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How to Protect Your Luggage and Documents at the Airport

Updated on January 11, 2015
Business Trip
Business Trip | Source

Stolen at the Airport?

You're walking across a vast and crowded airport lobby. The only thing on your mind is your flight back home after months away on business and how much you miss your family. You briefly snap back to reality and turn to unzip the back pocket of your rolling bag to check on your ticket and passport – but they’re gone.

Have your travel documents disappeared into thin air? No, obviously not – they were stolen. Theft is an ever-present threat in airports, particularly in lobbies and terminals outside of security check areas. You might ask how thieves could possibly operate in an airport, where scores of police and security personnel are constantly posted. These officers are not perfect, however, and they will miss things. Don’t believe that your documents and luggage are safe from theft simply because security officers are on duty nearby.

Susceptibility to theft is often caused by simple carelessness, especially when it occurs in guarded or monitored areas. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that nobody swipes your important belongings while you’re at the airport.

Never carry your cash, passport, credit cards or any other related documents in your back pocket*

Passport With Money In The Pocket
Passport With Money In The Pocket | Source

1) Don’t store your documents in a place that is out of sight or unprotected.

Many travelers store their passports, tickets, travel insurance policies, and other travel documents in an outside pocket of their rolling bags, their duffel bags, or their purses. Don’t do this unless you are positive that nobody can covertly open the pocket while you’re not paying attention and steal whatever is inside. And in an airport, your attention will be averted more often than you think – most fliers have to stop and gather information from departure screens and ticket agents on the way to their flights. Airports are also typically crowded places, and crowds provide even more opportunity for distraction.

If you’re carrying a purse, a laptop bag, or a messenger bag, store your passport, ticket, and other documents in that bag and tuck it under your arm where nobody can get to it. If you’re not carrying such a bag, zip your documents into an inside pocket of your rolling bag or large suitcase. If you’re wearing a jacket, you might also consider holding your documents in one of its inside pockets. Wherever your documents will be safe and secure from theft, that’s where you should carry them.

2) Keep all your documents in the same place.

Some travelers keep their passports in their front pocket, their tickets in their carry-on bags, and their travel insurance policies and itineraries in a pocket of their rolling bags or in some other place. Again, don’t do this. If you scatter all of your important documents, you’ll make it that much easier for a thief to make off with one of them. You’ll also make it more difficult to get together your own documents when you need them; for example, when buying your ticket, going through a security check, or boarding your flight. Keep all of your documents together in a safe and secure place, and you won’t have to fumble for them constantly while making your way through the airport.

3) Don’t trust anyone you don’t know.

This may sound like insultingly obvious advice. “Obviously, I’m not going to trust a stranger,” you might be thinking, “especially at the airport.” However, to be totally safe, you’ll still have to actively practice caution.

If you frequent coffee shops that have wireless access, you might have seen this scenario before: one patron gets up to go to the bathroom and asks another, who is obviously a complete stranger to him, if he would please watch his laptop in the meantime. You may not do this, but many people do. It’s a natural human instinct to put some level of trust in strangers, especially those who “seem trustworthy.” If you would never steal someone’s laptop, neither would this other, respectable-looking coffee shop patron, right?

Travel concept
Travel concept | Source
 Businesswoman - Laptop At An Airport
Businesswoman - Laptop At An Airport

Predictably, many laptops and other belongings are stolen as a result of this sort of carelessness. At the airport, such behavior is not only careless, but reckless. Standard airport announcements have long included a warning to not leave your bags unsupervised. This is partly to prevent theft, but also to prevent strangers with criminal or violent intentions from putting something in your bag when you’re not looking. And leaving your bags in the care of that “trustworthy stranger”, even for a minute, is just as bad as leaving them completely unsupervised.

None of this is to say that you should be paranoid when you go to the airport. If you have your bases covered – if your travel documents are all together in a secure place that you can quickly and easily access, and if your guard is up against criminal activity – you should actually be more relaxed than if you hadn’t properly prepared. Thieves don’t lurk behind every bush, even in an airport lobby, but it’s better to be overly cautious than to have to report a missing laptop or a stolen passport.

Airport Sign
Airport Sign | Source


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    • Jangaplanet profile image

      A Ercoli 4 years ago

      Thanks, lovedoctor926! The key for me is to always pack lightly and not bring anything that I cannot afford to lose, unless it is truly necessary, like jewellery or expensive clothing. I will be a little extra attentive when I carry such items and never leave them unattended ( theft is a big issue when travelling) As for the luggage themselves, hard-sided, upright cases that look kind of used up could sometimes discourage an opportunistic thief ! Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it :)

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      Useful information & wise advice. Recently, I was in Birmingham and unfortunately lost a gray sweater dress that I had bought specifically for this trip. I thought maybe I had left it at the hotel since I had to switch rooms several times, but I might have left it at the TSA checkpoint counter at the airport. You are so right! I see this all the time, Many people leave their belongings unattended and trust that others will attend to their valuables. I wouldn't trust anyone that I didn't know with my belongings. It's better to be safe than sorry!

    • Jangaplanet profile image

      A Ercoli 5 years ago

      You are most welcome, Aisha Jilani . It is always a good idea to take extra precautions when travelling. I always keep important documents safe. Having a neck wallet is a good investment! at least for making it through those crowded airport areas. :) Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

    • Aisha Jilani profile image

      Aisha Jilani 5 years ago from Lahore

      very useful tips, i actually wanted to learn these as i have lost my stuff a lot of times on airport. thank you

    • Jangaplanet profile image

      A Ercoli 5 years ago

      Hi christopheranton, I agree, where there's a crowd, especially in public places, you can always expect some form of theft. It's funny that robberies usually take place in quiet areas, but pickpocketing/theft, in busy crowded places, (on a busy train in rush hour!).

    • Jangaplanet profile image

      A Ercoli 5 years ago

      You are most welcome, Hyphenbird, thank you. In spite of strict security at airports, pickpockets still manage to steal bags and documents. I think theft is one of the most frustrating travel issues! Personally before I leave the house, I make sure I put all the important stuff in one place, and never lose track of it. Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

    • Jangaplanet profile image

      A Ercoli 5 years ago

      Hi Marta, you are most welcome, and thank you. It's sometimes easy to invite theft when making our possessions such an easy target. In airports, it's even easier. Especially men, we sometimes carry our wallets and documents in our hip pockets. Women often wear bags behind their shoulders and out of sight. Easy target.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      The precautions, you say we should take at airports, are also valid in any public place. Train stations are especially dangerous. Thanks for those really wise reminders. We all tend to think it can't happen to us but, sadly, it all too often does.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      You have given some great advice and tips. Many of us are too trusting and others are downright careless. Organized travel is safer travel. thanks for the Hub.

    • profile image

      Marta 5 years ago

      Very good tips. Thank you!

      The distraction, especially at airports, is a haven for thieves, who are experts and ready to take action at the slightest sign of carelessness.

      We need to be extra attentive in airports, and more so if we find ourselves in a foreign country. Having our belongings stolen is a big headache. Voted up!

    • Jangaplanet profile image

      A Ercoli 5 years ago

      You are most welcome Jackie Lynnley. You're absolutely right! Having someone add something in our bags (without our Knowledge) is a scary scenario (not many entertain that thought or "ever" consider that happening to them). It's always good to take extra precautions. Stealing happens all the time and pickpockets are everywhere, especially in airports. I can’t tell you how many times I've heard friends tell me how they lost or got their bags stolen. Thank you for stopping by, your vote, and for sharing, I appreciate.:)

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      This makes a lot of sense to take these precautions and not be too trusting. The thought of someone adding something to your bag is one many of us have never considered I bet! Thank you for some great tips. Up and sharing.