Take a look at any of my pre-trip packing checklists and you’ll see half the things on there are travel safety items. I may be an adventurer, a thrill-seeker, and even a daredevil at times, but that doesn’t mean I’m not also a hyper-paranoid hypochondriac.
Was I like this before I got robbed while traveling solo? It’s hard to say. The “safety” side of my travel plan is so deeply engrained it’s just part of my DNA at this point.
Whether or not something unsavory has ever happened to you on the road, it’s important to know that the possibility is always there. I’m not here to scare you out of seeing the world, I’m just here to keep it real. Danger lurks, y’all. Danger lurks.
To avoid ever having to cry my way through an Italian train station again (et al), I now travel with a full-on travel safety kit—an arsenal of products (and mindsets) I utilize to keep myself healthy, safe, and in total control.
I recommend putting together a travel safety kit of your own because traveling the world is so much better when you can do it stress-free and with absolute peace of mind. Start here with the 17 travel safety items I take on every single trip.
Travel safety items for health and wellness
Now more than ever we are all concerned with our personal health while traveling. As someone who routinely gets sick on just about every international trip I take, I fully understand the importance here.
Now that the stakes are higher than ever, make sure to have these essential health-related travel safety items in your travel safety kit:
1. Disposable & cloth face masks
As a world traveler, it’s never been uncommon to see people on planes and in airports wearing face masks, I was just never among them. Now, I don’t foresee a trip anytime in the future where I won’t be masked up on an airplane.
Our “current situation” or not, I can think of at least a handful of occasions when wearing a mask while traveling would have saved me a ton of stress. I get sick while traveling a great deal so wearing a face mask on planes, on buses, on trains, and just about everywhere else I’m in contact with other humans is officially my new normal.
The CDC recommends both cloth masks (made with 2 or 3 layers of tightly-woven fabric) and non-medical disposable masks. You can read more about the CDC’s mask recommendations here.
Personally, I bring both kinds on my trips now. I wear washable cloth masks day-to-day (made myself or purchased from artisans on Etsy) and bring enough for my whole trip. And I bring non-medical disposable masks to wear on airplanes and in shuttle buses and in other places where I encounter the general public. That way I can throw them away as soon as I get to my hotel or back home.
2. Hand sanitizer
This probably isn’t a new addition to your travel safety kit, but it’s still very important. Think of all the surfaces you touch during a single day of traveling. Actually, don’t do that. There are things we can’t unthink.
Let’s just say, we touch a lot of things… that a lot of other people have touched… after they’ve used the bathroom. Always, always, always have at least a small “travel-sized” bottle of hand sanitizer with you among your travel safety items and use it often.
Beginning in 2020 and for the time being, the TSA now permits us to bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer (instead of the 3 ounces permitted for all other liquids) in our carry-ons—that’s a pretty decent sized bottle. During security screening, TSA agents will take the bottle out of your bag and place it into a box they have that magically tells them it’s only hand sanitizer. Then you’re free to go.
Remember to only use hand sanitizers that have an alcohol content of 60% or more. Here’s the CDC’s hand sanitizer page.
I have a small, standard thermometer I bring with me on all trips… now. It’s nothing fancy, but hella useful. I somehow have gotten myself into a handle of foreign illnesses where I did not have, yet desperately needed, a thermometer.
I even had to be visited by an emergency doctor in the middle of the night, in the middle of the jungle in Costa Rica, who did not have a thermometer (of all things) in his black medical bag. This isn’t totally shocking once I tell you he also didn’t know how to take my blood pressure but sure as heck tried anyway.
I’ve since started packing a thermometer for all my trips—it’s such a simple, small, lightweight thing to bring that can be seriously helpful. And, given our “current situation” and the importance of knowing our temperatures on the regular, now’s as good a time as any to add this to your list of travel safety items.
4. First aid kit
Regardless of what your planned activities are, there’s a good chance you’ll need a first aid kit amongst your travel safety items.
As prone to being taken down by foreign germs as I am, I’ve seen the inside of my fair share of foreign pharmacies. (Shout out to my favorites: Germany and Taiwan!) However, that doesn’t mean I always want to make the extra trip.
You should always consider bringing: band-aids and antibiotic ointment, tweezers, gauze, alcohol wipes, moleskin for blisters, disposable gloves, safety pins, and more.
I personally have put together my own first aid kit that I just toss in my bag every time, but if your house isn’t already stocked with this stuff (seriously, what it is like to not embody Steve Urkel?) you can pick up totally stocked travel-sized first aid kits.
Keep in mind that if you’re headed out on adventure of the mountainous sort or otherwise, what you need in your first aid kit will be a little bit more. In that case, you’ll need something more along the lines of this 299-piece first aid kit, complete with an aluminized rescue blanket, cold packs, and more but still travel-sized.
5. Medications and prescriptions
Obviously if you’re taking prescription medication you should bring that, but you should also carry a copy of your prescription as well. Not only is it mandatory in many places for many different drugs, it can also help get a replacement in case you run out or your luggage gets lost, etc.
And I’m not just referring to pills and the like. Let me tell you about the time I got my backpack, which contained my eyeglasses, stolen. I was legally blind at the time and living in Italy—fun times!
I had to get a replacement pair of glasses ASAP and trying to get my prescription from my doctor in the U.S. to an optometrist in Italy was such a pain in the ass. It wasn’t impossible, but man was that a hassle. I softened the blow with some new Dolce & Gabbanas.
Luckily, I didn’t have any medically necessary prescription drugs in my bag or that “petty theft” could’ve been potentially fatal.
Over the counter drugs
In addition to your prescription drugs, don’t forget to bring the OTC drugs necessary for your destination. Things like:
- Anti-diarrheal meds for places like Mexico and India where, we’ll call it gastrointestinal distress, is common
- Ibuprofen for high-altitude destinations like Peru and Mexico City (read about my experience with altitude sickness here)
- OTC allergy medications for places like Tuscany in the summer where hay rules all
- Anti-nausea drugs and/or patches if you’re prone to motion sickness. I used to be, critically, but I’m not anymore. Read about how I cured my motion sickness permanently here!
- Whatever else keeps you going
6. List of allergies
Speaking of allergies, if you suffer from food allergies (guilty!), medicinal allergies, or really anything, definitely carry a list of what you’re allergic to… in the language of your destination.
If you suffer from food allergies and don’t speak [insert language here], you can show your list to a restaurant server, a street vendor, anyone really, to make sure they don’t sell you something that can kill you.
I showed my list to the woman working at the Turkish delight shop in Istanbul who basically shoved me out of the store after reading I was allergic to almonds.
Not only does this help in those instances, but it also shows you what words you need to avoid. For instance, “almonds” looks very different in, say, Germany (mandeln), Italy (mandorle), Mexico (almendras), Turksih (bodem), etc.
7. Travel insurance
You’ve probably heard me talk about travel insurance a million times, but it’s for good reason. Travel insurance is inexpensive yet absolutely priceless!
Though travel insurance can save you tons of money on lost or stolen luggage, flight delays, canceled trips, and more, it can actually save your life in case of a medical emergency. It’s such a small price to pay but can honestly make or break you.
- Check out this post to read about how much I got reimbursed after getting robbed in Italy.
- Then check out this post to read about my medical emergency in Costa Rica
- and this one for how travel insurance saved my friend’s life when her appendix burst in a remote village in Thailand.
I’ve also used it for canceled flights and canceled trips. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but the peace of mind of just having it is worth whatever it costs. I use World Nomads consistently and love them.
Travel safety items for hotels and hostels
I always follow my gut, read reviews religiously, and make an extra effort to always and exclusively stay in hotels and neighborhoods that I deem safe. However, since I am often a solo female traveler staying in hotels by myself in foreign countries, the more security I can get, the better.
8. Door stop alarm
And in that spirit, another must-have on the list of travel safety items is a door stop alarm.
These act as both alarms and door stops to keep someone from entering. You slip them under your hotel room door at night then engage the alarm. If someone tries to sneak in, the alarm will activate and it is loud as Hell. You’ll wake up and the perp, hopefully, will run for their life.
Also, because of its wedge shape there’s a good chance they won’t be able to make it into the room anyway. Sure, a normal door stop would solve this problem, but if someone is trying to sneak into my room, I want the whole entire city block to know it.
I definitely sleep a lot better knowing my room is alarmed and barricaded.
Pro tip: Remove the battery from the alarm when packing it just in case it gets activated. We don’t want to reroute any flights, mmkay?
9. Portable safe
Brought to us by the Pacsafe brand (which you’ll see a lot more of in this post) is this portable travel safe. Essentially, it’s a totally secure, theft-proof bag with a combination lock.
You can fit a good amount of your valuables in it then lock it around your hotel sink, the pipes, the bed, anything.
Many hotel rooms do come with safes but rarely anything bigger than your wallet can fit in there. What about your iPad? Or camera equipment? Plus, I literally have experienced an electronic hotel safe dying after I put my camera, phone, wallet, and passport inside at a beach cabana in Belize after hours. Do you know what that kind of panic attack feels like?
This Pacsafe portable safe means you get to lock up all your goods while still being in total control.
Travel safety items for public safety
In a highly official polling of my Instagram followers, 38% of them say they have been a victim of a crime while traveling. Many of the stories involve what has been unfairly designated “petty theft” though there’s nothing petty about getting your passport or laptop or wallet stolen while in a foreign country.
I know firsthand what a gut-wrenching (literally) nightmare this is and have vowed to never let it happen again. Everything I carry on my trips locks, zips, snaps, clips, and/or is, as we’ve seen is this post, booby-trapped.
10. Theft-proof bags
Have I ever been pick-pocketed in the literal sense? Thankfully, no. But that’s not for thieves’ lack of trying.
I can guarantee there is no one else on earth more hyper-aware of her belongings when she travels, more purse-paranoid or suitcase suspicious. You will never, ever see me with an open-top bag or a purse that doesn’t latch shut.
Their bags have securable zippers that would be difficult to open for someone trying to rob you, and they’re made of cut-resistant materials. (People cutting bags and cameras off you with machetes or hedge clippers is something I’ve been warned about, specifically in Barcelona, pick-pocketing capital of Europe apparently.)
They have RFID pockets for the safety of your passport and credit cards, and padded laptop sleeves inside. These bags also have arm straps that can be clipped (and locked) around a chair leg or pole or anything immovable to prevent theft of the whole bag.
I feel so much safer using these bags when I’m in crowded train stations or on a busy street or standing in a line. This way, I can worry about other things like getting on the wrong train or what life is going to be like having never tried Turkish delight.
11. Theft-proof carry-on backpack
For a carry-on backpack I use the Pacsafe Venturesafe 15L GII Anti-Theft Daypack. It’s on the smaller size but they have bigger sizes depending on your needs. (I’m also a small girl so I wanted one that would also be comfortable to wear. I tried four other versions before I found this one. It even says in the description, “Great gift for her!”)
This bag holds everything I need for a trip and has a bunch of pockets and pouches. I also love the solid black design—some other ones have the brand name on them and visible locks which just screams, “I have valuable stuff inside and I’m totally paranoid by the way, come get me!”
12. Theft-proof backpack purse
I’m usually not one to wear a backpack when I’m out exploring because I’m super paranoid about pick-pocketing as we’ve discussed, but I feel so much better about it with my Travelon Anti-Theft Signature Slim Backpack.
Like the name says, it’s slim and simple. It’s great for holding exactly what you need—phone, wallet, keys, a jacket, sunglasses, whatever—without being super bulky. Also, it’s made with securable zippers, water-resistant and slash-resistant material, slash-proof straps, RFID blocking organizer, and a lock-down strap. It’s basically Fort Knox in a cute “feminine style with incredible inner strength.”
It has a key clip inside so you never have to dig for your keys and a little LED flashlight. Also, there’s a quick-access pocket on the front that’s perfect for the bottle of hand sanitizer you need every ten minutes.
13. Theft-proof purse
For the times I don’t want to use a backpack, I always wear a cross-body bag with various safety features. Cute, but conscious. This always includes securable zippers, flaps that latch, straps I can lock-down to my chair, etc. Honestly, you’re sacrificing nothing by using a theft-proof purse–there’s no good reason to not use one.
Travelon has so many cute theft-proof purses that don’t go overboard looking all “safe.” These purses also have RFID-blocking pockets and slash-proof material and are available in a ton of styles.
14. Luggage that locks
Everything in my life locks, can you tell? Including my luggage. Especially my luggage.
I don’t always check a bag, in fact I rarely do anymore, but I always travel with hard shell luggage that locks. The best part is that most luggage locks are now TSA compliant—so, the TSA can still get in your bag if they need to, but deadbeat thieves cannot.
(That’s not to say an airline employee won’t swipe your stuff, so always keep the really valuable stuff with you.)
I personally travel with Away luggage and, though a bit pricey, I have no regrets. Their suitcases have an excellent locking system, are lightweight but sturdy, and help me keep my stuff organized.
15. Bag locks
If you have a great piece of old luggage you love and aren’t ready to replace, I highly recommend a small set of locks for the zippers.
These, too, are now TSA compliant and are super affordable. I use these whenever I have to check a bag that doesn’t lock (like a hiking backpack or other). These can also be used for a ton of other scenarios!
16. Safety whistle
Honestly, I don’t go anywhere without my safety whistle. I originally bought it for hiking but now it’s always clipped inside my purse or whatever bag I’m using.
Like my door alarm, the point is to make a huge scene to deter thieves and criminals. While I’ve typically just used my voice—shouting “Thief! Thief!” after catching a guy with his hand in my friend’s purse at the train station in Barcelona—I now have the power of something even louder than me. (That’s saying a lot.)
Again, hopefully I never have to use this, but the day I do I will be very happy I had my trusty whistle on me.
17. Pepper spray
For real, you should see me in a typical parking garage: theft-proof purse carrying my epi-pens and medications, wearing a face mask, with my safety whistle in one hand and pepper spray in the other. I do crack myself up but I also have zero shame about this.
However, always make sure to pack your pepper spray in your checked bag. Do not carry pepper spray onto a plane. This will probably create all kinds of trouble for you.
I personally use the Sabre Safe Escape because it also has a seat-belt cutter, a window smasher, and a safety so I don’t mace myself by accident.
Are there any travel safety items you always use?
Let me know below!
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