What are the most valuable things that you take with you on a trip? For me, it’s my passport, license, credit cards, cash, electronics, and the personal information that I use to log into websites. While I’ve written about travelling solo as a woman in the past, I thought I’d share what I’m doing to safeguard these items for my next trip. Here are 5 tips to protect your valuables and tech when travelling to France and I hope they can help you for your next trip.
1. Password Manager
Over a year ago I signed up for a password manager. There are a few good ones out there such as LastPass, 1Password, Dashlane, and Bitwarden. I chose 1Password, a Canadian company that has gotten stellar reviews and in the beginning of 2022, increased its valuation to $6.8 billion.
(a) Why Do I Have A Password Manager?
Because I cannot remember all the usernames and passwords for each account and website that I use. When travelling it was impossible to remember the important ones.
(b) Master Password
I have one Master Password that gets me into my encrypted “vault”. In my vault are all my logins, passwords copies of documents, and secure notes. The company cannot get into the vault and only I have the Master Password. It works with Mac, iOS, Windows, Android, Linux, and Chrome OS. There are also browser extensions.
While Google Chrome and Safari browsers can save your passwords, one of the things I like about 1Password is that it will send me an alert if a website I use has been compromised or if a password is vulnerable. I’ll also be alerted if I reuse a password.
I do pay an annual subscription fee; however, it is nominal (ie. about $50 Cdn incl. tax) and there are good deals for families. Do your due diligence and check out the various password managers to see what works for you.
2. Two-Factor Authentication
I’m scared of having my personal information leaked or having my emails or website hacked and I’m sure you are too. When you visit an online bank or secure site, you put in your username and password, right? A password makes it secure, but only a little. More and more companies are using two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) which adds another step in identifying you.
After you log in with your username and password, you are required to provide a security code. In the beginning, usually, a text was sent to your phone. And while that is more secure than having no code, sending a text to a phone is not that secure. if someone gets hold of your username and password AND your phone, they can unlock anything.
I much prefer using an authenticator such as Google Authenticator, Authy, or Microsoft Authenticator App. The authenticator has a password to get in. When the website requires the security code, you open the app that you have set up, copy the code and paste it in. Easy to use and some authenticators even let you get the code without internet. No code is sent to your phone number or email. I use an authenticator for as many websites that will allow me to use 2-Factor Authentication.
3. Put A PIN On Your SIM
Have you set a PIN (personal identification number) for your mobile phone’s SIM? It’s just like a PIN code you use for your credit card, but this one is for your SIM card. You might consider doing this even if you aren’t travelling.
A SIM card is a “Subscriber Identity Module” that has information about me and connects me to the telecom company I use for my mobile phone. Without that, I wouldn’t be able to make phone calls, send text messages, or surf the net using my smartphone.
Having a PIN for your SIM basically stops others from using your SIM for phone calls or data if it was ever lost or stolen. Every time you restart your device or put the SIM card back into your phone, you’ll see “Locked SIM” and to unlock it, you’ll be required to enter the PIN.
If you don’t know your SIM, contact your mobile phone provider. They can give it to you.
4. Using Your Smartphone Out In Public
Unfortunately, when you travel, you are prey to being pickpocketed or having your smartphone stolen…right out of your hand. I’m not saying you should never take out your cellphone; however, be aware of your surroundings and two things, in particular, you should never do:
- Do NOT leave your phone sitting on the table while you have lunch or dinner
- Do NOT take out your phone when you are sitting in a subway car, especially if you are near a door. I hear too often about thieves who grab a person’s phone just when the doors are opening. They rush out and then pass it on to a friend, so it disappears in a matter of seconds.
5. Your Money, Valuables, And Your Safety
(a) Spread Out Your Cash And Cards
I am careful that my purses/knapsacks/bags are zipped up with my hand on the opening, and even possibly locked so I won’t be pickpocketed. My crossbody bag is especially good in that that it has clasps that are not easily opened.
While most of my payments and purchases will be done using credit cards, I still bring some cash and if needed, I got to an ATM. However, I do not keep all my cash nor all my credit cards in one place. I spread them out into a few different places. (ie. in a passport wallet, a regular wallet, a hidden wallet and also locked up back at the hotel).
I also carry more than one type of credit card. The odd time only Visa is accepted. This happened to me years ago trying to buy an Air France bus ticket. I tried using my Mastercard but it wouldn’t work. Thank goodness I had a different card.
I’ll also be using Apple Pay as much as possible because it’s one of the most secure ways to pay in person or online. It’s contactless paying and much like using the “tap and go” system. It uses the iPhone’s NFC (Near Filed Communications) chip and wirelessly communicates to the store’s point-of-sale system.
NO information about me is shared with the merchant. I can store many credit cards and the credit card that I choose for a particular payment is not stored on the merchant’s device.
(b) Lock Up Your Valuables
While cash can be replaced fairly quickly and having more than one credit card can tide you over for the rest of your trip, not having your passport and license can be difficult to replace immediately.
So, while you need to have some form of identity on you when in France, I keep my passport locked up in my hotel room and carry a copy of my passport with me. I also copy all of my important documents, like my passport, license, health card, and credit cards, and not only keep them in my password manager and in a cloud folder (ie. iCloud, Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.), but also give a copy to one of my family members.
If I have room, I pack my Pacsafe Travelsafe 3L GII Anti-Theft Portable Safe. Yes, it’s a safe that can lock up valuables like my passport, electronics, money, credit cards, and even my smartphone. The “bag” is constructed with wire mesh, so it’s difficult to cut through and it uses a stainless steel locking cable that I can attach to a fixture. I bring it if I have room in my luggage.
(c) Notify Your Financial Institutions
Nowadays, most financial institutions that you deal with will say you don’t need to notify them if you are travelling, and that their fraud systems monitor your account for any suspicious transactions. But not all do, so, unfortunately, you’re going to have to check each company you deal with.
One thing you’ll have to check is how Two-Factor Authentication is used when you log into your account—do they send the security code by text to your phone number or to your email? This may really cause a problem if you’re going to use a local SIM card where you just have a French phone number, not your usual phone number.
(d) Notify Your Government
(i) Registration Of Canadians Abroad
In Canada, you can notify your government of your travel plans in case there are problems where you are travelling to, or if you have an emergency abroad or a personal emergency at home. The form that you fill in online lets you indicate your travel itinerary and identify a close contact back in Canada.
(ii) Registration Of Americans Abroad
The program for Americans is the “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program“ (STEP). It is a way to receive information pertaining to the country you are visiting and the U.S. Embassy can contact you in an emergency. It also helps your family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency. Really worthwhile to sign up.
If you live outside of North America, your country may also have a similar program.
I hope you never have to deal with problems like the ones I’ve described. If you can take precautions to protect your valuables and tech when travelling, you’ll be better prepared for the unexpected and it won’t ruin your trip. If you have any additional tips, please share!
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