According to a recent survey from TripAdvisor, 78% of Americans will travel on a family vacation between June and August. While a vacation is always a well-deserved recharge, it may also mean unfamiliar surroundings where you’re paying more attention to fun than to safety.
With a bit of vigilance and a few careful steps—like separating your cash into small amounts carried in different pockets, wearing a money belt, or just paying attention to your surroundings—you and your loved ones can foil a pickpocket who would otherwise put a damper on your vacation. But keeping your money safe when you’re on the road also takes some pre-trip planning and high-tech help.
There is more private, financial, and even embarrassing information on your smart phone than you ever kept in your wallet.
Lighten Up Your Wallet
The experts at MedJet Assistance, a travelers-assistance company, recommend carrying a small amount of local currency and a single credit card in your wallet. Leave extra cards and large amounts of cash in the hotel safe, along with your passport (carry a photocopy and an extra piece of identification such as a driver’s license instead). They also suggest cleaning out your wallet before the trip and at the end of each day to take out old receipts, which would give out a lot of credit information if your wallet is lost or stolen.
Pack a few envelopes. They can be useful for separating your cash, or if you need to leave cash and documents in the hotel safe they can be easily sealed in your own envelope for additional peace of mind.
Carry the Right Cards
Some banks will charge you a foreign transaction fee for taking money out of an ATM overseas, even if it’s the bank’s own. That can eliminate the advantage of taking out the cash in local currency to avoid currency exchange fees. Be sure to check with your bank about fees before you travel. You may also want to consider a pre-paid card, which you can get from most credit card companies for a nominal fee, or even over the counter at various retailers. Guard a pre-paid card carefully, however, because if you lose one, it’s like losing cash.
If you’re planning to travel overseas, consider getting an EMV chip card. EMV chip cards are standard practice in more than 80 countries worldwide and provide enhanced security when used at chip terminals by adding an additional layer of fraud protection through an embedded microchip. Some U.S. issuers, such as Citi, have begun offering cards with EMV chip technology, and will add the chip to your existing card at no cost.
Give the Kids an Allowance
If you’re traveling with children, hand out small amounts of money daily so they can pay for their own small purchases, like snacks and souvenirs. That way, you won’t be pulling out your cash for every ice cream and postcard and drawing attention to yourself. An added plus: the kids will enjoy doing their own thing, and it doubles as an opportunity to teach them about responsible spending and budgeting.
Skip the Internet Café
Public computers can be infected with software that record keystrokes and capture your passwords, so don’t perform any private transactions on them, says Alan Wlasuk, a security expert for 403 Web Security. And look out for people peeking over your shoulder for your email password—they know most of us (incorrectly) use the same one on all our accounts.
Also avoid public Wifi, which can be compromised by hackers and identity thieves, warns Wlasuk. Many hotels will give you a personal password to use on their secured network when you check in.
Keep your Smartphone Secure
“Repeat after me: It’s not just a cell phone, it’s a desktop computer that just happens to fit in your pocket,” says Wlasuk. “There is more private, financial and even embarrassing information on your smart phone than you ever kept in your wallet.”
To keep it safe, he recommends enabling the password protection feature on your phone, as well as the GPS locator and remote wipe capability. Apps like Find My iPhone and AndroidLost enable you to trace the location of a missing phone via the web or text messages. They can also wipe the phone’s memory remotely, so the thief won’t get access to any information you store there. Consider backing up all of your phone data in a safe place in the cloud before you travel, so you can download it to your replacement phone later.
Or just leave the phone at home: the experts at MedJet recommend carrying a prepaid phone card instead , especially if you’re traveling overseas where international roaming can be expensive and unreliable.
With these few tips, you can maximize your vacation enjoyment while minimizing worry about the safety of your money and personal identification. And that’s what a recharge is all about!