Your bags are packed and they’re ready to go. But have you considered what you’ve put inside them? Or what you would do if their contents were lost or stolen? How valuable are the items you’ve packed? As you were trying to fit in your brand-name clothing, fancy new tablet and smart phone, or high-tech camera gear (and daydreaming about your vacation to come), questions like these were likely not on your mind. Still, they are worth thinking about before getting on that plane.
To bring or not to bring?
Start by asking yourself if you really need to bring your expensive camera equipment on that jungle trek, your 24-karat gold necklace to the beach wedding, or your newly tailored suit to that business meeting. If your answer is no, leave them behind. A cheaper camera, some costume jewellery, and that inexpensive suit you wear to work will do in their place. If your answer is yes, however, you then need to ask yourself the following questions:
Could I manage if my baggage were delayed for the first few days of my trip?
If you are travelling for a job interview or a wedding, not having access to your clothing or other belongings could feel like your worst nightmare. Imagine flying in for an important appointment or gathering the next day only to be told that the airline has misplaced your checked luggage. Chances are you didn’t squish an extra suit or dress into your carry-on bag. And since airlines have strict security measures when it comes to bringing liquids and gels on to the plane, you may not even have access to your basic toiletries. Your only option is to frantically seek out a new outfit, some face wash, and any cosmetics you need in the little time you have. Not the best way to start a trip!
Most travellers who buy travel insurance aren’t aware of the little-known baggage delay benefit. Although many travel insurance plans include this extra feature, it’s a bad idea to assume that yours does. Always check your policy or ask your insurance agent to understand what benefits are included. So what is this benefit and how does it work exactly? A certain amount of money will be allotted to you in the event that the airline misplaces your luggage temporarily. It will cover the replacement of essential clothing and toiletries if your baggage is delayed for a certain amount of time (e.g., 12 hours). If you’re feeling anxious that the above scenario might happen to you, you may achieve some peace of mind knowing that you won’t be out of pocket for buying those items you can’t live without!
How would I feel if my prized possessions were lost or stolen?
If you brought over items that are of great value, losing them would likely be a blow—both financially and emotionally. Losing your new (and expensive) cell phone would be frustrating; having your wedding ring stolen could be devastating. So what do you do to avoid catastrophe? There are options.
You can purchase baggage insurance, and rest assured that a certain amount of your lost or stolen item(s) would be reimbursed. But remember, there are exclusions on which items will be covered, and there is a limit to how much money you will get back. Typically, you can expect to receive approximately $300 per item (or group of related items) and up to $1,500 overall. This may not be enough depending on how much your belongings are worth. And what if they aren’t covered at all? Items such as eye glasses, mp3 players, cameras, computers, and cell phones are often excluded from baggage plans. If you want more protection, you may want to consider looking into property insurance; it will cover much more of the money lost, and is worth the expense if your belongings have a high financial worth. This is also the best option for groups travelling with a lot of expensive equipment (e.g., musical instruments or sporting equipment). Keep in mind that if you already have homeowner’s or tenant’s insurance, your items may already be covered. An ‘away from home’ benefit that covers belongings is often part of the package; and if not, it can be purchased as a “rider” for an additional premium. You will have to read your policy’s fine print or speak with a property and casualty broker to find out more.
With all of these options, the best one is still to leave your valuables at home—especially if you are visiting an area of the world that is known for economic hardship. But don’t travel in fear! The tips below can help make sure your dream trip doesn’t turn into a nightmare:
- Keep bills for all expensive purchases. This is something to keep in mind any time you splurge on an item. Although you may not have a trip planned at the time, having a receipt will come in handy if you are ever in a situation where your valuables are lost or stolen and you need to prove how much you paid for them.
- Make sure your valuable items are seen before you go. Take pictures of items in your luggage or carry-on; and, as overly cautious as this may seem, it’s also a good idea to have a friend or family member witness you packing certain valuables.
- Pack like a pro. It’s a good idea to really consider what you are putting in your carry-on bag (versus your checked luggage) as your carry-on baggage will be at your side for the duration of your trip. Consider packing a back-up outfit should the one you were counting on go missing. And for those liquid products you can’t live without, shop for travel-sized versions or pour existing products into 100mL containers; place your liquids in a re-sealable, see-through bag (e.g., Ziploc). This way, you can bring them on the plane with you.
- Don’t be conspicuous about your wealth. There’s no need to pack all your brand-named items and expensive jewellery, whether you are travelling for business or pleasure! All you are doing is making yourself a prime target for theft. Leave them behind and bring cheaper versions along.
- Keep valuables in a hotel safe. If bringing certain valuables along is a necessity, make use of the hotel safe (usually located in your room). If your room doesn’t have one, you could make a request at the front desk, and ask the hotel staff to keep your belongings in a safe place. But make sure you’re at a hotel you can trust!
- Play some ‘hide and seek.’ If you don’t feel comfortable leaving expensive items with the hotel staff, use your imagination! Pack valuable items in places that a thief would least expect. Or buy yourself a special bag or suitcase that includes secret pockets or hidden linings.
- Test your surroundings. If you’re really unsure of your surroundings, conduct a ‘theft test.’ Leave a few coins or some inexpensive pens or costume jewellery lying around. If these don’t go missing after the first day or so, you can likely breathe a sigh of relief.
- Get the right insurance for your needs. If you are travelling light, regular travel insurance (with the baggage delay benefit) may be enough. If not, consider property insurance for your valuable belongings, or find out if they are already covered through your homeowner/tenant’s insurance.
In the event of loss or theft
If you were unfortunate enough to lose your baggage or have your possessions stolen while travelling, make sure to obtain all required documentation before you leave your current location. If you purchased the appropriate insurance before your trip, you will need certain official documents in order to make a claim; and it’s much easier to get what you need while you’re still in the country—where the event occurred. Police reports, affidavits, and security reports are just a few of the forms you may be expected to provide when requesting reimbursement. Make sure to call your insurance provider as soon as you can to find out exactly what you will need to get your money back.
Imagine no possessions…
Among all the potential things that could go wrong when travelling outside of your own country, the benefits of travel far outweigh the risks. If you are the type of person that embraces new cultures, loves new languages, and dreams to see the world, you might view travel as more valuable than many of your possessions. And as CEO Robin Ingle likes to say, “The real risk of travel is not travelling at all.”
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