Bathing suit? Check! List of exciting locations to visit while on vacation? Check! A sure-fire way to make sure your identity and money don't get stolen? Uh oh! Better rethink that checklist!
Travel Safety for Your Money!
When it comes to taking a vacation, abroad or otherwise, there is a lot more to think about than just what you're going to pack and where you're going to stay. Does the hotel have a safe in the room? What type of crowds can you expect to deal with? If you're going to another country, where is the US Embassy located? If all you have on your list is your itinerary, keep reading and find out what else you need to make sure you do before and during your trip!
Before Your Trip
Before traveling, there are several things you can do to safeguard your identity, important documents, and cash. One of the first things you can do to protect your finances is to contact those individuals that handle your money on a daily basis - your bank. Call them PRIOR to your trip and let them know of your departure and return dates, as well as each state or country you'll be visiting and potentially using your cards. This will prevent you from having your cards frozen if your bank suspects your identity has been stolen.
Speaking of things being stolen, imagine being in another state or country without an ID. It would be pretty difficult to prove who you are in order to get new documents, right? To combat this, we strongly suggest making photocopies of each of your travel documents. By doing this, and storing them separately from your ACTUAL documents. You're safeguarding your identity and ensuring your ability to prove who you are should you need emergency replacements issued to you.
Don't zip up that suitcase just yet. Look at the clothing selections you're bringing with you. Are they things a typical person would wear in that location or will you stick out in a crowd as a tourist? If possible, do some research on the location you'll be visiting and do your best to match your wardrobe to the type of clothing people typically wear. By doing this you will blend into the crowd more easily and will have less of a chance of being singled out by pickpockets.
During Your Trip
What should you keep in your pockets just in case they DO get picked? The answer is, as little as possible. Never carry all of your cards, cash and documents in one bag. Also, only carry what you need for that day. We suggest an ID, cash, and an emergency credit card scattered throughout your own person, members of your party, or your bags. This way you won't be robbed of everything you have with you, just what the thieves can gain access to when you're not paying attention. Keep those belongings you choose not to bring with you in the hotel safe if there is one. A lot of hotels provide these in the bedside tables or dressers, take advantage of them.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you're planning on renting a car. Some countries and states are known for vehicle break-ins. It may seem convenient to rent a car so that you can bring more of your belongings with you, but we suggest you DON'T leave anything of value in your rental car - even if it's hidden.
Keeping an eye on purchases made using your account is something you should be doing on a regular basis, but especially on vacation! While you're relaxing with a good book on the beach, or gazing over the Grand Canyon, someone could be buying up the souvenir shop without you even knowing a thing. Unless you're vigilant with your account, that is. A smartphone app may be available for your bank that would allow you to monitor your accounts directly from the app or you may be able to sign up to receive emails should your account be charged about a certain amount. Check with your personal bank for the monitoring options available to you.
If You're a Victim
Oh no - You reach into your purse to pay for lunch and you quickly realize your wallet is missing and your cash/cards are gone! Or, you're going through your bags at the hotel and realize your passport is missing. The good news is you have options.
If you've lost a card, call your bank immediately and alert them of the theft. They will be able to cancel the card immediately and save you from any fraudulent charges. In the meantime, friends or family can wire you money through Western Union. It can be done over the phone or over the internet in a short amount of time. We suggest getting a prepaid Western Union card prior to your trip and keeping it safe in the hotel room, seeing as you will have limited access to your bank account until your replacement debit or credit card comes in the mail. With a prepaid card, you can have money transferred directly to the card instead of a bank account.
Even if you manage to hold onto your bank cards, finding yourself abroad and without your passport can be scary - especially if you've also been robbed of your other photo IDs, as well. By going to the US Embassy in the country you're visiting, you can be issued an emergency passport in as little as 24 hours. The process is made easier, of course, if you followed our earlier advice and have photocopies of your passport and other IDs. This will help to prove your identity to the US Embassy much quicker and expedite the process of issuing your replacement passport.