Any trip away is met with a panic about taking your most treasured items away from their home, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to get paranoid about whether you’ll be the unlucky story of that person who’s luggage went missing, or whose belongings were stolen, lost, or left behind. While there is a certain amount of chance involved in these situations, I found a few preventative measures helped to put my mind at ease, and at least when I did eventually end up in crisis situations I felt a little better equipped to handle it!
Before you travel:
Insurance. Duh. I mean c’mon let’s not be silly, it’s a necessity and it’s annoying because it feels like it could be wasted money at the time but believe me it will be the best decision you ever made when you lose your ticket right before getting on a train out of a country (oops – my bad). Just don’t take the risk, and don’t scrimp on the cover you choose either. Be sensible in what you purchase as although it could be easy to go for the cheapest option, it might not actually cover all your possessions you’ve taken or activities you plan on doing during your trip.
Screenshot your address for your phone lock screen. I came across this idea from someone before I left, and immediately it just made so much sense. Our phones are often our most precious possessions with which we communicate, document, plan, and organise many elements of a trip, so losing it would be nothing short of catastrophic. Although this method does put a lot of faith and trust in whoever the finder is of your phone, at least if they see a name, email address, return address, or alternative phone number to contact you’ve already increased your chances of getting it back! This is especially handy if you’re someone with a lock on their phone, and so access to contacts would be limited for a finder. There are some other great phone finding measures out there such as Find My Phone apps, trackers, or locks. Use something you’d feel will most likely help, but simple lock screen contact details on a lost device could be a good place to start!
Buy a padlock. Why not right? From securing my checked in luggage on a flight to locking items in a safe at the hostel, they can help ease all sorts of luggage worries. In particular it made me feel way better about sleeping in dodgy and big dorms knowing my things were somewhat more protected and safely locked nearby. In cities I was unsure of, even padlocking the zip on my day bag made me feel more comfortable until I knew the area better. It’s not dumb or paranoid to want to look after your stuff, and you’ll be grateful to yourself for being sensible enough to think ahead.
Don’t pack your favourite things. Probably the best way to avoid damaging or losing your things while travelling would be to simply not pack them. That doesn’t mean buying all new clothes just for travelling, but if you know there’s a favourite outfit you’d be devastated to part with, maybe it’s best to consider leaving it at home while backpacking for an extended period of time across multiple locations. If you’re the forgetful type then this would be even more crucial, otherwise you’ll be returning home with half the luggage than when you left! It’s also not uncommon to unearth an old phone for the very same reason, why bring out your brand new iPhone when you have a perfectly good version that does exactly the same job with less of the worry?
While you’re away:
Set aside some budget for emergencies only. Prioritise what will matter to you in certain situations. For example, I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I’d let my broken camera issues go and simply put up with a phone camera, the photos I have really matter to me as an integral part of my trip and it would have been a huge regret to have ignored it. Luckily I planned ahead with some money purely for this kind of inconvenience, so I certainly think it’s handy to tuck away a bit of money as a reserve for unexpected problems.
Be diligent. I’m guilty of failing this one. RIP my favourite bikini, and towel (and for a few hours, my passport!). Just check behind you when you pack up and leave somewhere, in your haste you might have forgotten something behind! This also goes for your general behaviour in certain places. If we were warned or felt as though a particular beach, market, or street we were exploring was a popular pickpocket spot, instead of avoiding somewhere we wanted to go we zipped up with our bags in front of us. If you think you look stupid, trust me you’d look a lot more stupid if your belongings were stolen!
Know where the main solution spots in new areas are. This goes for several sticky situations, but generally knowing where the nearest embassy, hospital, and police station is will cover most problems. In less extreme cases, just knowing where an ATM is or a place to buy food and water can help in new countries and cultures. For example, we knew we would need to aim for a phone repair shop ASAP on arrival in Bangkok, so a little bit of research meant we knew exactly where we were headed. Rinse and repeat a few weeks later when said repaired phone had another malfunction. Of course, for all nightmare situations that you will (hopefully) eventually become an anecdotal story just knowing the local emergency service number can save so much stress and time should the worst happen.
Overall, make like a boy scout and Be Prepared, but don’t let the fear of damaging or losing your things consume what should be a fun and exciting adventure. Some things will happen no matter how careful you are, and your experience and health will always be more important, things can be replaced but your memories can’t! How do you make sure to prepare for a big trip? Do you think backpacking lends itself to more luggage issues than the a suitcase holiday? Let me know your preventative packing plans!