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Simple steps for travelers to secure themselves and their valuables

Few things are more fun than planning a vacation. But, many travelers get so caught up in the excitement for an adventure they overlook a crucial step, security.

Ryan Dallon manages the Shapiro Travel Shop inside Fashion Place Mall in Murray, and he is a seasoned traveler. His favorite destination is the Philippines.

“Fantastic people and food,” remarked Dallon. “You can go to any white sand beach and there’s nobody there! It’s pretty incredible.”

Whether you’re in Manilla or Miami, some simple steps can help keep you and your valuables safe while you’re traveling.

Dallon recommends starting with a TSA approved lock. They will cost around $10, but they allow TSA agents to open your luggage by using their master key when they do a bag search. Otherwise, agents cut off your luggage locks making your bags easy prey.

“If you have to leave your bag at the hotel before you’re checking in, that’s really a travel must because it’ll keep people out of your stuff,” explained Dallon.

Another purchase to consider is a RFID blocking wallet for about $15. If you tap your credit or debit card instead of swiping it at the terminal, you might want one. Those cards emit signals criminals can intercept.

“One of the scary things about RFID theft is you don’t know,” Dallon said. “Your card was in your pocket, you have no idea that it was scanned. There’s 10 million charges on your card, and you never took it out of your pants.”

Passports issued in the United States have used RFID technology since 2007.

“That’s a little scarier because it has all your personal information on it,” Dallon said.
Instead of wallets, individual sleeves that shield cards and passports from RFID scanners also can be bought.

Travelers may also want to consider an anti-theft bag from around $55 to $200 on up. It could be a purse, or backpack or a piece of luggage. Many have steel cables in the straps to stop cut-and-runs by thieves.

“They’ll just go by and grab your purse and yank it taut,” explained Dallon, “and then just cut the strap and the bag falls to the ground and they’re gone with it.”

Some bags can be anchored to immovable objects, have RFID pockets and use slash-proof fabric.

“They also put steel mesh in the front of the panels so the panels cannot be cut so things do not drop out,” Dallon said.

Many anti-theft bags also have zippers that can be locked with a latch.

“In order to keep pick pockets out, slip the latch onto the zipper and nobody can get their hand inside your bag,” explained Dallon.

Dallon recommends whatever device or bag you buy for a trip, spend time getting familiar with it before your trip.

“So you’re getting a handbag, use it for a week before you go,” explained Dallon. “Load it up, put everything in the appropriate pockets so you know where everything is. If you switch out from your usual bag you’ve carried every single day of your life to a new one, you’re more likely to misplace something.”

Christoph Dressler organizes the University of Utah’s Go Learn international tours, and he is a very seasoned traveler himself. His journeys include guiding PBS travel host Rick Steves in Europe.

Dressler’s favorite destination is Maramures, Romania.

“A tiny part of Romania, the last of a peasant culture still in Europe and a place unspoiled by tourism,” related Dressler. “The people are fantastic and the food is great.”

His list of security tips starts simply. Don’t take more than you need.

“Anything you’d hate to lose, just don’t bring it along,” said Dressler.

Expensive jewelry, electronics you won’t use, and huge sums of cash stay at home.

“You don’t need to bring a whole stack of cash,” explained Dressler. “Our credit cards and debit cards are one of the safest and best ways to get cash while traveling.”

But he does recommend bringing a money belt to hide the money, cards and ID you do take with you.

“It’s deep storage. You put your money and your passports in the money belt and it’s underneath your shirt, right around your waist somewhere.” said Dressler.

Just don’t use your money belt like a purse. That only draws the attention of thieves.

Dressler recommends overseas travelers make at least two copies of every important travel document including their passports.

“You never know when something could happen,” said Dressler. “But it’s much easier to deal with the U.S. Embassy abroad if you have copies and know all the numbers and digits.”

And whether you’re in the U.S. or overseas, don’t walk around looking down at a map or your smartphone.

“Walk in confidence,” advised Dressler. “If you’re alert and aware and confidently walking, you’re immediately not so much a target to pickpockets. You’ll get even more out of your journey if you don’t pay attention to the constant social media buzz. Post your pictures at the end of the day and simply enjoy the moment and be in the moment.”

Both Dressler and Dallon stress traveling is safe, when you take some precautions.

“Do the appropriate things to protect yourself but make it fun,” said Dallon. “It’s supposed to be fun.”

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