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.
I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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