This post was written by Nicky, creator of That Anxious Traveller.
Dealing with travel anxiety can be tricky enough without having to worry about your stuff. Trust me, I know.
I mean, there's airports to deal with, flights to catch on time, puzzling public transport ticket machines (lookin' at you, Munich airport). The last thing you need is to be worrying about is whether your valuables are safe, or even worse, having them lost or stolen. That leads to stress, complicated processes, and messy public breakdowns. Let's not go there.
Not having a handle on your valuables leads to unnecessary stress, when it's actually an aspect of travel anxiety which can be completely stripped away by some careful planning, or buying of items. Imagine not having to worry about these aspects anymore, and being able to breeze through your flight or bus journey, knowing that your stuff is secure. So ask yourself:
Do you want to eliminate worries about belongings whilst in transit?
Do you want to wander abroad, safe in the knowledge that you can't be pickpocketed?
Are you willing to spend a bit of cash to provide peace of mind?
If you answered "yes" to all of the above, congrats! You're in the right place. Let's look at the ways we can protect our belongings when abroad, and best prevent them from being lost or stolen!
There's two major horror scenarios with backpacks, and neither of them are particularly fun. The first is that you'll often have to stow it in the underside of a bus, or check it in as hold luggage on a flight, and both of these can lead to your bag being lost or stolen. The second is that particularly unpleasant people may decide to slash or pickpocket your bag, as you walk around admiring the view. In both cases, you can be far away from your beloved belongings before you even know it.
Fortunately, both scenarios are actually pretty easy to prevent! A quick search of your favourite online shopping outlet will bring up a selection of anti-theft, slash-resistant bags (try this one on for size). These will often have combination locks built into the fabric, or zips which can't be easily pulled open, and the material itself is reinforced to deflect blades. As someone who went through the London Underground only to discover a large (thankfully unsuccessful) slash on my bag, I can tell you how useful this is!
Having your bags go missing or being stolen from a flight or bus is trickier, but not impossible. The first thing you want to do is to invest in a sturdy padlock - I keep one permanently strung through a loop on my backpack for when I need it. It might be old school, but it's a good, visual deterrent to anyone who might be eyeing up your bag. It's also really handy if airlines insist on checking your bags if locker space on your flight is limited.
The second thing to do is get a permanent luggage label, the kind that you'd usually attach to a suitcase. Mistakes happen, and this prevents anyone accidentally grabbing your bag - if worst comes to worst, they'll have your contact details in order to return it to you. After all, they'll be pretty keen to get their own belongings back!
The third thing you can do is invest in a smart luggage tag. These essentially microchip your bag - they have a QR code which can be scanned in the event that you or an airline lost your bag, immediately bringing up your details. At the same time, you can check online to see if the bag has been scanned, and see exactly where it is. The thought of losing my bags is a big part of my travel anxiety, and this is instant peace of mind!
Your travel documents, such as your passport and boarding passes, are some of the most valuable things you carry when abroad. Loss of a passport can cause serious anxiety for you, as well as hours spent trying to get a temporary one in order to continue, or return from your travels. Ain't nobody got time for that!
Before you do anything else, ensure that you take a photocopy or two of your passport. This is absolutely your worst travel document to replace if it gets lost, and having a copy of it can significantly speed up getting a temporary one assigned to you. Boarding passes can be reprinted, and travel insurance policies replaced. Your passport is absolutely key to keep safe.
So with that in mind, how about keeping all that shizzle safe and organised? I absolutely swear by travel wallets like this one: they're inexpensive, are often RFID-protected, and keep your passport and documents beautifully organised in your backpack. I used to be constantly freaking out in airports because my passport would slither down in its pocket, making me think that I'd lost it. These days, I have it in a travel wallet with my boarding pass, and keep hold of it until I'm on the plane. It's So. Much. Easier.
Keeping your phone safe abroad can be tricky. You're in a beautiful city somewhere, taking in all the sights. You want to capture what you're seeing, cherish the memories forever, and make all your Instagram followers insanely jealous (go on, admit it!). You take out your phone to take a snap... and you drop it, or even worse, someone plucks it from your hand and runs off. It's the stuff of nightmares. I genuinely think I'd rather lose my passport than my phone, and all the precious photos and messages I have on there.
So what can be done? Fortunately, it's totally simple to keep your beloved cellphone safe abroad!
Buy yourself a phone case with a wrist strap attached to it. It doesn't matter if it's to your taste; it's only temporary whilst you're out and about. The wrist strap is going to be a life-saver, physically preventing you from dropping it, or having it yoinked off your person. You can also buy phone cases which are lanyard-style, allowing you to wear a strap around your neck, and tuck your phone underneath your coat or t-shirt. Easy access for you, no access for thieves!
Nothing says "I am a tourist; please mug me" like having an expensive camera slung around your neck. So let's not send out those messages, 'kay?
Having said that, having your camera in a bag often isn't a good idea either. Having one with "Canon" or "Nikon" printed upon it immediately alerts thieves to the contents, and it can be pretty easy for them to slip your camera out of the bag whilst you're distracted, or cut the straps. So if you shouldn't have it around your neck, but you also shouldn't have it in a bag, where should you put it?
The answer is to put it in a different bag. I have a bulky Canon DSLR, and it fits absolutely perfectly in my plain, bog-standard shoulder bag (bonus points if it's a theft-proof one). It doesn't look anything special, it doesn't look like it has a camera in it, and it also holds any lenses I want to use. I wrap the lenses in a scarf to protect them, and use the leftover scarf to hide my camera should anyone have a peek when I open it.
If taking a camera in and out of a bag sounds like too much hassle, you can also buy wrist straps which you can attach to your device, and fasten tight around your wrist. No-one will be getting that from you!
You can be absolutely sunk if you lose your wallet. No money, no bank card to draw out money. If you're travelling solo, it can be a gigantic, potentially trip-ending problem.
First of all, never keep your wallet somewhere it can be easily pickpocketed from you. No back pockets, no inside jacket pockets unless you're keeping it well zipped up. Keep it in a theft-proof bag, or in a locked section of your backpack. It might take an extra couple of minutes to retrieve your money when you need it, but it’s considerably better than losing everything!
If you're staying in a hotel, always use the room safe to store any money you won't be using today (if something's stolen from your room and you weren't using the safe provided, good luck claiming that on your insurance). But what about hostels, or other rooms where you might not have a safe? Well good news: you can buy a travel safe! Although these aren't huge (yup, no storing of Scrooge McDuck-style gold ingots; sorry), they'll admirably serve to store your money, phone, jewelry, or other goodies. That extra bit of peace of mind can make a huge difference.
As you can see, a bit of planning and a splash of cash can really help to keep your bits and pieces safe abroad, avoiding some disasters at the same time. The feeling of preparedness, and having one less thing to worry about, is well worth it!
Nicky decided to create her blog, That Anxious Traveller, after a near-miss avoiding a terrorist attack in London forced her to evaluate the extent that anxiety was taking over her life. So after too long spent not travelling, she's out rediscovering the world again, and sharing the tips that she's learnt whilst conquering her fears. Plus eating loads of European food, because it's just too awesome. Armed with a belief that absolutely anyone can travel, she aims to help fellow anxiety sufferers, occasionally inspire, and provide merriment with tales of her mistakes!