Traveling with cash while vacationing is both a balancing act of utility and safety. You don’t want your money to be so visible to everyone around you, but you also don’t want to have to strip-search yourself to find it and pay for things. It can be stressful, but here are some recommendations for making your money-carrying woes disappear!
Divide your Money
If possible, divide up your cash (and even credit cards) into multiple different safe spots. If all your money is in one place, it’s a quick, easy swipe for you to get wiped out. This can also be applied to being out and about by keeping some money on your person, and some in a bag you carry along.
Consider On-body Storage
Aside from the classic under-the-clothes storage accessories like money belts and neck pouches, many new options have entered the scene as well. Items like bra stashes, long johns, underwear, and undershirts with built-in pockets. While on-body storage is particularly great if you’re sleeping somewhere that doesn’t provide a secure place for cash and other valuables (like a safe), note that it isn’t a great wallet alternative. If you’re fishing around under your clothes for money, you are advertising where you are hiding the goods! As for the fanny pack, it is not the best substitute for a money bag. It makes you more vulnerable to thievery because it screams “I am a tourist!”
Carry Small Bills
Withdrawing or converting large sums of cash does minimize the fees you’ll pay to get the local currency, but it also means you’ll have to travel with that much more cash, and large bills. Just as it is smart to divide your money up, it is also wise to make small denominations of cash easily accessible. This is so you won’t be forced to pull out the equivalent of a $100-dollar bill to pay for a 30-cent souvenir. Make “money prep” a part of your morning routine: when packing your bag for the day, make sure you’ve got small bills and coins at-the-ready for less expensive purchases like souvenirs, food, or entry fees for attractions or events. Tuck the larger bills away in your under-clothing items or squirrel them away into a secure area of your bag or wallet.
The Anti-theft Bag
If we’ve ever learned anything from trash-bag commercials, it’s that some bags are sturdier than others. This also goes for backpacks, purses, and other bags. Some of these items are designed especially for travel, and include features such as cut-proof material, steel-cable-reinforced shoulder straps, slash-proof fabric, and locking zippers! These are elements that will slow down the thieves that are after your treasures, and they also do a decent job of deterring opportunistic pickpockets. Such bags can be found online from Magellan’s, Pacsafe, and Travelon. Consider the purchase to be an investment that can SAVE you(r) money!
Trim your Wallet
Realistically, are you going to need your video-rental card, local frozen yogurt shop punch-card, or library card when you’re thousands of miles away from these locations? NOPE! So before you leave home, take some time to dig through your wallet and remove anything that isn’t a necessity. Items like a universal credit card and a backup, your identification card, health insurance card, etc. are a must. But anything else, leave it at home! Not only will you be traveling lighter, if your wallet does get stolen or lost, you’ll have less items in it to have to replace.
The “Dummy” Wallet
If you’re destination is a place known for pickpockets or muggings, consider a fake-out wallet. You buy a cheap wallet that looks appealing and expensive, and you pad it with some small bills. To make it even more real, you slip in one or two of those sample credit cards you get with offers in your junk mail. A dummy wallet can stop pickpockets before getting to your real wallet. And in the unlikely but scary case of an actual mugging, you have something to throw and run to buy you time to escape to safety with your actual wallet.
The “Travel-only” Wallet
Aside from a dummy-version of a wallet, consider a wallet designated specifically for travel. The one simple reason for this: If you’re the kind of person who’s regular wallet is stuffed with everything from your gym card, to coffee shop gift cards, to frequent shopper punch cards, etc. – your wallet pockets are very likely to be stretched out when you attempt to minimize it’s load for travel. Having a travel-only wallet will ensure that your cards and money have snug pockets and sleeves that your contents can’t slip out of.
Adapt and Learn the Local Currency
How you pay your way on vacation can mean different things depending on what country you are in. If it’s a cash economy, you’ll want to have a variety of coins and bills on hand, and just know that your credit cards will likely go unused. In much of Europe and parts of Asia, chip-and-PIN credit card technology is standard, and automation is common. Having a credit card that is compatible with their machinery will come in very handy. But also keep in mind that the good ol’ American dollar is an official or unofficial secondary currency, so it is also wise to keep a few greenbacks on hand.
Stow Valuables Securely
Sometimes the best way to carry money is to not carry it at all. Hotels’ in-room safes are generally pretty secure, and if you’ve got an item (or a wad of cash) you’re particularly nervous about, check to see if the hotel has a safe-deposit box behind the desk. If you do use a hotel lockbox of any sort though, remember to retrieve your items when you leave. In the rush to pack up and depart, out of sight can easily mean out of mind—until you’re on your way to the airport. If you’re a forgetful type, leave a colorful note on top of your suitcase!
Imagine the Journey…