We've all heard (or worse, experienced) the horror stories; one minute, you're sitting happily in an outdoor cafe at your picturesque holiday travel destination, and the next, you realize that your handbag, and everything inside of it, has vanished into thin air. Sadly, this is an all too common scenario for many travellers, marring an otherwise beautiful and relaxing holiday with the memory of having to replace your beloved handbag, and everything that you happened to be carrying inside of it.
The consequences of bag theft can range from mildly annoying to downright devastating. However, that is not to say that everywhere you go, you need to adorn yourself in hidden money belts and carry a stainless steel briefcase that is handcuffed to your wrist. These few simple exercises in situational awareness will go a long way in safeguarding your investment It will also allow you to focus on the more important matter at hand — enjoying your holiday while your favorite handbag remains intact.
1. Beware of large groups of people (yes, even children) that approach you and try to distract you. Doubly beware if they are waving something like a map or brochure in your face. This is meant to distract you and keep your field of vision from seeing that underneath the map, your handbag is probably being skilfully accessed and emptied of its contents. If you are approached by such a group, simply tuck your bag under your arm, pretend you do not understand what is being said (which may well be true) and walk away.
2. If you must wear a backpack, turn it around and wear it backwards when in a large crowd or on a busy train. Pickpockets love a backpack with many easy to access pockets, and will gleefully empty said pockets quite literally while your back is turned.
3. Never set your bag on the ground in a restaurant, or hang it over the back of your chair. If you are short on space to store it while you are eating in a cafe, tuck it next to you in the seat or place it in a difficult to reach corner of the table where it would be impossible for anyone to access unnoticed. For extra security, wrap the straps around something fixed so that it is not easy to lift.
4. If someone spills something on you or your bag and wants to “help” you wipe it off, walk away. This is an age-old pickpocket's trick, and you may find the contents of your handbag, if not the bag itself have been “wiped” away along with the stain.
5. Resist the urge to dress in obvious “travel” clothing. Passport holders that hang around your neck, trousers that zip into shorts, and bags that are worn around the waist are like wearing a neon sign that says “tourist”, saying to would-be thieves that you are distracted and may be an easy target.
6. It should go without saying, but don't leave your bag anywhere you wouldn't dare leave it when you're not on vacation; on the floor at a nightclub while you are dancing, on your beach towel (or even “hidden” under your beach towel), on the seat of your chair at the dinner table while you go to the restroom...the trick is to make it as inaccessible as possible for thieves to get at it!
7. The very best way to carry your bag? Either cross-body, or tucked up under your arm, with the strap in place over your shoulder — again, lack of access is key!