Monthly Archives: December 2016

Keeping Your Valuables Safe While Traveling With These Tips

I was once a young naive traveler who often let my guard down while traveling. I didn’t want to be bothered with worrying about my things getting stolen. These days I travel with a lot more expensive electronics than I did in my younger years, so my level of comfort has changed.

Let me tell you a little story. I once knew a girl who had been traveling all over Western Europe by herself. Towards the end of her trip she got sick with the flu. While feeling miserable during a train ride from Prague to Amsterdam, she found a cabin all to herself, put on her headphones, and fell asleep to the melodic sounds coming from her ipod.

She felt safe inside her cabin since nobody else was there to steal her things. She was very smart to bring a money belt on this trip, but after the first couple weeks of travel, she decided it was unnecessary. In the midst of feeling tired and sick, she left her money belt in her travel backpack, which was right next to her while she was sleeping.

The next morning she awoke in Amsterdam feeling groggy and extremely sick. While exiting the train, she reached into her money belt to grab a few Euros to buy a croissant.

“What the hell?!” Where is the 250 Euro I had in here?”

After running the events of the previous night on the train through her head, she recalled waking up a few times to German men in uniforms opening the cabin doors, pointing flashlights into the cabin, then closing the doors. “They are just security officers, checking on things,” she thought.

Well, they sure did check on things. They also helped themselves to 250 Euros from the girl’s backpack. They were nice enough to leave her passport and ATM card. Thank god for that!!

Okay, so if you hadn’t already figured it out, that story was about my younger self. I’m a little ashamed that I actually let that happen and that I wasn’t more careful. In order to help out other travelers, I’ve put together a short list of tips for keeping your belongings safe.

Tips For Keeping Your Belongings Safe While Traveling:
While Sleeping on a train, bus, crowded hostel room, or any other public place, always keep your money, passport, credit cards and camera memory cards on you. Preferably in a money belt. Most likely you will wake up if somebody tries reaches down your pants while you are sleeping. At least I hope so.

Always keep your valuables (ie. camera, laptop, or anything else you don’t want stolen) with you. Don’t put them under the bus or give them to a taxi/van driver offering to put your bags in the trunk. I always keep my bag on my lap. I also keep a couple different stashes of money and credit cards. I keep most of my cash and cards on me (in my bra or money belt) and the other half somewhere hidden in my bag — that way I won’t be stuck with zero money if something happens. The only exception to this rule is when I’m sleeping in a public place (in this case, I keep everything in my money belt.

If I’m sleeping on a train or in a public place, I use a lock or PacSafe for my small backpack and lock it to something secure or sleep with my arms around it. I also recommend this slashproof backpack when riding on public transportation. (Oh, and I would suggest not listening to your headphones while sleeping in a public place.) Check out our Pac Safe Camera Bag Protector Review.

I now use a small PacSafe purse when walking around in a city. It’s big enough to carry my wallet, passport, phone, and a few other items. I’ve also tried the bra stash when I don’t want to carry around a purse. I have sensitive skin and the Eagle Creek bra stash doesn’t irritate my skin.If I decide I don’t want to bring a small backpack on day trips, I’ll carry this padded camera bag.
When booking a hotel or hostel, make sure it has good reviews when it comes to security and they offer a locker or in-room safe.

I always purchase travel insurance and make sure it covers my valuables if something were to happen. I use World Nomads because they have a great reputation. They also offer insurance for digital nomads who want extra coverage for things like laptops, camera gear, phones, and iPads. You can also look into covering these items if you have a homeowners or renter’s policy on your home.
Don’t get wasted and walk around alone in unfamiliar territory. (Which is something I also did in Amsterdam, but luckily nothing bad happened).

Common Travel Scams to Look Our For While Traveling:
Be on the look out for anybody who is offering to help you with your bags at a train or bus station. We once had a guy who didn’t seem to work at the station, but was offering to help people with translating the announcements and informing them when their train had arrived.When our train arrived he followed us to our cabin and offered to put our bags on the top shelf for us. I refused to hand over my small bag. I later realized he was probably going through people’s bags as he was putting them up top because you couldn’t see from outside the cabin.

South America and other parts of the world have their fair share of scammers looking to steal your money and valuables. Swindlers can create elaborate plans to trick you into letting down your guard and steal your belongings before you even know what hit you.A friend of ours got his money and passport stolen while trying to leave Argentina. The scam involved three people. The first part of the plan was to put a white cream on the back of our friend’s shirt without him knowing. Then an older lady informed him there was something on his shirt and offered him a tissue to wipe it off.He took off his backpack in order to reach the back of his shirt. When he turned around, he saw a man running away with his bag and he wasn’t able to catch up with him quick enough to eliminate losing his passport, money and camera. He was then forced to stay in the country and endure the long and expensive process of getting another passport.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If something seems out of the ordinary, just keep walking and don’t take off your bag for anything.

I’m not saying the world is a horrible place or that you should be scared to travel. As long as you are careful while traveling and stay aware of your surroundings, especially in transit, you will be fine and able to enjoy your travels. These are just a few tips and stories that might help you avoid the same mistakes others have made. Ninety to ninety five percent of the time you don’t need to worry and you will encounter genuinely friendly people.

Simple Travel Tips for the Solo Female Adventurer

Traveling alone doesn’t have to seem lonely. Personally, my solo travel jaunts have always been very fulfilling experiences, where I’ve learned a great deal about myself. Nothing gives you quite the same chance at self-discovery as travel, and when you’re setting off by yourself that opportunity doubles. Solo travel does mean that you’ll be facing every little bump and challenge by yourself, but relying on your own ingenuity also means realizing how capable you really are! Keep these tips in mind to help you discover your best self on the road.

Have a Plan
While it’s not necessary to fully map out every minute of your travel vacation, it is good to know your basic itinerary in advance. Make sure you know important data like flight info, your hotel address and phone number, and any emergency contact information beforehand, and that you have access to one or more copies of it. Keep the information in your phone. Print a copy and keep it with your important documents. Being prepared now helps avoid complications later.

For added support and security, give a copy of your itinerary and contact information to a loved one at home and check in regularly by phone or email.

Don’t Panic When the Plan Changes
Trains will be late. Your suitcase will break open. You will get lost and be wholly unable to find your hotel in the maze of unfamiliar streets. It’s okay. Complications and chaos are a natural part of travel. Even though solo travel means less baggage to manage and less people to corral, it won’t fully eliminate the risk. The difference between a travel horror story and an exciting adventure to share later is all in your willingness to adapt in the moment and your attitude in hindsight.

Take a deep breath, find somewhere to sit and think (preferably with WiFi access) and come up with a new plan. You’ll get there when you get there and it will still be enjoyable.

Remain Open to New Opportunities
One of the best parts of traveling alone is that you don’t have to stick to the itinerary if a better opportunity comes along. With no one to coordinate plans, you’re free to change them! This can be as simple as deciding which activity to pursue in the moment, checking out of a hotel early, or even staying later if you’re having too great a time to leave! Just make sure to adjust your itinerary’s important information and to let anyone who might be expecting you know about your change of plans.

Always Carry Important Documents
Always, always, always carry your emergency documents hidden somewhere on you. Hidden travel wallets are perfect for this purpose. I also keep a photo of my passport on my phone and in my email, just in case.

Include identification (your passport or a photocopy), emergency cash or a credit card (make sure it will be compatible with local currency or ATMs), and contact information for the hotel where you are staying, as well for anyone who you might be checking in with regularly. This will not only help you in case of a minor trouble (pointing at an address is much easier than trying to speak a foreign language if you end up lost) but can also be used to keep your loved ones informed in case of an emergency such as unplanned hospitalization.

Know More About Packing Tips for World Travelers

Sample Packing List For World Travelers
If you are going on a backpacking trip where you will be lugging your bag around constantly, you will want to keep your bag as light as possible. We like to keep our bag weight below 30 pounds, so it’s important to find a backpack that is light to begin with. This pack is great Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack.

You don’t want to be stuck with a bag that weighs 7-10 pounds by itself. Check out our post on choosing the best travel backpack to find out more about bags that we suggest. If you can’t manage to keep your bag under 30 pounds, shoot for under 40 pounds. If you keep it under 40, you won’t have to pay baggage fees on most airlines.

This packing list will vary depending on where you will be traveling and what the weather will be like. If you will be traveling to both warm and cold regions you are better off not lugging around the heavy warm clothes for the entire trip. You can either ship the warm clothes home once you reach warmer climates or buy the warm clothes along your trip if the cold destinations are at the end of your travels.

I won’t leave home without these items:
* Charcoal Pills Activated Charcoal Tablets, 250 mg, 125 tablets – These work wonders for traveler’s diarrhea! Instead of just keeping you from pooping (which is what Imodium does) the charcoal absorbs the bacteria in your body so you can get rid of it on your next bowel movement. They use a stronger dose of this for people who overdose on medication and I’ve also been told it can work for people who are allergic to certain things. If you take it, it helps with the allergic reaction.

* Antibiotics for Traveler’s Diarrhea – A back up for bacteria that is beyond the help of charcoal pills. (Cypro or something similar) I’m personally allergic to Cypro but this is what is commonly prescribed for traveler’s diarrhea.

* Hand Sanitizer – Travel Size

* First Aid Kit

* Bug Repellent

* Poncho or Travel Umbrella

* Vitamin C

* Coco Luxe Moisturizing Coconut Oil (Travel size!)

* 1 or 2 Combo Locks – eBags TSA Accepted Lock 4-Dial Combo (2pk) (Blossom)
You can use this for lockers and while sleeping on trains or buses. I always use one to lock my valuables in a section of my bag and the other to lock my bag to something secure.
Take a peek inside our travel camera bag here.

* Camera – This camera is great for traveling and takes amazing pictures! Canon Powershot G10 14.7MP Digital Camera with 5x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom

* Camera Battery Charger & Extra Batteries

* Camera Memory Cards

* Voltage Converter SIMRAN 200 WATTS DELUXE STEP DOWN VOLTAGE CONVERTER MODEL SMF-200 FOR FOREIGN TRAVEL.

* Small External Portable Hard Drive – Toshiba 640 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Dive HDDR640E04XR (Rocket Red)
We use this for backing up photos. Some people bring DVD s and have a camera store transfer their files to the DVD. However, we have not had much luck finding competent places to do this in many 3rd world countries.

* Hidden Travel Wallet – Rick Steves Silk Money Belt, Natural
Keep your passport, money, and travelers checks in your money belt at all times. I wrap them in a Ziploc when I’m in humid areas otherwise my passport gets soaked with sweat.

* Pacsafe: Pacsafe PacSafe C25L Camera Bag Protector This is a much safer route than locking your bag with just a combo lock since somebody can easily cut the canvas.

* Earplugs – This will save you many hours of sleep!

* Ziploc bags – These can be used for many things and it’s really nice to have a few on hand.

* Headlamp – I can’t tell you how many times we were thankful that we brought one of these Petzl E41 PBY Tikkina 2-LED Headlamp, Black and Yellow

Toiletries – Small shampoo, conditioner, razor, soap, deodorant, brush, nail-clippers, half or less roll of toilet paper, sunblock, toothbrush/paste

Misc Items – Ipod touch & charger, earphones, lighter, notebook, small roll of duct tape, 2-3 pens, 1 book which gets swapped while on the road, guidebook if needed, waterproof watch

So now that I have filled my bag with all the necessities I usually set out my clothing on the floor. This is where most people tend to over pack and I have been guilty of it many times in my life. Once I have decided what clothes I want to take, I put half of it back in my closet. Trust me you will not need it. You can get by with just once change of clothes if you really want to. You will not regret your decision to take less clothes, but your back WILL regret taking too many!

I usually separate my clothes into a couple of small vacuum bags. Travel Space Bags – No Vacuum Needed!

They keep my bag organized so I’m not constantly digging through the entire bag when I need something. I like to bring an extra small bag for dirty clothes. They also compress your clothing to create more space.

Here is what the rest of our packing list looks like:

Ladies Wardrobe

Hiking/Trail shoes and a pair of sandals
5 Shirts – including 2 tanks, 2 t-shirts and one long sleeve (You can get away with less if you are prepared to wash your clothes in the sink)
7 Pairs of undies – These don’t take up a lot of space.
2 Pairs of socks – 4 if I’m going somewhere that I will be wearing them every day
1 Sundress – Good for beach days and to throw over a swimsuit
1 Pair of shorts
1 Pair of pants only if I’ll be going somewhere cold
Swimsuit
Hat
Towel

Men’s Wardrobe

Everything the same as the ladies minus the sundress and add an extra pair of shorts.

Before we leave on an overseas trip, we always consult our handy Overseas Travel Checklist to make sure we didn’t forget to do anything important.