How to Mitigate Risk While Traveling
Updated: Feb 17, 2020
There's a few things we've learned from frequent travel, about keeping our possessions and ourselves safe, that we'll share here.
Check for Risky Travel Destinations
We've recently discovered a great online tool called the Travel Risk Map which gives you information on how risky a visit to any destination in the world can be. The site provides real time information on the level of risk from Low to Very High, in relation to personal safety, road safety, and medical risk. We use it to check out potential destinations. Just enter the country in the search field and the results are instantaneous.
Check Your Government's Travel Warnings
Most countries will have a government website which provides travel advice and assistance to it's citizens. For Australians this is the Smart Traveller website. These websites provide travel advice on destinations you plan to travel to, whether or not you need a visa or vaccinations for countries you are planning on visiting, information on local laws of other countries, as well as contact numbers for your country's overseas embassies.
These websites are also a great go to in the event that you get in trouble whilst overseas. They provide contact numbers for you to call in the event of a medical emergency, are the target of crime, are accused of a crime, or are caught up in a natural disaster.
Take Out Travel Insurance
We've never had to claim travel insurance but we always take it out. And we firmly believe that nobody should ever risk travelling without travel insurance. If something unexpected happens, you don't want it to ruin your trip, or leave you out of pocket after your holiday.
Credit Card Travel Insurance
You may find that your credit card has travel insurance that kicks in if you pay for your trip using the card. Our Qantas American Express Ultimate Card travel insurance covers travelling companions including the primary card holder, their spouse, and their legally dependent children to 22yrs .
In the case of the Qantas American Express Ultimate Card, the T's & C's state that you must first purchase the full fare for a Trip to be eligible for cover. When checking this with their customer service team, we were told that actually we only need to purchase the entire fare departing from and returning to Australia to be eligible. Additional in-destination air, coach and rail journeys were covered even if these were not paid for using our Amex card.
Another interesting fact that many people would not be aware of is what constitutes payment of the entire fare, especially with some of the Qantas points cards. With our Qantas American Express Ultimate Card, we are covered if payment of our trip is made using the AMEX card, Qantas Frequent Flyer Points, or the $450 annual travel credit that comes with the card. It can also be a combination of all three of these payment methods.
One thing to be mindful of is that your credit card insurance may not cover you for everything, so if you need coverage for preexisting conditions, or perhaps you are over 80 years old, you should ring your credit card company and speak to them about exactly what is covered.
Online Travel Insurance
Before we started using the travel insurance included with our credit card, we used Travel Insurance Direct which is an Australian online insurer which offers policies to residents of Australia. For NZ citizens check out Travel Insurance Direct New Zealand.
These guys have a super easy platform which you can use to get quick quote before you commit to purchase. Their premiums are very reasonable and its really easy to sign up.
They've also got a nifty app called Tripwise, which houses your policy, has customer service contact details and can be set to send you travel alerts.
Think About Your Travel Bag
Your travel bag, and by this we mean the bag you walk around with not your luggage, can mean the difference between being targeted by thieves or not. Most thieves will go for easy targets and a little forethought about your bag will go a long way.
There are loads of anti-theft travel bags available, and it is only recently that makers have begun to think about design as well as the anti-theft aspects of the bags. Nothing screams tourist like an anti-theft travel bag. You can go all out and get a bag with slash proof straps and fabric, anti-RFID pockets, secret internal pockets and exterior locks, or you can choose to use a standard bag which covers a few of the basic anti-theft measures.
My bag that I use for in-flight hand luggage is a regular tote, which has loads of zipped compartments. I keep my passport and travel wallet in the inner most zipped compartment, and then zip up the bag's exterior most zip. This means that a would-be thief has to get into two areas of my bag to find my most important travel items.
My day bag, which I love because it can fit my Lonely Planet book and a travel umbrella, is a cross-body with multiple zipped compartments, and folds over on itself which give me a secondary measure of security. If anyone tries to unfold my bag I'm screaming to high heaven!
I've also got a stylish backpack by Hedgren which I adapted by removing a hanging 'H' toggle and using the clasp to allow me to secure the exterior zipped compartment. The main compartment is accessed through a zipper which which sits against your back. I love this backpack because it's big enough for my Canon 800D, as well as a lightweight jacket and a travel umbrella.
You will never be 100% safe from determined thieves, but you can certainly take a few basic steps to deter them from targeting you.
Use the in-room Safe
Most hotels these days have an in-room safe, but if it isn't big enough for your iPad, laptop or your camera gear, the best thing to do is lock these inside your suitcase when you leave your room. If your room gets burgled (this rarely happens) you will probably lose the entire suitcase, but at least your valuables are not easy pickings for housekeeping staff.
Do not hide your valuables in the rubbish bin (like some first time travelers once did - think about it 😟) or somewhere else around the room where you are likely to forget to take them with you when you leave.