Traveling is fun, exciting and sometimes stressful. Break-ins, identity theft, pickpocketing, and other traveling mishaps can not only ruin a vacation, they can have a tremendous impact on your life. Learning a few travel lessons before hitting the road can help eliminate many travel misfortunes and free up your vacation for more fun!

1. Leave Home Lived In

Whether you are gone for a long weekend or a trip overseas, it’s important to leave your home looking lived in. Consider putting a light or two on a timer, ask a neighbor to bring in mail, and put a stop on daily newspaper delivery while you are away. Lock up valuables you aren’t taking with you such as jewelry, social security cards, and family heirlooms.

2. Freeze Your Credit

If you plan to be gone for an extended period, consider freezing your credit. A credit freeze blocks access to using your credit so no one can open a credit card or apply for a loan while you are away.

3. Use the Hotel Safe

Yes, hotel safes aren’t perfect, but they are much more reliable than your suitcase. When you leave the hotel room to go out for the day, lock up your valuables. Unless you will need your passport to cross into a different country, keep it locked up as well. Carry another photo ID, such as your driver’s license, to use for identification. Taking the risk of losing your valuables or passport overseas isn’t worth the convenience of keeping them on you at all times.

4. Use Secure WiFi

When traveling, chances are you will need to use the internet at least once. While coffee shops and internet cafes are often convenient, they are not always secure. Try to find secure networks which require a password to log on (i.e. WEP, WPA and WPA2). If you need to do some quick research or respond to a few emails from an unsecure WiFi network, end your session by making sure you log out of all of your accounts before shutting down.

5. When in Doubt, Use Cash

New EMV chip credit cards are much more secure than magnetic strips, but still not perfect. If you aren’t shopping at big name stores and are off the beaten path, avoid using your credit cards. Carry a small amount of cash with you to pay for souvenirs. Consider using a money belt or other hidden money holder to keep your cash close to your body.

6. Clean Out Your Wallet

Before you head out on your big adventure, take some time to pare down what’s in your wallet or purse. Remove personal pictures, scraps of paper with important information on them such as bank pin numbers, prescriptions, your business cards, etc. Imagine if a thief picked up your wallet with your business card, credit cards and scrap of paper with your bank pin on it. Suddenly, they have information about where you work, your phone numbers, and can inflict a lot of damage before you realize your wallet is missing.

7. Keep Your Travel Offline

Many of us like to keep family and friends in the loop while we travel by posting on social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram. While it’s fun to share our travels, it’s not fun to come home and find your home robbed because of an online friend who saw an opportunity.

If you must share while you are away, set your privacy settings on your accounts to the highest level. On Facebook, make a list of trusted friends and family and only share your travel posts with them. Learn how to make a Facebook Friend list here.

8. Carry On the Important Stuff

Don’t pack your passport, cash, travel documents, valuables or other identifying information in your checked luggage. Keep your carry-on close by at all times. Consider making two copies of your passport, driver’s license and wallet contents (such as credit cards). Take one with you in a different carry on and leave one at home with a trusted family member or friend. These will come in handy in the event of a loss or theft.

9. Use ATM’s Indoors

Chances are you will have to get some additional cash on your travels. Don’t sidle up to any ATM you find. Try to find a global bank and use an ATM inside. ATMs on the street are often watched by pickpockets. Being inside a trusted branch is much safer.

10. Protect Your Phone

Most phones will allow you to create a password you must enter before your phone opens. We all have more information on our phones than we realize and keeping your data secure from thieves could be as simple as a four digit password. Avoid common combinations such as 1111 or 1234 and consider using a longer password for added security.

BONUS: If you use an Apple device, download the Find My iPhone app on your devices. In the event of a theft, you can track your phone’s location as long as it is powered on and connected to a network.

Traveling the world is a lifelong dream for many of us. By taking steps to boost your travel smarts before you leave, you can spend more time seeing the sights and less time worrying about protecting yourself.

What other tips would you add to the list?

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