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Never leave your bag unattended” is timely advice, not just limited to airport security.  And what sounds like straight forward advice is actually the leading cause of most travel woes! When, for instance, do you ever think twice about leaving your bag on the beach?  Or at your feet during a lunch with views of the Seine? 

Actually, beach bags are becoming an incredibly hot target for theft, with a typical beach bag now worth thousands of dollars. Sound far fetched?  Not when you consider it might include a couple of mobile phones, one or two Kindles, a handful of credit cards and an iPad. 

Enjoying a casual lunch with your bag at your feet?  If it’s loose, it’s a target for theft.  Secure your bag by looping a strap around either your arm, leg or chair leg.

If you’re sleeping in public, on a train or at an airport, be sure to do the same. Loop an arm through one of your bag straps while you sleep.  Fasten your bag to the seat, luggage rack, or yourself. I will always have at least one part of my body connected to my bag if I’m enjoying a public nap.

Remember, even a minor obstacle or inconvenience can be an effective deterrent for thieves.  It’s not necessarily about making your bag impenetrable, but just less appealing than the next guys!

But as someone who has had her unattended bag torn apart by monkeys in the Serengeti National Park, I don’t just offer this advice with criminals in mind – you’re also targeted by wildlife!

You don't know who will come poking around!

You don’t know who will come poking around!

This is especially true for those hiking who leave food in unattended bags.  You could be on the most remote island in the world with 0% chance of theft, but that’s not going to stop hungry or curious creatures from sniffing around!

The main point here is to be aware of your surroundings at all times.  Keep in mind that the most common technique for bag theft is distraction. A lot of the time criminals will work in groups, with one person causing a distraction while another takes the bag.

It sounds like overkill harping on with this advice, but you would not believe how many bags fall victim to being left unattended abroad!

 About Megan Claire

Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

    34 Comments

  1. Very timely and good advice, Megan. I would add that you should be particularly attentive to your advice when you are on public transport, in large crowds or in popular tourist areas. Also be alert to sudden ruckuses in those sort of places, as they can often be ruse to distract tourists, resulting in bag theft or pickpocketing.

    • Yes, definitely agree with particular attention when on public transport and in large crowds. Thankfully I haven’t run into any problems or experienced any theft yet on my travels. Fingers crossed it stays that way!

  2. Good Advice, Megan! When I am travelling, I use a Folding Purse Hanger that attaches to the side of a table and I hang my purse or shopping bags on it. This has protected me from being a victim of theft, especially while traveling in Europe.

    Happy 2014!

    • Thats such a great idea, had never heard of that concept before! Looking it up now, thanks!!

  3. I was once told by a ‘reformed’pickpocket that a good place for them to hang out was near a sign saying ‘Beware of Pickpockets’. On seeing this, many people almost unconsciously check their wallet or whatever is where it should be … thereby telling the sinners where it is!

    • Interesting!! That makes so much sense but at the same time had never thought of that!! It’s scary how smart thieves are! Lol now I’m going to scrupulously people watch and look out for those hanging out around those signs :D

  4. Very true and good advice Megan! I lived in East London so you know what they say, you can take the girl out of London, but not take the London out of girl – I am very aware about my bag/belongings and keep an eye on them at ALL times.

    But I learnt the hard way too – I was pick pocketed on two occasions years ago in London, and had my bag stolen from my person in India several years ago. You can never be too careful! And yes, with the advent of almost everyone owning an array of technological objects, it’s only getting worse.

    • Ouch, I’m sorry to hear that! Thankfully I havent been on the recieving end of pick pockets yet – I have heard of motorbikes ripping bags off people’s backs in Europe though – not sure if that one is true or not lol but as you said; you can never be too careful!

  5. Great advice! Pickpocketing can happen so quickly. My dad was on a packed bus in Central America. He had his wallet in his front pocket and his hand in his pocket. Someone shoved him and he put his hand out to grab the bar for balance. Within seconds, his wallet was gone.

    This has been one of my biggest fears when traveling AFTER loosing my kids. That by far was the scariest fear when they were little.

    • It’s insane how quick and skilled they are at pickpocketing! That it could be gone before you even realized someone was in your pocket!! A fair few travelers I have now met actually carry a fake wallet in case of being robbed or mugged – thieves see fake credit cards in the wallet and are happy with that.

      I wish you and your family safe travels for the new year :)

  6. Great advice, Megan. You can never be too careful of your possessions when travelling. Thieves and pick pockets are getting more and more cunning all the time and there always seems to be a new ruse to distract the unwary traveller. I’ve heard of the pick pocket ‘hang out’ that Keith mentioned, too – scary!

    • There does seem to always be a new ruse! And you know it obviously pays if people do this – pickpocket – as a profession. I think the worst trap we can fall into is the mindframe of “it will never happen to me” – just always have to be cautious and clever when you travel :)

  7. I would never leave my bag unattended, especially after seeing Broke Down Palace and many,many episodes of LockedUp Abroad.

    • Broke Down Palace was an incredibly sobering movie – rather large reality check if I ever saw one!! We have a show called “Banged Up Abroad” which I’m assuming is the same thing as LockedUp Abroad – scary stuff!!

  8. Last summer, my husband and I visited the Pont du Gard in Provence. If anyone is not familiar, the is a beautiful, impressive, Roman Aqueduct. Anyway, there is also a river that runs under the aqueduct. In the summer lots of people go to sit beside the aqueduct and swim in the wonderfully refreshing river. We wanted to do that too; but what to do about all your valuables? Well, the best I could do was to pile the up and put a bright towel over them and then I watched them every minute while in the water. I was prepared to run out of the river and chase after anyone who tried to lift my belongings. Not a great plan, but a plan! Fortunately, no one touched them!

    • As you said, at least it was a plan! Sounds like an amazing vacation spot.

      We’ve trained ourselves to now think ahead and try to pack as lightly as possible when we head out for a day of swimming. Makes it easier now that our camera is waterproof – we can take it in the water with us!

  9. I left my bad unattended in a hostel room once. On returning I found it was no longer on my bed. I tore a dtrip off the hostel staff, shouting about the lax security etc.
    I then found out I had returned to the wrong room and my bag was where I had left it all along.

    • Lol that is indeed a bit awkward! I’ve been on the receiving end of that before as hotel staff – except this was when I worked front desk at a fairly decent hotel, where everyone has their own rooms. The lady accused housekeeping of stealing her purse.

      Called back 4 days later to apologize because she found it in the bottom of her bag. Lol and then made another reservation after swearing she would never stay with us again. People make me laugh sometimes!!

  10. LOVE the pic of the bird and the bag!!! great capture!

    • Thanks Dana! Thankfully we caught him before he decided to tuck into the bag :D!

  11. Excellent advice. We usually think of criminals only when we think about our bags. It’s so smart to think about wildlife.

    Great tip! Thanks.

    • Thanks Alicia – glad you found it useful! You would be seriously surprised with how much stuff we’ve almost had stolen by wildlife!!

      A monkey almost made off with our GoPro a few months back while we were in South America. Lol thankfully we keep a pretty tight eye on our stuff!

  12. Great tips – sometimes you also need to beware the kindness of strangers. I’d rather negotiate a tight bathroom stall with my heavy pack than ask someone I’ve been chatting with to watch my bag. Unfortunately you just never know these days! :(

    • Sadly I agree with you. Lol though for some reason I was a little too trusting once when I was in Africa and left my laptop with a few travelers to let them use the internet while I went and had a massage.

      Luckily everything worked out well and now one of those strangers is my husband!!

  13. I learned my lesson the hard way a month ago. Landed in Barcelona and thirty minutes later had my suitcase stolen in the Placa de Catalunya. So fast, and all I had left were the clothes on my back, my passport and my iPhone. I’m still dealing with the trauma and the self-recriminations.

    • Wesley I’m so sorry to hear about your misfortune – that’s truly horrible and I’m so sorry it happened to you.

      I’ve hear very similar stories about Spain, many of my friends have been victims of pickpocketing in similar regions – just really hits home to how careful we have to be with our belongings.

      I do hope that there was nothing too valuable in your bag and you manage to keep traveling despite this bad experience.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  14. I took my wallet out to pay for my bus ticket in Florence and was distracted by the ticket guy talking to me that I think I left it there! I lost 80 euros in cash but thankfully all my credit cards were stashed away in my purse. Definitely can’t be too careful!

    • Oh no!! I’m so sorry to hear that. Lucky it was only a little bit of cash though, and as you said, not your whole stash of credit cards – definitely a good idea to have everything split up into different spots when traveling for this exact reason.

      You really never can be too careful – hopefully you can find a great wallet in Italy on your travels to replace it with :) Happy & safe travels!

    • I haven’t actually, but looks like a great way to give yourself a little added protection.

      Might look into investing in one also. Thanks for the tip!

  15. Very useful information! I actually never would have thought about wildlife getting in to my bag! Will definitely keep that in mind on my upcoming trip.

    • Thanks Laura! We hit up wildlife heavy destinations all the time lol so we’ve been known to lose our food to curious creatures quite a lot! Have learnt never to set our backpack down – monkeys even manage to open the zipper!

  16. We carry inexpensive carabiners with us when we travel. They are so handy. We use them to clip bag handles to stationery objects. They seem to be a good deterrent for quick grab-and-runs.

    • Fabulous idea Linda – I might head out and purchase some myself actually, that’s a great way of securing your bags! Thanks for the tip :)

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