Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Keeping your valuables and information safe

It doesn't matter what sort of traveling you're doing: keeping your personal information and valuables safe and secure should be your number one priority.

Not only is this is a very important goal on any trip you might be planning, but it's important to remember even when you're just running errands around town. It should not be looked upon as a scary prospect that is best approached in an armored car with numerous guards and guns, though. Common sense and practical solutions are the best weapons in defending your personal property and keeping your items out of a stranger's hands.

Here are some easy to follow ideas for keeping your information safe:

E-mail travel and hotel confirmation information to yourself. Before you leave, e-mail all of your confirmation details to yourself so that you can easily retrieve the information from your destination if you lose your paper copies (or if you forget to print them and find that you need them in order to check in). But be sure to display the information as an attachment if personal details are included instead of including those details in the main body of the e-mail. Go a step further and add password protection to the e-mail so that sensitive information will not be readily available to anyone.

Re-title e-mails that contain sensitive information. Especially when e-mails contain details about your credit card, trip itinerary, etc., use an alternate subject/title as a decoy or distraction (i.e., instead of using "Paris Hotel Confirmation", use something like "Ray's Vacation Photos"). As long as you remember what you're looking for when you need it!

Make copies of all your important personal documents and keep them separate from the originals. This goes for your driver's license, passport, Social Security card, and whatever other document you have that confirms your identity. Keeping copies of the originals in a separate location is the smart thing to do whether you're traveling or not. A missing driver's license or passport could keep you from going home at the end of a trip, so why take a chance? Having a copy of the original allows for verification to be made and ultimately allows your travel to be completed.

Don't use "Mom", "Dad", "Work", or "Home" on your cell phone. Use their first names or some other identifying information. Why? A thief stealing your cell phone can text your family or friends and ask them to send money to "X" address because "YOU" are in trouble. The money could be received by the thief before you even know your phone is missing.

Use room safes when available. Most hotel rooms in Vegas have room safes in some form, whether they be in the wall, in a drawer, or in the floor. Instead of taking all of your money with you when you go out, take only what you need for the time being and leave the rest of it behind (along with your non-essential travel documents). Keep your passport in there, too, unless it's your only form of ID; otherwise, your driver's license or state ID card will be enough to keep you properly identified by those who need to know who you are.

Use the safe deposit boxes at the Cashier's Cage if room safes are not available. Even more readily available than room safes in Vegas, safe deposit boxes are available for rent and should be used if you're carrying a large amount of cash or other valuables. Peace of mind is better than worrying about what you left behind in your hotel room during your entire trip.

Put valuables in your suitcase - and lock it - while storing it in your room. Let's face it; maids don't generally want to risk losing their job over your stuff, even if you think they do. While I've heard a few tales of people having items "ripped off" from their hotel rooms in Vegas, I find it hard to blame anyone but themselves for the "thefts". Why? Because if you don't have/don't use the safe, you still have your suitcase as an option, and you probably have a lock for it. Put your (not so) valuables in it and lock it when you leave the room. Accidentally leaving a watch or a ring on the nightstand or bathroom counter happens to the best of us when we're getting dressed/undressed, and it's usually OUR fault when they go missing, not the maid's. I say that because, when in Vegas, we generally "forget" where we put something (whether we were drinking or not), or we accidentally knock it off or misplace it when we're rushing around doing something else. It's easier to point the finger at someone else in these situations, but we should all remember that when we're pointing at someone, there's only one finger pointing at them and four pointing back at us. Just sayin'. As a general rule, whatever I don't put in the safe or take with me (money and good jewelry), I put in the suitcase and attach the lock (fake jewels and confirmation info included).

Pack important items in your carry on instead of your checked luggage. This goes for important documents, expensive jewelry, money, cameras or video equipment you don't want damaged, and your medicines most importantly of all. Not only are you trying to keep everyone at the airport honest, but you're trying to keep your items from getting broken or misplaced by anyone but yourself. Also, keeping your medications with you is especially important if you and your luggage are inconveniently (and maybe inexplicably) separated from one another. Even the airlines aren't perfect, and lost or damaged luggage happens from time to time. Delays and cancellations happen, too. Keep your stuff as safe as possible and keep yourself as healthy as possible, too.

Keep your money out of sight when you're walking around. Whether you're buying dinner for friends or walking the Strip, don't flash the cash. Keep your stash of money out of sight and out of a potential thief's mind...and hands.

Ladies, consider a purse for security rather than beauty. We know there are all kinds of sparkly purses out there that would be great for Vegas, but carrying a purse that you can A) hold close to your body, and/or B) secure across your body with a strap are the best sorts of purses you can carry. Something you have to set down on a chair or the floor is just begging to be stolen. Carrying that cute little clutch is great if you're headed to a show, but taking it back to your hotel room in exchange for a more secure or sensible version is advisable. Don't despair, though; there are plenty of cute and adorable purses out there that will fit your needs nicely, so just look around until you find something that suits your tastes.

Those are some very basic ideas, but they make a lot of sense if you think about the common sense of them all. You're putting the responsibility on yourself to make sure your stuff is safe, but you're also reducing the temptation factor.

Before you leave on your next trip, just remember this little bit of additional information: Items left in a hotel room are not always returned to their owners. So, if you really want to make sure that your favorite hoodie gets back home with you, or that blanket you take everywhere gets back to your linen closet at home, double-check your room before you complete your checkout. Maids pile everything on a cart and take it away if it's not part of the hotel room setup. Maybe some items get kept by the maids (if they need that small coffee maker you brought along for your trip), but a lot of items are donated to homeless shelters and battered women's shelters. They won't go to waste or be thrown out, but the hotels don't always sort and retain the items in the hopes that you'll suddenly remember what you'd previously forgot.

Just remember to be safe and have FUN!

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