than you can bear, distracted by both the tote slipping off of your shoulder and your backpack hanging off of your other arm, your disarray is a perfect opportunity for sticky fingers to quickly swipe your valuables.

View my tips on traveling light and don't be a target.

3. Separate Everything!

I am an advocate for separating all valuables. I store my money in three different places: often my backpack, purse, and pockets. If I am bringing my laptop and other electronics with me, I divide them as well.

With most thefts, usually one bag is taken quickly, so by dividing your property you increase your chances of saving valuables if you end up in an unavoidable situation.

4. Find A Unique Hiding Spot

Now, I am not going to tell you ALL of my hiding places (or else they wouldn't be so hidden), but I will tell you what's worked for me in the past. I always forget a lock and there is rarely a safe provided in the hostels I stay at, so this is important!

My favorite hiding spot is my mattress. I often place my passport on my mattress, under my fitted sheet (note: not under the mattress) so that I am sleeping on top of it. I usually place emergency money with it, as well. 

My second favorite spot is - wait for it - my tampon box. Because no one wants to dig through a box of tampons looking for your money. Please note: these are unused tampons. 

5. Have a Back Up Plan

Now if someone really wants to rob you, you might not be able to avoid it - and that's the straightforward truth. However, there are plenty of amateurs out there looking for fast swipes, and busy tourists make it way too easy.

If, unfortunately, this ever happens to you, make sure you have a back up plan:

  1. Make a paper photocopy of your passport and email one to yourself.
  2. Back up your laptop and phone before traveling in case it is ever stolen.
  3. Turn on your "Find My iPhone" feature or any tracking devices your electronics might have.
  4. Upload your vacation photos daily to a dropbox or back up in case of theft or loss.
  5. Let your bank know you are traveling and try to only use credit cards instead of debit. Fraudulent charges can easily be refunded. 
  6. Only travel with clothing/jewelry that you are okay with losing.

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