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How to Keep Your Valuables Safe When You Travel

Learn how to best safeguard the valuables you take with you and the ones you leave behind.

Woman with suitcase packing her valuables before a trip
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A maid at a Las Vegas hotel was recently charged with stealing over $750,000 in luxury watches and jewelry from a guest room. Stories like this make you question what to do with valuables when you travel. So, let’s chat about how to keep your prized possessions safe when you’re on the road.

1. Carefully choose what goes with you.

You have no choice but to bring some valuables with you:

  • Passports, driver’s licenses or other forms of identification
  • Travel visas or other international travel documents
  • Credit cards and cash
  • Smart phones and devices that keep you connected to home and possibly work
  • Eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Prescribed or OTC medicine you need that can’t be replaced at your destination

As for valuables not on this list—things like fine jewelry and watches, it’s up to you whether or not to bring them. Although it may seem weird to leave something like your engagement or wedding ring behind, it’s always smart to consider whether it’s worth the risk that it could be stolen or lost. Answering a few questions can help you weigh that risk:

  • Does your homeowners insurance policy cover the item or do you have a rider (an add-on to your policy) that does?
  • Is the item irreplaceable like a family heirloom?
  • How safe is your destination? (Check the U.S. State Department Travel Advisories for international destinations).
  • Will you be staying in one place the entire trip or moving around a lot?
  • Would you be devastated if the item were lost or stolen?

2. Inventory the valuables you plan to take.

Once you decide, make a list detailing all the valuables you plan to take with you. This means photographing each item, digging up purchase receipts or appraisals and noting each one’s value. Having this inventory easily accessible on your phone or laptop in the event something is lost or stolen will make filing police reports; insurance claims; and hotel, airline or cruise incident reports much easier.

If you already have a complete home inventory, this work is done for you.

3. Pack like a pro.

Be intentional when you pack, following these pro tips:

  • Only pack valuables in a carry-on bag, never in checked luggage.
  • Put valuables in a smaller zipped bag or something like a jewelry pouch and hide it inside your carry-on to protect it through security screenings and from pick-pockets.
  • Make sure your carry-on bag can be securely closed with a zipper or magnetic snap, and don’t use an open tote.
  • Move any valuables to your purse or onto your person if your carry-on bag has to be unexpectedly checked at the gate or put in overhead storage.
  • Keep carry-on bags with valuables in them where you can see them on all forms of public transportation.
  • Put AirTags on your carry-on and checked luggage. These Bluetooth tracking devices can help you locate lost or stolen bags.

4. Be watchful while in transit.

Amid the excitement and exhaustion of travel, it’s easy to get distracted. But that’s when you’re most vulnerable to something happening to you or your valuables. Stay alert to your surroundings, including people nearby who may be watching you. The less you stand out the better, so try to blend in rather than looking like an obvious tourist.

5. Take advantage of hotel safes.

If you’re staying in a hotel or going on a cruise, confirm beforehand that your room or cabin will have a safe. If not, find out of there is a concierge or captain’s safe where valuables can be properly secured when not in use. Additionally, ask about security procedures and only make reservations where you’re satisfied that guest security is a top priority.

If you’re staying in a short-term rental like an Airbnb, Vacasa or VRBO, ask the host if there is a safe and a security system protecting the property and confirm that both are accessible to guests.

6. Consider purchasing travel insurance.

Travel insurance does more than insure your trip in the event of cancellations and interruptions. It also covers lost or stolen luggage while you’re traveling. Before purchasing a policy, speak to the travel insurance representative to make sure you buy enough coverage to fully protect the valuables you want to bring on your trip.

7. Secure the valuables left at home.

Before you leave on your trip, make sure that all your possessions, including valuables, will be safe while you’re away. These ideas can help:

  • Check to see if you need to update your homeowners insurance to ensure you have an appropriate amount of coverage given your home, valuables and other possessions.
  • Consider installing a security system complete with cameras, motion sensors and remote-control lighting and locks.
  • Place a hold on all mail and packages.
  • Inform trusted neighbors that you’ll be out of town and ask them to watch for any suspicious activity.

8. Protect your identity.

Last but not least, don’t forget about your most valuable possession: Your identity. To begin with, don’t travel with your social security card. Keep it at home in a secure location. Next before you leave, file a travel plan with your financial institution to ensure you (and no one else) can use your debit or credit card while you’re on the road.

Once you embark on your trip, don’t use any Wi-Fi that isn’t password protected when you’re shopping online or otherwise using your credit card. The same goes for conducting any online or mobile banking. Of course, notify your financial institution of any fraudulent purchases charged to your account, and if you believe you’re the victim of identity theft, use this checklist to reclaim your identity.

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CUNA 2023 diamond award trophy icon

CUNA 2023 Diamond Award Winner

Financial Education

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