Top tips to keep yourself and your belongings safe on holiday

Georgina Smith / 20 September 2016 ( 15 July 2019 )

When travelling, it pays to be vigilant to keep both yourself and your belongings safe. Read our top tips to keep safe while on holiday.

It pays to be vigilant

Even the most reputable hotels and safest destinations may, once in a while, harbour unsavoury types who'll take any opportunity to steal and scam from unsuspecting tourists.

Whilst the overwhelming likelihood is that you'll have nothing to worry about (after all, holiday providers usually do their best to pick hassle-free hotels) it nevertheless pays to stay vigilant when it comes to protecting yourself and your things on a package holiday.

With cash, cards or passports stolen, you may find yourself stranded somewhere far from home with a logistical nightmare on your hands.

With cameras gone, so too is the opportunity to capture memorable moments. Even more important is your personal safety.

Follow these simple rules, and you'll reduce the risk of becoming a victim of crime.

By protecting yourself, you'll enjoy more peace of mind and be able to truly relax on an extraordinary escape in a fabulous destination – whether that's the sunny shores of Spain, the crystalline coastline of Croatia or a brilliant Baltic city.

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Keep valuable possessions and important documents in a safe

Whether you've popped down to the hotel bar for the evening, or you're out and about all day long, keep all your valuables that you don't need to have with you in a safe.

This includes important travel documents like passports, insurance documents and tickets.

If your room has a safe, great. If not, your hotel should have one in their office; you can leave your items with reception and ask them to keep them safe.

Bear in mind, however, that this will be at your own risk – be sure to ask for a receipt for your items and double check that your things will be stored securely.

Lock your stock

Before you leave on holiday, invest in some good padlocks. Combination locks are best, as you won't run the risk of loosing keys (as long as you don't run the risk of mentally loosing your combination after an evening enjoying a sangria or two).

If you have a laptop, it may be too big for your room's safe. In which case you can purchase a laptop cable lock and keep it anchored to a permanent fixture in your room.

The cables on these, however, are usually quite thin and easily cut with the right tools – so whilst there should be no need to worry about items being taken from your room, for peace of mind, you may want to keep your computer in a locked suitcase.

Or ask your hotel's reception to take care of it. The same goes for other expensive electronic devices.

When out and about, only carry what you need

If you're heading out for the day or evening, only take with you what you need. Estimate how much cash you'll need, and only carry the cards you think you'll use.

If you have multiple credit cards, consider taking only one. There shouldn't be any need for you to have your travel documents with you when exploring locally, so they're best kept safe back at the ranch.

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Use your 'do not disturb' sign

You're not the paranoid type. But...if you want to help ensure no hotel staff enter your room while you're out, simply hang your 'do not disturb' sign on your door before leaving.

This will deter anyone coming in and reduce the risk of rogue employees snaffling your stuff. And of course, always ensure your door is locked behind you!

Keep cash and cards on your person

Enjoying a package holiday in a pleasant destination is a wonderful way to unwind. So much so, that it can be easy to leave bags behind in bars, or beneath the seats of buses when out and about, away from your hotel.

So, of course, keep at least one part of your brain always on your bag. But to avoid loosing your cash and cards – keep them on your person.

That means using a wallet or a money belt. If your destination is known for street theft (even if it isn't, but you want to stay extra safe), use as discrete a money belt as possible. You can buy ones that sit comfortably under clothes.

If you want to be even cleverer, carry a decoy wallet. Keep in it a collection of old, useless cards and only a little bit of cash. If in the unlikely scenario someone tries to mug you, you can hand them the decoy.

Another handy tip: make sure your decoy wallet looks convincingly worn. As smart as we think we are in tricking criminals, unfortunately, they – as seasoned professionals – can be even smarter.

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Make photocopies of important documents

Before you set off on your package holiday, take photocopies of your important travel documents.

This includes passports, visas, tickets and insurance documents. Take a set of copies with you and keep them somewhere separate to the originals.

It's also worth leaving a set of copies with a trusted friend or family member before you set off.

This means, in the unlikely event that you lose all of your things, you can call them for any details you need.

Another option is to take scans of everything before you go and email them to yourself.

This means, as long as you have access to the Internet and your emails at your destination, you can access your documents.

Keep your ear to the ground about local scams

If you intend to explore the local area around your hotel, have a poke around online travel forums for any information about criminal behaviour in the area.

If you read about someone's experience being swindled in the vicinity, pay particular attention to avoid it happening to you.

It's worth researching all types of scams targeted towards tourists. Whilst you don't want to send yourself into an unnecessary panic, knowing the risk is much better than being a sitting duck. 

Be careful in queues

There's one situation that often offers a ripe picking of sitting ducks for thieves: the queue.

Whilst wishing it was their turn next (for the boat trip, ticket office or museum entrance), the daydreaming tourist is susceptible to taking their eyes off their bag. 

Thieves, working in pairs see this as an opportunity: one causes a distraction, whilst the other snatches a bag and high-tails it. 

Check your insurance

Insurance is a must when travelling. When you purchase your travel insurance, make sure it covers all the belongings you intend to take.

And whilst on holiday don't put yourself or your belongings in any harmful situations that may not be covered by your insurance.

Read your policy document carefully and understand what it covers and what it doesn't.

Don't get stranded for cash: tell your bank you're going away

Lastly, a silly but common mistake to make is forgetting to tell your bank that you're travelling abroad.

Whilst it's not usually an issue in well-trodden destinations, if you're heading to a higher risk area known for scams, your bank may block any attempt to take money out or pay for something by card.

This could leave you stranded or in a sticky situation.

You'll find the relevant number to call on your bank's website – and some banks even allow you to inform them using an online form.

Most banks ask that you let them know of your intention to travel (and where you'll be going) at least 24 hours before you depart.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.