Two years ago, out of the blue, Rich announced that he wanted to become a consulting detective. I think he was kidding, but ever since then, he’s spent countless hours taking online courses in foiling pickpockets, following people, picking locks, and spotting micro-expressions and evasive techniques that reveal people are lying. Nowadays it’s nearly impossible to keep him in the dark about holiday and birthday gifts, and I clearly won’t be throwing a surprise party for him ever again.
When we started planning our upcoming train trip through Central and Eastern Europe, Rich naturally took the lead in determining what security measures we’d take during our journey. I didn’t give it another thought until the other day when a package arrived, and Rich excitedly reported that it contained his RFID-blocking Rogue money clip. Say what? That’s when I asked him to sit down and tell me exactly what kinds of security measures he has in mind. Here’s Rich’s checklist of travel safety essentials.
1. The RFID-blocking Rogue money clip. Apparently the microchips in many credit cards emit a radio frequency filled with your personal and financial data; tech-savvy thieves using a “skimmer” can access this data from up to 30 feet away, right through clothing, wallets, even cars. Luckily Rich has found a company that makes a money clip with credit card pockets lined with paper-thin metal sheets to block the transmission of your Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) info. I asked Rich if these were the same people who recommend putting aluminum foil on your head to block gamma rays from aliens, but he assures me this is the real deal.
2. Scottevest 8-pocket pants with deep hidden pocket. Obviously all this RFID shielding isn’t going to do you a bit of good if someone simply filches your money clip, so Rich has purchased travel pants with a multitude of pockets and will secure his RFID-blocking money clip deep in the lower depths of an inner pocket.
3. A fake wallet. Muggers aren’t going to believe you’re not carrying any money or credit cards, and you certainly don’t want them rummaging through your pants until they find your RFID money clip in the profound inner depths. Security experts advise carrying an old wallet with a little cash and expired credit cards to hand over should the occasion arise.
4. A chain to attach the wallet to your belt loops. Ever since he was pickpocketed by a gang of subway thieves, Rich has worn his everyday wallet on a chain clipped to a belt loop. He feels it will add verisimilitude to his fake wallet, too. Extra bonus: Buying wallets with chains already attached – most of which come embellished with the logos of heavy metal rock bands or elaborate designs involving skulls – has really boosted Rich’s street cred.
5. A hidden pouch for your passport. Rich suggests keeping your passport separately, in a hidden pouch inside your trousers, along with a bit of extra cash in case of emergencies.
6. A money belt with a copy of your passport. In case of a more comprehensive robbery, a copy of your passport will make it easier to replace at an embassy or consulate. Tuck in enough cash for taxis and a restorative drink at the nearest bar.
7. Zipper clips on your daypack. Anything worn out of sight on your back is vulnerable. A zipper clip discourages thieves, who won’t want to spend time fiddling and tugging in ways you’re bound to notice.
8. Cable lock to secure your suitcase on the train or in a hotel. You can’t watch your bags every second, so use a cable to attach them to a luggage rack, hotel radiator or other fixed object.
Obviously you'll wear it under the shirt.
9. A USB flash drive worn on a chain around your neck. Back up essential info – scans of passports and credit cards, phone numbers, passwords to vital online accounts, etc. – and carry it everywhere. And of course, make sure it’s password protected.
10. Trust no one (except your travel partner). Don’t assume that your hotel room or even the hotel safe will be absolutely secure. Divvy up your valuables; Rich recommends carrying some with you, hiding a few in your hotel room, putting some in the hotel safe...and then making every effort to recall just where you’ve stashed everything.
I have pointed out to Rich that writing this post virtually guarantees that during our upcoming trip some enterprising robber will take this as a challenge and strip us down to our birthday suits in an attempt to retrieve valuables from all the obscure hiding places described above. But Rich points out that we never carry much cash, our credit card exposure is very limited, and our online accounts are so password protected even we have trouble getting on them.
“Besides,” he points out, with that special gleam in his eye, “just think what a great case that would be for a consulting detective.” So there’s an upside to everything.
This post was written in response to questions I've been asked about packing for long and varied trips. Unlike some of my better-organized and more practical blogger friends, I haven't obtained any free or discounted gear or supplies in return for promoting anything on this blog. I'm just letting you know what products Rich and I consider to be the most useful for our kind of travel. Watch for future posts about the garments, gear, gadgets and supplies that we consider travel essentials.
4/2/2013 09:09:07 am
I chuckle each time I read your disclaimers as I too fall in the category of paying our own way and not receiving freebies or discounts for reviews. An item we are trying on our upcoming trip to Greece are tee-shirts made by Clever Travel Companions with invisible zippers that access a security pocket in the center of the tee-shirt (for men) or tank top (for women). The pocket easily holds passports, credit cards etc. I just wrote about them in the last week so check out our blog for more details.
4/2/2013 10:10:37 am
Love your "Packing and Pickpocket Prevention" post; it's got yet more wonderful ideas for keeping stuff safe. Thanks for the great tips, Jackie! I'm passing them on to Rich, of course.
4/3/2013 01:00:25 am
What an excellent article - loads of useful stuff in there, especially the RFID - I knew nothing about that. Thanks, Karen!
4/3/2013 06:46:11 am
Fiona, the great thing about living with a consulting detective is that he's always detecting new stuff to buy, so we can stay one step ahead of the criminals out there. Glad you liked the article!
4/3/2013 05:18:04 am
Rather than carrying around a USB, which can also be nicked, just scan everything and email it to yourself. That way everything is available from the nearest internet cafe.
4/4/2013 09:22:22 am
I ran this by my security chief, who says email is great for most stuff, but he prefers not to commit the really sensitive materials, like the passwords we use for financial accounts, to email, which could be hacked. Of course, it could be that RIch just likes wearing the USB necklace....
4/9/2013 07:43:46 pm
I have codes for all my passwords that I e-mailed to myself. I know that at my age this is risky due to "possible" memory problems. Just a note to let you know that I have codes for all my passwords that I ... Oh, and great column, Karen. Rich is smart and you are funny. Great combo!
4/3/2013 06:19:08 am
Great advise mixed in with Karen's incredible sense of humor. I laughed and learned the whole time I was reading this.
4/4/2013 09:23:11 am
Thanks, John, glad you enjoyed it!
4/4/2013 09:26:13 am
Yes, recycling old wallets is just one of the many benefits to Rich's security system. And he's still doing research, so there may be even more gadgets and gear in our future!
4/3/2013 04:36:00 pm
Does Mr. Detective have a "trade name"? Like Detective Friday, or "Maxwell Smarter"? Love the advice and the humorous way it is delivered. Bill
4/4/2013 09:27:27 am
Yes, he's known around here as "Mr. X." I can't tell you any more than that, Bill, because it's all so hush hush!
4/8/2013 10:27:19 am
4/5/2013 05:06:28 am
Great article Karen, after having gone through various pick pockets and muggers at home and abroad I can say these are great measures a person can take to prevent your personal items be taken. I would love to re-post this on our blog, so that our students can also take some pointers, if it's ok with you of course. And if there is anything we can do for you please don't hesitate to ask!
4/8/2013 10:24:22 am
That's fine with me, Aldo. Always happy to spread the word about travel safety. Go ahead and post it on your blog. Just be sure you give me attribution, and that there's a link back to my blog. Please let me know when it goes live. Thanks.
4/5/2013 09:03:27 am
Having just returned from Sevilla, I can tell you I never felt threatened at all. Even with the multitudes of beautiful humans that were there for Semana Santa. I understand why you love it so! We did, however take many of Rich's precautions while in Barcelona. Talk about night and day! Thanks for all the great tips.
4/8/2013 10:29:53 am
You're right, Ellen, Seville is a pretty safe town. We do get pickpockets, and I had my purse stolen twice in the early years; either I'm more savvy now or the thieves have realized I never carry that much cash and have stopped bothering. We get so relaxed here that I have to make a conscious effort to remember to be more careful elsewhere. Glad you liked the post!
4/8/2013 10:30:36 am
Thanks, Agness! Good luck in Manila!
4/8/2013 10:32:10 am
Glad you liked the post, Emily. Yes, a good cable is a handy thing to have on a long train ride! Happy travels.
4/8/2013 02:53:52 am
Interesting blog. It's actually quite helpful not only to travelers but to locals as well. I've experience getting my things stolen without me noticing thus I find your suggestions very efficient.
4/8/2013 10:33:29 am
Yes, a lot of these things are everyday security measures. We tend to get relaxed in our home communities, but of course, robberies can happen anywhere, especially in these difficult economic times. Glad you liked the post.
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As my regular readers know, I never get free or discounted goods or services for mentioning anything on this blog (or anywhere else). I only write about things that interest me and that I believe might prove useful for you all to know about. Whew! I wanted to clear that up before we went any further. Thanks for listening.
TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
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