Top 5 Family Travel Tips
Michelle Duffy travelled around the world with her husband and two children for a year—and unfortunately ran into some con artists and thieves along the way. Here’s what she learned about playing it safe.
Watch full online episodes of SCAM CITY HERE!
NEW episodes on T+E every Sunday night at 10PM ET/PT!
My husband and I are travel junkies. Our life-long dream was to take a year and travel as far and wide as we could. In September 2010 we did. We packed up our home and belongings and backpacked for a full year with our two children, then 10 and 14.
We spent four months in South America following the path of the Spanish explorers from Ecuador to Argentina. Three months in Southeast Asia was followed by seven weeks exploring China from Hong Kong to Beijing, Xian and even Kashgar in the far west. Then, over two months we loosely traced Marco Polo’s route in reverse by travelling from China to Europe through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq and Turkey.
All that travel, though exciting and exhilarating, does have a darker side, which usually involves someone stealing your money, bags or documents. Our litany of such unfortunate travel experiences includes being pickpocketed on a bus in Rome, an attempted pickpocketing on the subway in Buenos Aires and having a bag stolen in Santiago. Worse, we narrowly escaped a fake tour scam in Bangkok. Am I mad that such things happened? Sure, but I’m equally glad they happened because they showed us the kindness of strangers—local people who helped us out, and who were equally angry about the thefts and scams.
These incidents also made us more savvy travellers, who can now pass along our hard-earned tips. Here are five of the top tips we learned while travelling for a year to help protect you against theft and scams.
1. Always be wary at bus and train stations
If you need to put your bag down, make sure someone else is actively watching it. If you’re part of a group (like a family), tying or clipping all bags together is a very effective theft deterrent.
2. Watch out for pickpockets
Local transport is sometimes easier to use and more cost-effective than taxis or car rentals, but it does leave you at risk of pickpocketing. Keep your valuables in a zipped pocket or, better, in a bag that you are holding firmly in your arms during your journey.
3. Leave your expensive jewelry at home
If you can’t risk losing it while travelling, don’t bring it with you.
If you choose a tour from a sidewalk agent or ticket booth and feel like you’re being rushed to get on board the bus, train or boat, walk away. It’s likely that you’re being scammed. If possible, ask the people getting off the same tour whether they felt it was worth the cost.
5. Get recommendations from locals
Guidebook recommendations can be a great source of information for tours and experiences, but they may also mean high prices. A good alternative is to take the advice of local experts, such as the manager of the hotel or guesthouse you’re staying in, or fellow travellers.