My friend Sue finally landed in Jamaica after 11 hours flight from Frankfurt. All she was thinking about at this point was how awesome it will be to jump into refreshing ocean water, right after she checks in to hotel room. Emigration check took a while, but fortunately the luggage came out quickly. Now it’s just an hour in a bus, swift check in with delicious drinks in their hands and nothing else stood between her and the sunny beach. Let’s just find the bikini and enjoy the rest of the day in the sun.
– Did you change the code to the bag? Sue shouts to her husband, who admires stunning view from their balcony.
– No, why?
– Come here! I cannot open it!
Both of them examine the luggage closely only to discover a tiny little tag attached to it. They didn’t have such tag on their bag – it’s not their luggage!
Many weird things tend to happen while you are traveling, most can be predicted, some are really unbelievable!
Ok, so how can we protect ourselves while traveling? How to travel safely?
Let me share with you advice, based on mine (and not only) experiences while traveling.
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Is it likely that someone else has exactly the same luggage as you, or similar enough to make a mistake? You would be surprised how often it happens, especially after a long-haul flights when people are exhausted and all they want is to get out of the airport ASAP.
Ok, I have to be honest with you. My friend’s name is not Sue.. but the story is real! What would happen if a nice German lady didn’t have a tag with her mobile number on her luggage? How fun their two weeks vacations in Jamaica would be, with someone else’s luggage they cannot open and without their meticulously packed holiday clothes and cosmetics? I guess thy would spend all this time trying to figure out what to do and a small adventure would become a disaster.
- when you take a bag from the luggage line take a look at the label attached by the airline – yes, the one that most people tear off and throw away immediately – it should contain your name and the destination. Even if it looks like your bag, someone else may have the same model.
- attach a luggage tag with your name and phone number to the handle of your bag (in case someone else takes it by mistake and realize it only in the hotel). It’s also useful in case the airline looses your luggage during changes – believe me or not it happened to me and Greg at least five times.
- when you realize that you took someone else’s bag from the luggage line – FOR CRYING OUT LOUD PUT IT BACK ON THE LINE ! – this one is from Greg, who once waited for the luggage till all the bags and people were gone, only to realize that someone took his bag from the line, noticed it’s not his and put it aside.
LUGGAGE TAGS with durable steel cable
Those are maybe not so sturdy, but soooo cute! And you will see it’s your luggage from far far away!
My husband is totally paranoid about locking our backpacks while we travel. I never really understood this obsession, until he explained it to me easily. You watch your backpack on a bus or train, you keep and eye on it in the airplane, but what happens when you finally get on the plane? You put it somewhere over your head, sometimes far behind you, as there might be no space in the compartment right next to you. How can you make sure that no-one will look through your backpack while you nod off or watch a movie (especially on a long-haul flight)? How to make sure that no “suspicious package” will be added to your backpack while you are not watching?
What about leaving your things in a hotel or hostel, while you’re awaiting for the transportation? Coming back from our last travel we had 6 hours between room check-out and the flight. We left our bags and backpacks in a hostel for three hours and went to the beach. We could indulge in our last sunbathing in Jamaica with a calm mind, as all out bags including backpacks were closed and secured.
- lock your backpack every-time you don’t have it under direct supervision (on a plane, if you have to leave it in the hotel or hostel)
- after your re-claim your backpack – check small pockets that were not locked, in case someone put something inside
LOCK WITH 3-DIGIT COMBINATION
Our former boss had a really nasty experience after one of his travels to US. Few weeks after he came back, substantial amounts of money started disappearing from his account. Apparently someone was shopping with his credit card in London. The credit card however was safely in his wallet.. Safely? Apparently not.
Back in that time electronic pick-pocketing wasn’t so common in Europe, so this came as a big surprise. Since I strongly believe that it is always best to learn from someone’s mistake, not mine, first thing I bought when I came to Miami was wallet with RFID shield.
- place your credit card and passport in RFID wallet or cover
- place money and important documents by your side – not in the backpack
- try to place cash and credit cards in at least two different places (just in case you loose one of them)
- don’t put your wallet, phone or documents in the back pocket of your trousers (many guys do that!) – it’s just an invitation for pickpocketer
NECK WALLET WITH RFID SHIELD against electronic pick-pocketing or identity theft
This one is cool, because you can put it under your sweater or jacket and all your belongings will be safe just in front of you. That’s really handy on the airport! It gives you easy access to your passport and boarding passes. I hate taking those things out of my overstuffed purse and putting them back numerous times while navigating through the airport. And I think we all agree that pocket is not the safest place to keep such important stuff.
CREDIT CARD AND PASSPORT WALLET
If you prefer something more elegant this wallet is nice and goes in forty different colors.
And if you need something smaller just for the credit cards, this one is just too cute and there are dozens of colors. I actually need to buy one too, as mine is already battered after few years of traveling with me everywhere.
BELT WITH MONEY POCKET
To be honest I’m not a big fan of credit cards. I know they are necessity nowadays, but still I feel better when I have cash with me. You know, things happen, ATMs malfunction occasionally, sometimes there are crazy fees for withdrawing and in many places I traveled they accepted only cash in shops.
I never rely solely on cards and always bring some cash while traveling. I keep it by my side and preferably in few places. Pick-pocketing is one of the biggest threats on the way, so hiding your money in few “not-so-obvious” spots is clever thing to do.
Why not a belt?
SCARF WITH POCKET
Ok, when I saw this one for the first time I was like ‘why on Earth didn’t I think about it before?’. That’s so ingenious, and sneaky and chic! And I want it NOW!
I wear a shawl or a scarf on a plane anyways, coz I’m always chilly and with this smart pocket you can always have important things right under your nose! Did I say ingenious?
Another solution for ladies, and this one is so clever! If you don’t like to take a purse when going out (I don’t!), secret pocket is just perfect. You can pack it with some cash, credit card or other small but necessary ladies accessories. And isn’t it sexy to take money ‘out-of-a-bra’? Like in a movie!
Ok, one more story – I promise it’s the last one 🙂 My colleague’s colleague (for sake of this story let’s call him Jim) went with his family for holidays to one of the Caribbean countries. They slightly over-packed while flying there, that happens to everyone. I’m guilty too! But you know how it is on holidays – two weeks later and couple of souvenirs and few t-shirts more they had a hard time to pack to go back. After struggling for a while, Jim finally managed to close the zip of his and wife’s bag. Phew, what a relief!
Have you ever seen airport staff loading the luggage to or from the aircraft? I have, and believe me they are far from gentle. Needless to say that zippers in Jim’s bags didn’t survive this journey and he found his belongings on the luggage belt in few transparent plastic bags. It was hilarious to hear this story being told my my colleague, but honestly I would go mad if I was Jim and saw this disaster after few hours flight.
LUGGAGE STRAP WITH A LOCK
Luggage strap is a great solution to avoid such a nightmare, and this one provides additional protection from theft, as it has 3-digit lock.