10 Essential Packing Hacks to Keep You Safe During Holiday Travel

It’s the most pick-pocketiest time of the year.
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It’s the most pick-pocketiest time of the year.

From cozy campfires to family dinners, the holidays are something special. However, many of us have to travel before reaching the festive goodness. And whether you’re trekking thirty minutes or eight hours, staying safe is as important as what’s waiting for you at your destination.

In the hustle and bustle of transit, it’s important to protect your belongings—and yourself. Thieves love masses of hasty holiday travelers, after all. A study in the Journal of Criminal Justice reports, “Analyses indicated that both violent and property crimes were significantly related to major (or legal) holidays.” You don’t have to brave the crowds in paranoia—just be prepared. Start off with these ten clever packing hacks for a stress-free journey.

01. Keep Identification Accessible

Forms of identification and boarding passes are the most vital items you have when away from home. But because they hold personal information, it’s important to keep them out of the wrong hands. Basically, these docs deserve first-class attention.

Your best bet is to store them in an accessible–yet concealed–spot. Opt for a zippered pocket on a coat or purse interior. The pocket should be on the front of your person, instead of an out-of-sight backpack pocket. For prime security, and if you know you’ll be in close crowds, consider investing in a hidden money belt. This is especially useful for extensive traveling in unfamiliar areas.

While it may seem like a safe haven, avoid the depths of your bag. The more you have to rummage, the longer your belongings are exposed or prone to falling out. This inhibits your awareness of your surroundings, earning you the title of an easy target. Instead, keep it within hand’s reach, hidden from the casual passerby.


02. Separate Your Funds

From food to transportation, travel money is a must. According to USA Today, the safest thing you can do is split up your funds on your body and in your bag. That way if a stranger swipes your wallet or purse—or you just happen to misplace it—you won’t be left empty-handed. Store enough in each spot to provide transportation to a police station, hotel, or relative’s house. This hack is especially handy if you’re traveling solo and don’t have a friend to spot you. If your wallet is swiped, that hidden $50 bill and credit card will save the day.

Separating your money also prevents having to pair it up with identification and tickets. You’ll often pull out the latter in a crowded line. By separating your money, you’ll avoid flashing your cash while you reach for that ticket.

03. Check In Bags Carefully

While it’s easy to check your bag to your destination, you never know what will happen along the way. Keep your most valuable items on your person. This can be anything from important documents and jewelry to electronics. Hand-carrying these will ensure that the important things never (ever) leave your sight. If you’re checking a bag, pack like it will be lost: Put enough in your carry-on (medication, clothes, etc.) that you’ll have all you need for a day or two in case your luggage goes missing.

Here’s a rule of thumb: If you lost it, would you be crushed? Is it easy to replace? That cute sweater may be a bummer to lose, but parting with Grandma’s earrings will undoubtedly dig deeper. Asking yourself these questions will help you decide what to pack in your check-in and your carry-on.

04. Make Copies

Before leaving home, make two copies of your identification and a credit card. Store one in a place other than your wallet, such as an interior pocket or a makeup pouch. If your wallet is stolen or lost, you’ll still have proof of identification to get you by. This is especially important if you’re traveling outside of the country, where rules and regulations for tourists may be stricter.

You can also go digital and make a few scans. Send the files to yourself and a family member. This will give you another quick way to provide identification, especially if your other belongings are lost in transit.

05. Tag Your Luggage

Luggage tags are useful for connecting the dots between you and a lost or stolen bag. Use a luggage tag that needs to be opened to be read. That way if it needs to be accessed, it’s easy enough, but your personal info will be hidden from unwanted wandering eyes.

Protect your privacy by sticking to your name, email address, and number. Your home address can always be requested by an airline employee or a police officer. An email or a phone call is more than enough for anyone to get in touch with you.

When it comes to airline barcodes, remove old tags, and check that new tags are accurate. Old tags may cause baggage handlers to misroute your bag. And double-checking the destination on a new tag will ensure that your bag meets you where you expect it.

06. Stash the Flash

We’re always told to dress to impress. But when it comes to traveling, it’s best to leave this mindset—and the designer handbag—at home.

According to Forbes, thieves are attracted to people who seem to own items of value, even if this just means a cell phone. We’re talking about everything from sparkly diamond earrings to a chic jacket. Basically, anything that has obvious monetary value will make any pickpocket do a double take. Forbes reminds us that even a designer shopping bag can reel them in.

Even if you’re not one for high-end brands, that doesn’t mean you should ignore your traveling attire. Pickpockets pay attention to the details—and so should you. Decrease your susceptibility by turning down the posh factor in exchange for comfort. Does this mean you need to slip into pajamas? Of course not. Jeans and flats are your friends. You’ll be comfortable and cross yourself off someone’s mental list of potential targets.

If you must bring expensive (or expensive-looking) items, conceal them. Pack them in your carry-on or wear layers, topped off with a watchful eye.

07. Designate and Separate

Prep for a headache-free trip by investing in lightweight, collapsible bags designated for each kind of item. This can mean a pouch for makeup and a drawstring bag for accessories. Ditch the guesswork, and make sure each bag has distinguishing factors, whether it’s see-through or a unique shape or color. This will eliminate unnecessary digging and searching, both of which can easily divert your attention from your surroundings.

Clear vinyl bags work great for items such as shoes and travel-friendly makeup. Opaque zippered pouches are ideal for travel documents, while smaller versions can hold bracelets and rings. Check out Amazon or eBags for a wide variety of options for different styles, budgets, and items. The Verily editors are big fans of Muji travel accessories.

By giving everything a home, items are less likely to go missing. Organizing your belongings will become a smooth and seamless process, making it easy to pack and unpack and earning you more time to enjoy your trip. It’s a win-win.

08. Reuse and Recycle 

We all have that one lip balm or tube of lipstick that we never use. Instead of letting it sit around, clean it out and use it as an inconspicuous storage case. Featuring a slim shape and small size, a lip balm or lipstick tube is perfect for storing a few rolled-up bills.

You can also use it to hold finer jewelry that needs extra protection; a delicate necklace or pair of small earrings, for example. Thanks to its hard plastic exterior, it’s a cheap and easy way to protect and conceal tiny valuables.

Don’t have any lip balm or lipstick tubes to spare? Opt for an empty breath mint tin, contact lens case, or floss container. Any innocent-looking opaque vessel is the best way to go.

09. Wear Layers

Regardless of your end point, public transit can get chilly. Layering on the clothes doesn’t just keep you warm; it doubles as a packing hack. It saves packing space, and you’ll score yourself a few extra pockets for keeping those items we mentioned earlier on your person.

A destination where you can do laundry is an even better reason to wear layers. This will minimize what you need to pack, making your luggage less bulky and attractive to undercover thieves. The key is to wear basic essentials that can be styled differently throughout your entire trip. Don’t know where to begin? Check out Verily’s helpful guide for creating a capsule wardrobe. You’ll be surprised by how far a few classic pieces can go.

10. Turn to Tech

Take a digital photo of your bag and its contents. The first thing you’ll be asked for if you file a missing report is a description of your bag. You can use a photo of its contents to remember what you lost and file a reimbursement claim from the airline, your credit card, or your travel insurance company. It’s much easier to work from a photo than from memory.

If you check bags often or are paranoid about losing smaller items such as a purse, a wallet, or keys, consider investing in locator devices such as LugLoc for luggage and larger bags or Tile for smaller items. They work with apps on your computer or smartphone to help you locate items when they go lost or missing.

Keep these tips in mind while packing for your next trip. It may seem like extra work, but it’s totally worth it for your safety—and sanity. By being cautious and prepared, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy every bit of your trip from beginning to end knowing that you’re covered no matter what. Safe travels!

Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.