How Not to Lose Your Personal Belongings While Traveling

Read further for my advice to you on how to minimize — or even eliminate — the chance of you losing something valuable when traveling in the future.
FlyerTalk member Milkman posted about having $200.00 allegedly stolen recently out of his backpack in a hotel room in Mexico City — despite the room being equipped with a hotel safe.
Milkman is the latest FlyerTalk member to have had belongings either lost or stolen, as illustrated in these recent discussions:

The last time I lost something was a white twist tie for a cable I use to power a personal audio device. While certainly not earth-shattering in the grand scheme of things, it was mildly irritating. Still — other than that and a few other things so minor that they are not only not worth mentioning but I do not even remember what they were — I have not lost anything of any significant value while traveling since I was a teenager. Even then, the object which I lost had more sentimental value than monetary value.
Am I so good that I should proudly brag about it? No. I simply follow a few rules to which I adhere when I travel:

  1. Do not take more than you need. The more items you bring with you, the more times you will need to do inventory whenever you move from one location to another while you are traveling — and therefore the greater are your chances of losing something. With the advent of technology, you can now have your camera, video camcorder, music player, address book, calendar and even publications stored in one convenient device. Unless absolutely necessary, there is no need carry items which serve a duplicitous purpose. Take clothing with which you can mix and match, and do not fear wearing each item of clothing more than once. If that causes you to be squeamish, consider having those few pieces of your clothing items laundered while traveling for a nominal cost. More valuable advice on traveling light can be found here — including how to successfully carry a suit in a carry-on bag, which I have been doing for years.
  2. Do not take more cash than you need. I take just enough cash in case of an emergency — otherwise, the credit cards I take with me usually more than suffice whenever I need them. Although I usually attempt not to use it, I would rather pay the potential surcharges incurred on my bank card when using an automated teller machine rather than leave excess money in my hotel room with a chance of it being stolen — or worse, potentially be robbed of it when carrying it on my person. In the case of Milkman, those extra charges probably look quite good right now rather than have had the money gone forever.
  3. Use the hotel safe. If you really must have extra cash immediately available when you travel, you can take a chance by storing it in the safe in the hotel room if it is equipped with one — but there is no guarantee that you will see it again in there either. Rather, take any valuables you have and have the front desk clerk or manager store your items in the hotel safe instead — and be sure you get an official signed receipt as proof that the hotel indeed does have your belongings, just in case there is a dispute. This option may be less convenient, but it is far more secure.
  4. Use the pocket on the back of the seat in front of you on an airplane sparingly. Out of sight, out of mind is how that old saying goes. I never put anything of value there. That ensures a significantly better chance of leaving your item in there after you deplane — especially if the item sinks deep into the pocket. I usually hold on to my items, or have them in the seat with me. After the airplane lands, I search all areas around and underneath my seat, as well as the pocket on the back of the seat in front of me, just in case to ensure that I am indeed leaving nothing behind when I am ready to exit.
  5. Create a routine. Routines are boring, but they ensure that you will lose fewer belongings if you adhere to them. I already mentioned my routine aboard an airplane, and I do similar routines with rental cars and hotel rooms. I search every cavity and area when I return a rented vehicle to a rental car facility as they prepare my receipt: in the trunk, under all seats and floor mats, in the glove compartment, the console between the seats, the pockets in the car doors and the backs of the front seats, and any other hidden areas — and you might be surprised at how much I find as a result, such as $5.00 worth of quarters in a film canister under the driver’s seat. The same goes for hotel rooms: under the bed, in the drawers of every piece of furniture, around the bathroom, in the closet and over the door jamb. Yes, you read that right — over the door jamb, as I have found money there too. That one still puzzles me…?!?
  6. Personalize your belongings. While ensuring that your name, telephone number and e-mail address are taped, sewed or engraved on your personal belongings does not guarantee a safe return to you in case they ever become lost, it certainly increases your chances of seeing them again. Do not include your home address, however — you probably do not want a stranger knowing where you live.

This list can certainly be inexhaustible, but if these simple tips help prevent even one person from potentially and needlessly losing their valuable belongings or cash on a future trip, then they have served their purpose.
Please share your stories on items which you have lost while traveling, as well as any tips and advice you have to prevent fellow travelers from losing cash and valuables while traveling in the future.

  1. He had $200 stolen. I’m gonna guess that you’ve paid WAY more than $200 over the years in extra fees to get cash because you didn’t carry enough. I had $50 stolen, probably by a TSA officer going through airport security at LAS. Again, I would have lost way more in fees and nuisance value over the years by not having sufficient cash. You ever tried to get cash at an ATM in Vegas? They absolutely rob those people! I’m just saying, it’s always worth running the numbers before you make a recommendation.
    The money is just as “gone forever” when a bank/ATM takes it, as when a thief takes it. I have watched people over and over at certain destinations, especially casino destinations, pay $25 to $50 (yes one idiot paid $50 to get $450!) from the machines. This blanket advice that being fee’d to death by an ATM is better than having some unknown person pocket your cash is not correct in all situations. You want to spend or lose the minimum. Every fee you pay a bank is a CERTAIN loss. The chance of being robbed is just that, a chance that is actually pretty low in a lot of places people travel. (Admittedly not North America)

  2. These all sound like great ideas I especially like the idea of personalizing your belongings before they get lost. I want to share one more tip that saved my last trip to Rome from total disaster. I lost my passport during the day and had no idea it was missing. Fortunately, I had an Okoban tracer tag on my passport. A waiter where I ate lunch found it and entered my tracker number on the Okoban website and I was sent a text message (and an email) before I ever even knew my passport was missing. Lucky for me because I was leaving in the morning for Germany and getting a new passport would have been impossible. The tags are available through They saved my trip and I now have them on almost everything that goes with me on a trip.

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