Don’t let thieves ruin your holiday! 5 travel tips to keep you safe

It’s every traveler’s worst nightmare…after months of saving and planning you finally start your holiday only to lose your valuables to a pickpocket or thief, and now you’re stranded in a foreign place with no money or way to get home.

Luckily there are ways to prevent you from becoming a victim and, failing that, minimise your losses so you can continue enjoying your vacation.

Here are 5 tips that will help you do just that…

#1 Recognise that you are a target.

No matter where you go, tourists are always a target for criminals. They usually carry lots of cash and they’re typically distracted because they are focussed on site-seeing.

The best defence is to not look like a tourist at all, but this is often impossible. There are just too many things that will give you away like your accent, outfit or the gear you’re carrying.

The next best thing is to make yourself a less enticing target, there are two ways to go about this:

Firstly, don’t be too flashy. If you wear jewelry or a watch, keep it minimal and don’t bring your most expensive items. Yeah it’s cool if you can afford a Rolex, but its way less cool if that bad boy gets stolen!

And secondly, be aware of your surroundings. Look up from the camera every once and awhile, don’t let anyone too close and, if you’re in a crowded area, make sure you can account for all of your valuables at all times.

In many places the assumption is that all tourists are rich and vulnerable, no matter what you’re doing. But by trying to fly under the radar and being situationally aware, a criminal is more likely to target someone else.

#2 Divide (up your valuables) and Conquer (the pickpockets by enjoying your holiday)

Sometimes there’s no stopping a pickpocket, even if you do everything right. Let’s not forget, this is their day job; this is how they survive! Therefore, it is likely that they are much better at stealing from you than you are at preventing them from taking your stuff…

So does that mean we’re all doomed to get robbed and we should cancel our holidays and live vicariously through the awesome travel content on the Trails social media pages?

Of course not! (although you should definitely follow us on Facebook and Instagram, we’ve got some real good stuff on there!)

Instead, just make sure you don’t carry all of your valuables in one place.

When you go out, only take the cash you think you’ll need for the day and leave the rest at your room. I like to use the safes in the hotel room, but if you don’t trust it, put it in your suitcase and lock it.

I usually bring two credit cards when I go away, one I keep on me and the other stays at the hotel room with the rest of my cash. If possible, it is best that these cards are not connected to the same pool of funds.

During your holiday, your passport is the most valuable thing you have, it is the hardest to replace and it will ruin your trip if it is lost…so protect it at all costs!

I do this by taking two forms of ID on my travels, my passport and driver’s license. The passport remains locked away in the room unless I know that I am going to need it and I use my driver’s license for everything else. An official form of photo ID will work in most circumstances, so there’s no need to risk your most valuable item on a daily basis. If you’re really worried, take your driver’s license and photo of your passport.

Holidays get ruined when a thief steals all of your money or your passport. By separating your valuables you ensure that you minimise your losses.

This strategy served me well when I got mugged in paris. I was walking back to my hotel from the train station when a man jumped out from the shadows and demanded my money, I gave him my wallet and ran in the opposite direction. Luckily I was not hurt in any way.

Although the experience was terrifying, I didn’t actually lose that much as the bulk of my money and my passport were all in my hotel room, far away from the mugger.

It was the middle of the night so I lost the few remaining euros from that day’s budget and one of my credit cards, which I managed to cancel before any money left the account.

#3 Your hotel can help!

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, your hotel can be an amazing resource. It can also be a great way to get access to some local knowledge and make sure you get home safe.

So, once you’re settled into your room, go and speak to the front desk (or if you’re in a fancy hotel, the concierge!) and ask them about the area. They will be able to tell you the places where crime is more prevalent, so you’ll know where to avoid, and give you other tips and tricks to get around. 

Another thing to take from your accommodation is a business card. It may seem strange, but I guarantee it will make your life easier. Hotel business cards will typically have their address in english and in the local language. This can be incredibly useful when you’re speaking to a taxi driver and there’s a language barrier or if you’re having trouble with pronunciation, just show them the card and they’ll know where to go! I have used this trick many times, but it was particularly useful in Sri Lanka and Kenya as I am particularly bad at Sinhalese and Swahili (first world problems, am I right?).

#4 Bring a mobile phone…if you weren’t already

Let’s be real, your phone is definitely coming with you on your travels…how else are you supposed to make your friends jealous on social media?

It’s also a great tool that can be used for everything from photography to the storage of important documents.

Ironically, people are the most apprehensive about using their phone as a phone while on holiday. These fears are warranted as international call charges can get pretty ridiculous…I remember getting an astronomical phone bill after a trip to Europe, the charges were attributed to one phone call I received (yes, you read that right, I didn’t even make the call!) from my grandma while I was in London.

That being said, you should always make sure that you have a working phone during your trip. In an emergency situation, you’ll be thankful that you have a way to contact the authorities or local embassy to get you out of a jam…just make sure your grandma knows how to use Whatsapp…

#5 If all else fails, don’t be a hero!

The tips I mentioned before are centred around avoiding danger and minimising your losses after the fact. But what do you do in the moment? How do you stay safe when a mugger is a metre away demanding your valuables?

In a word, cooperate. Give them what they ask for as they are likely to leave you unscathed once they get what they want.

Unless you’re Rambo or Gina Carano (look her up, she’s a beast), you do NOT want to fight them off. It’s just not worth it. If you’ve paid attention to tip #2, then they will only get access to that day’s cash, one of your credit cards and maybe one of your IDs, all of which are replaceable.

No amount of cash, or any one of your possessions, are worth your life…so don’t be a hero and live to travel another day!

It’s important to remember that, although the prospect of being robbed is scary, the chances of it occurring are relatively slim. In fact, many concerns about travel safety stem from being in an unfamiliar environment rather than any actual increase in risk.

That being said, it is better to be safe than sorry! And with these 5 tips, you’ll be well on the way to ensuring that you are the former…

Did we miss anything? What do you do to stay safe on holiday? Let us know in the comments!


3 packing tips you may not have thought of!

Welcome to the third instalment of our Interview with an Expert series!

Now, this is not your usual packing tip article, today we’re focussing on the little things that are easy to forget. Often it’s the small details that can make or break a holiday, so we’re glad Ann is here to teach us!

Ann’s trips usually last for 3 weeks. Most of her luggage goes into a check-in suitcase and she has a mobile office in her carry-on, which consists of a laptop, tablet, documents and chargers. Here are 3 of her favourite packing tips:

1. Bring all the adapters!

Sure, we all know that power plug adapters are a travel must-have. But Ann says that you should also be mindful that some countries do not have access to the same tech that we do at home.

Ann’s issues are mainly work-related, like connecting to printers and projectors, but it is still applicable to the recreational traveller. For example, many Apple and Google products use USB-C which is not available in some countries. This means that they can’t be replaced if they are lost or left behind. So take extra special care of your dongles!

packing tips

2. Spare clothing might save your holiday…

If you’re checking in your luggage, Ann says that you should put some spare clothes in a carry-on. You don’t need much, just a t-shirt, a pair of socks and underwear, to cover your luggage gets lost.  

“Because I travel to unusual places, I tend to fly with smaller airlines. If they lose my luggage, it can often take at least a week to find it. Having some spare clothes means I don’t have to spend the next few days in the shirt I stunk up on the flight over!” – Ann

Theoretically, you could travel indefinitely with 2 sets of clothes…just as long as you’re okay with sink washing every night.

packing tips

3. Know your size limits!

“Carry-on size limits vary from airline to airline so it’s best to research what you’re allowed before you get to the airport. I carry a lot of stuff in my carry-on that can’t be checked in, like power banks, laptops and tablets. If my carry-on bag is too big, I won’t have the option to check it in, which means my trip is over before it has begun!” – Ann

We’ve all seen that person at the airport. They’re screaming at the top of their lungs because airport staff won’t let them take a comically large suitcase, that is definitely over the carry-on weight limit, through the security checkpoint. Their excuse is always the same…” but I used this bag last time and it was fine!!”

Different airlines have different rules. Don’t be that person. Know the rules, Google is your friend.

Excess luggage

If you’re interested in the pros and cons of travelling with a carry-on, we explore it further in our previous blog post on one-bag travel.

What are some of the little things you do to make sure your trip goes smoothly? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re hungry for some more travel tips, have a look at part 1 and part 2 of our interview series where we cover jet lag and hotels. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but they’re a great read.

hotel experience

3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Hotel

We are continuing our Interview with an Expert series with some more travel tips from Ann! This time we’ll be learning how to get the most out of your hotel experience.

Regardless of what you like to do on your travels, you will spend a very large proportion of your time at your hotel. Even if you only use your accommodation as a place to rest after a long day of sightseeing, it’s still the first place you see when you wake up and the last place you see before you go to sleep. As a result, an uncomfortable or unsatisfactory hotel experience can be a massive dampener on an otherwise wonderful holiday.

Luckily for us, Ann spends a lot of time in hotel rooms while away on business. Here are some of her tips to help make any hotel experience the best that it can be:

#1 Check to make sure you have the right room.

I know this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it happens. Accommodation is one of the bigger travel expenses you’re going to incur, so it’s very important to make sure that you’re getting what you paid for.

“You should make sure to check your room as soon as you arrive. It is very tempting to sit back and relax after a long flight, but if you do, you’ll be more likely to settle for a sub-par room.”

– Ann

Also, if the hotel has made a mistake, you’ll often get free stuff as an apology… and there’s no better way to celebrate the start of your holiday than with free wine!

hotel room experience

#2 Don’t live out of a suitcase if you don’t have to.

If Ann’s staying in one place for a while, she always unpacks her suitcase.

It may seem easier to just live out of your bag, but Ann swears by this technique.

“Living out of a suitcase is fine in most cases, but if you’re staying a while it helps to unpack. When I initially pack for my trips, everything is really well organised. But after a couple of days of taking things in and out, my suitcase looks like a bomb hit! Unpacking keeps everything neat and organised.”

– Ann

Not only will your stuff remain organised, but your clothes will be less wrinkled. This helps Ann look more professional and will keep you looking crisp in your Instagram posts (or on the trail, you’ll be creating in Trails Travel App!).

Unpacking hotel

#3 Steal from the hotel buffet!

I know this sounds bad, but stick with me on this. 

Holidays usually involve a lot of eating out. While I believe that exploring a new cuisine is a quintessential part of travel, it can be very hard to stay healthy. Taking some fruit from the buffet will help you keep your nutrition in check.

Most hotels do not have a problem with guests taking a few items from the buffet for later, provided it’s not excessive. Although some of Ann’s colleagues push the limits on this…

“I have a friend who constantly craves home-cooked meals while he’s away. He hates eating out so much that he has devised all these weird ways to cook food in his hotel room. He makes ramen noodles in the kettle with vegetables he’s taken from the buffet. I’ve even seen him make a toasted cheese sandwich using an iron!”

– Ann

Okay, so that’s a bit ridiculous. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious about an iron-toasted cheese sandwich…maybe this can be the subject of another interview series?

Also, I think this goes without saying, but Ann and I are only referring to the stealing of small snack items and fruit from the breakfast buffet, please do not resort to a life of crime to fund your travel habits.

With these tips, you’ll be sure to make sure your next hotel experience is a comfortable, homey and, if you’re anything like Ann’s mate, a delicious one!

How do you make a hotel feel more like home? Let us know in the comments!

If you missed part 1 of our interview with Ann, where she teaches us how to beat jet lag, you can find it here.

Tips to Beat Jet Lag

3 Travel Tips for Beating Jet Lag

Welcome to the first installment of our Interview with an Expert series!

It should come as no surprise that many of us at Trails have travelled a lot. We’ve made many friends along the way, many of whom are perpetual or frequent travellers. In this series we interview some of our friends to bring you travel tips from true travel insiders.

Our first expert is Ann, who runs a consulting company that provides aid and technical assistance in developing countries.

Confused? Yeah me too… The point is that she travels internationally 5 to 10 times a year (jealous)… For work (less jealous). She travels to places that are not on your typical bucket list, for example, the last three cities she worked in were Ulaanbaatar, Addis Ababa and Kigali (there’s no shame in Googling where they are… if you can’t be bothered, they’re the capitals of Mongolia, Ethiopia and Rwanda).

At the time of our conversation, Ann was working in Kigali which is 8 hours behind her home timezone. She routinely starts work the day after she arrives, so there’s no time for jet lag. Here’s how she does it:

#1 Early Preparation

In the lead up to her trips, Ann will gradually adjust her sleeping patterns to her next destination.

“I find it easier to adjust in small increments, 15 minutes a day is a good start. Any more than that and I find myself unable to sleep or unable to get out of bed!” – Ann

It may not seem like much, but doing this for a week will move your body clock by almost 2 hours. This alone may be enough to put you in your destination timezone, preventing jet lag completely.

Depending on where you’re going, it may not be possible to shift your timezone completely before you leave. For example, Los Angeles is 17 hours behind Melbourne. Adjusting fully to that timezone means your 9 to 5 work day will run from 4pm to midnight… I doubt your boss would be okay with that!

Luckily there’s more you can do when you get on the plane…  

sleeping pattern

#2 As soon as you get on plane, behave as if you are in your destination country.

Many people think that the only way to adjust your body clock is to change your sleeping patterns; but Ann’s secret is to also change meal times.

This can pose some problems as many airlines’ meal service is affected by take off, landing and turbulence than the destination timezone. As a result, you may have to refuse a meal that is offered to you at the wrong time.

“I stay on track by setting my watch to my destination as soon as I get on the plane (rather than when I land). It’s also helpful to bring protein bars to replace any meals that are offered at the wrong time.” – Ann

If you’re anything like me, you’re very skeptical of any theory that involves turning down free (or in this case, prepaid) food. But Ann’s methods are backed up by scientific research conducted by the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Their findings suggest that meal timing has a pretty big impact on your circadian rhythms (science for body clock). If you’re curious, you can find the study here.

Would you turn down plane food if it meant no jet lag? I know I would!

Change meal times

#3 Tailor Your Body Clock To Your Holiday

If you’re stopping over in multiple time zones, adjusting your body clock can get tricky. When I backpacked through Europe, I made the mistake of adjusting fully to the first timezone. This meant I was slower to adapt to my second destination, which snowballed to my third and so on.

So what should I have done? Ann says: split the difference!

When Ann has back to back trips planned, she will adjust her body clock to a time zone that sits in between the two places. That way she’s never so far out of sync that she’s sleeping the days away, and she’s able to adapt quicker to her next destination.

jet lag travel tips

With these three travel tips, you’ll be well on your way to making jet lag a thing of the past!

How do you deal with jet lag? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

Ann has such a wide breadth of knowledge that she will be our featured expert for the next three parts of this series. Stay tuned for part 2 where Ann teaches us how to get the most out of our accommodation. Considering how much time she spends in hotels, this is one you won’t want to miss.


Is One-Bag Travel right for you? Or is check-in better?

So, what is one-bag travel? Simply put, one-bag travel is about fitting all of your luggage into one carry-on bag.

This may be easy for a weekend away, but can become more difficult the longer you plan on travelling. One-bag travel leaves no room for those ‘just in case’ items and requires very careful consideration, compromise, and control to make sure everything fits.

However, packing less shouldn’t mean doing less on your holiday!

If you’re interested in one-bag travel, there are a few things you’ll need to think about before throwing your big suitcase back under the bed. To make that decision, we’ll give you a few reasons why one-bag travel might, and might not work for you.

Here are 3 reasons why you might want to try one-bag travel:

1. You like a challenge!

One-bag travel is about taking exactly what you need and nothing more. Start by asking yourself “what do I absolutely need for my travel plans?”

You will have to question the value of every item.

Prepare to compromise on what you want to bring, and focus on what you need. Sadly, that bulky rhinestone jacket you found at a thrift store will have to stay home, no matter how awesome it looks (I am definitely NOT speaking from experience).

This process may take time to perfect, but that’s part of the journey. Over time, you’ll get your packing list down to the essentials and, as a result, learn a lot about yourself.

For me, I realised I was packing a lot of “what if” items. Those items which had no day-to-day usage, but were only there for those ‘off chance’ moments.

By questioning their place in my luggage, I came to a sobering realisation…

I spend so much time worrying about what might happen in the future, that I stop myself from truly enjoying the present. The “what if” items were a security blanket that helped me cope with the anxiety associated with new experiences.

By challenging myself to leave those “what if” items at home, I realised that the situations I had imagined were exactly that… imagined.

Believe it or not, one-bag travel can send you on a journey of self-discovery before you even leave your home.

One-bag travel

2. You love being efficient

Once you’re travelling with only one bag, getting through the airport becomes so much quicker. No longer will you be stuck in those long drop off queues or spend your holiday waiting at the baggage carousel.

The less time you spend in the airport, the more you get to see on your holiday… unless you’re going through Changi airport, that place is crazy! With it’s movie theatre, butterfly garden, and massive Harry Potter installation, why would you want to leave?

But I digress…

There are also advantages once you reach your accommodation. Having less items to keep track of means you’re less likely to forget or lose anything.

Spend your cash on souvenirs and not on that phone charger you forgot to unplug.

Save money. Buy souvenirs.

3. You’re on a budget

Many airlines (especially the budget ones) add extra fees for check-in baggage.

One-Bag Travel = no check-in baggage, therefore…no extra charges!

Fees vary between airlines. For example, at the time of writing this, Tigerair’s start at $75 AUD for a bag weighing 12-15kg. If you’re travelling on a budget, that can be a lot!

If you’re one of those people who can travel without a budget, I am extremely jealous and hate you a little bit. Nevertheless, I will push through all that to help you put things in perspective (you’re welcome).

Think about it like this…

You can walk into any typical Singaporean food court and get 20 chicken satays with a side of peanut sauce for 10 Singapore dollars. Allowing for the exchange rate at the time of writing this blog (S$1 = AU$1.05), you could buy roughly 142 satays with the money you saved by being a one-bag traveller.

No matter how rich you are, no one is too good for satays.

Chicken Satay

One-bag travel can be great, giving you more time and money to spend on what you want, and it may send you on a journey of personal discovery without even leaving your home.

However, one-bag travel isn’t for everyone. Here are some reasons why check-in may be more up your alley:

1. You love to shop!

Travelling with one carry-on bag leaves you with very little free space. This is a dealbreaker for a friend of mine.

She’s a high flying career woman who travels extensively for business and pleasure. She is also one of those lucky people who can travel without needing to budget (definitely not jealous).

Anyway, she loves to shop for clothes whilst away. In fact, she uses a gigantic suitcase to only pack the essentials, so there’s plenty of room for that overseas shopping spree.

One-bag travel is supposed to enhance your travel experiences, but don’t let it get in the way of something you love.

One-bag travel might not be for you if you love to go shopping

2. You’re destination hopping

In December last year, my partner and I went to Singapore with two of our friends. After parting ways, our friends were off to France and Canada.

For our friends, the temperature differences between their destinations made travelling with only one-bag travel too difficult. The arctic climate of Canada in winter required bulky gear to stay warm.

One bag travel is great, but I’d go check-in if it meant avoiding frostbite. I like having ten fingers, thank you very much.

One-bag travel might not work if you need bulky gear

3. You need items that are prohibited by airport security

As I mentioned before, one-bag travel is about taking only what you need. However, what if you need something that is prohibited by airport security?

(Quick side note, make sure you check the airport security rules in your home country, any stopover countries AND your destination to make sure you won’t get your items confiscated during your holiday)

Anywho, if you absolutely need a prohibited item then you legally have to check your bags.

I had this problem when I travelled to East Africa a few years ago. My trip consisted of mainly camping through Kenya and Uganda, and it was recommended that I bring a small swiss army knife. As a result, I had to check-in my bags.

I was tempted to leave it at home so I could go carry-on only, but I’m glad I didn’t. I used it to repair my tent, fix my pack, and even prepare some kindling for the fire.

Without it, my tent would have fallen over, exposing me to the wildlife, and I would’ve definitely been eaten by a lion…or I would’ve been really cold, who knows…

Camping under the night sky

One-bag travel definitely isn’t for everyone. It probably isn’t for if you need extra space for shopping, require bulky gear, or need an item that can’t be carried on planes.

However, I’ve found it extremely useful in my travels, and I would love to know your thoughts.

Are you a bonafied one-bag traveller? Does check-in fit your needs better? Or do you lie somewhere in-between?

More importantly, how would you choose to eat your 142 satays? One serve of 20 at a time over the course of a few days? Or all in one sitting like a royal, drunk with power?

Let us know in the comments!