Credit Cards

3 Travel Gadgets to Protect Your Valuables from Getting Lost or Stolen

For those who want to exercise caution and never lose their wallet, smartphone or important documents on a trip, here are 3 affordable gadgets to greatly reduce the risk.

Travelling can be incredibly fun and exciting, until you lose something valuable. When we're focused on enjoying ourselves during the limited amount of time we have on a vacation, losing our laptop, phone, wallet or passport can put a big dent into the experience, causing stress, inconvenience and financial loss. Having a great travel insurance policy can help to reduce one's losses if such an unfortunate event happens. But, one thing insurance can't do is give back the lost time and energy that could have been spent enjoying the trip. As with many things, prevention, rather than "cure", is the preferable solution. To that extent, we researched 3 travel gadgets one can purchase to greatly reduce the risk of losing one's important valuables (or having them stolen) while travelling.

Anti-Theft Shoulder Bags or Backpacks

One of the biggest causes of lost valuables while travelling is theft. One study reported that that roughly 400,000 pickpocketing incidents occur worldwide each day, or greater than 10% of worldwide international arrivals (roughly 1.2 billion annually). Further, about 33% of travel insurance claims are made for stolen or lost items. Tourists are easier targets for pickpockets because they are more likely to be distracted by their new experiences or finding their way through an unfamiliar area. Ideally, one should try to avoid carrying your most important valuables on your person and leave as much as possible in one's hotel safety box. However, this isn't always possible for those staying at hostels, and one still needs to carry around one's wallet, phone, sunglasses and sometimes even passport in some countries like the US where it's required for entry at many bars. So, what could one do to protect these items?

Most Highly Targeted Cities Worldwide for Pickpocketing (According to Safes International)

  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Rome, Italy
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Paris, France
  • Florence, Italy
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Athens, Greece
  • Hanoi, Vietnam

A travel gadget one could get is an anti-theft bag. With many priced under Rs. 1,000, such bags generally have 2 traits in common. First, their zippers are incredibly difficult to open because they come with locks or they're located in hidden places (such as between the backpack and the carrier's back). Second, they are usually cut-resistant, which prevents thieves from quickly slashing the bag and pulling out the contents. Some even come with cool features like a USB port to charge electronic devices.

Anti-theft shoulder bags are made with lockable zippers and anti-slashing materials

Smartphone Lanyards

Anti-theft bags may work great for items one doesn't need to access frequently, but their tough security features make them inconvenient for items like one's smartphone which could be needed often to take pictures and navigate the streets. Instead, using a smartphone lanyard (which could only cost Rs. 100-200) would be a compromise between ease of access and security. Once can simply wear the lanyard around one's neck, making it harder for a pickpocket to just snatch the phone out of one's hands.

Smartphone lanyards can secure your phone while still allowing you to use it conveniently

Travel Money Belts

If one is travelling to countries where credit cards are not widely used, carrying around a significant amount of cash can be necessary. Needing to do this can be rather uncomfortable, especially when one has to take out a fat wallet to pay for something expensive, perhaps on the street. To help keep one's cash away from prying eyes, one can invest a few hundred rupees into a travel money belt that keeps the cash under one's shirt. This product keeps money safely close to one's body and invisible to others. What's more, they can come equipped with RFID protection to secure credit cards, as some sophisticated thieves can steal a card's information by magnetically scanning it.

Travel money belts can store your cash and credit cards securely while making them not visible to other people

Parting Thoughts

To the extent that one can, it's generally a best practice to keep one's belongings secure by only carrying around what's absolutely necessary. This means leaving as much as possible in a safe deposit box if one's hotel has it. For instance, perhaps photos are unnecessary at night, so cameras can be left behind. Or, maybe a photocopy of one's passport will suffice rather than carrying around the actual document.

But, a lot of travellers, especially young ones backpacking around the world on a budget, don't always have the luxury of an expensive hotel with a lockbox. In these cases, the 3 items we highlighted above are relatively affordable investments relative to the costs that can be incurred in the event of loss or theft. They can help one more peacefully enjoy vacationing while minimizing worries about pickpockets, needing to replace a passport, cancelling credit cards or submitting travel insurance claims to get a new phone.

Dan Grossman

Dan is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion India, focusing on credit cards. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics & Economics from the University of Michigan, and previously worked in the financial services industry at Capital One and Moelis & Company.